Rhode Island Includes Teacher Absenteeism Indicator in ESSA Plan
- By Dian Schaffhauser
While 28 states have designated the reduction of "chronic absenteeism" among students as school quality indicators in their ESSA plans, Rhode Island is the only one that's included chronic absenteeism among K-12 teachers as well. The state has included it as a metric for schools in its Every Student Succeeds Act plan, alongside suspensions and high school and science proficiency. According to the state, a study of partial data found that absenteeism for teachers ranged from 0 to 35 percent for the first half of the school year during 2017-2018. Now, as an article on the74million pointed out, the state will take teacher absenteeism under consideration when assessing school success and "identifying low-performing schools."
The plan defined a chronically absent teacher as one who misses more than 10 percent of school days in a year (which lasts for 180 days). That's eight days higher than the typically accepted federal definition, which is missing more than 10 days a school year. Neither definition counts days off for approved professional development or long-term excused absences. The reason for the overall concern: Research such as that by the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that teacher absences — especially those that are unexpected — have a negative impact on student outcomes.
According to the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, more than 27 percent of full-time teachers across the country are considered chronically absent from school, based on self-reporting by school districts. Coverage in 2016 by the Washington Post stated that educator absenteeism is particularly bad — rising above 75 percent — in school systems that are "poor, rural and in some major cities." That article highlighted three districts in particular: Alamance-Burlington School System, where 80 percent of teachers missed more than 10 days of school; Cleveland, where about 84 percent of teachers were chronically absent; and Nevada's Clark County School District, where at least half of its teachers were out, missing the equivalent number of hours that "nearly 500 teachers would work during an entire 180-day school year."
In June 2018, Education Week reported that Rhode Island had the third highest percentage of absent teachers — 41 percent — behind Nevada and Hawaii. The state has about 9,900 teachers in public schools.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.