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How Many Teachers Are Chronically Absent From Class in Your State?

By guest blogger Alex Harwin

Nationwide, 28 percent of teachers were absent for more than 10 school days during the 2015-16 school year. That's more than 901,500 pre-K-12 teachers who were not at work when they would have otherwise been expected to be, according to an analysis by the Education Week Research Center of recent federal data.

The federal Civil Rights Data Collection counts days that are taken off for sick or personal leave when defining teacher absences, but does not include professional development, field trips, or other off-campus activities. It's difficult to know how those absenteeism rates compare with other professions since teacher absenteeism is the only educational professional role included in that data set. But some different data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that workers in education, training, and library occupations are more likely to be absent compared to the majority of other professional and related occupations. Educators are more likely to be absent than professionals in computer and mathematical, architecture, and engineering; social science; legal; and art-based and media occupations. The only two occupational groupings with seeminglly higher absence rates than educators are community and social service and health-care practioners and technical occupations, according to that data set. 

Among the states in the Civil Rights Data Collection, Nevada had the highest percentage share of teachers, with nearly half of all teachers in that state's schools taking more than 10 days off, followed by Hawaii (48 percent) and Rhode Island (41 percent). In South Dakota, the state with the lowest rate of teacher absenteeism, only 18 percent took more than 10 days off.

The overall percentage of teachers has slightly increased from 2013-14 when 27 percent of teachers were frequently absent. Nevada's rate this time around was the same since the 2013-14 data collection. Hawaii's rate represents an improvement from the last time around. The state went from having the highest percentage of teachers chronically absent to now being second to last after Nevada. 

What are these states intending to do about this issue? Hawaii's Department of Education referred that question to its human resources department, which said it could not confirm whether the data was correct or not. Nevada Department of Education Deputy Superintendent Dena Durish noted that currently, the state does not have a tracking system in place to evaluate teacher absenteeism. 

Students Face Schools With Absent Teachers

Additionally, the Education Week Research Center found nearly a quarter of a million students attended schools where most teachers were deemed to be chronically absent. In other words, more than 1 out of 10 schools were places where most teachers missed 10 or more days of school. Explore the database below to find schools that were identified as having most teachers being absent by state or school name:

Nearly the majority of these 12,000-plus schools housed students in grades K-5. They were more likely to be schools that specialized in students with disabilities than not. And they were less likely to be charter schools; less than 4 percent of charter schools had most teachers who were chronically absent.

Charter Data Raise Additional Potential Issues

The Education Week Research Center's findings correspond with findings by the Fordham Institute analyzing the 2013-14 Civil Rights Data. That analysis showed that teachers in regular public schools were more than twice as likely to be chronically absent compared to teachers who work in charter schools.

However, this data needs further examination, especially with regard to charter school absenteeism. Over 43 percent of charters were documented as having zero cases of teachers not showing up to work when expected, in comparison to only 14 percent of all other schools. States with the highest percentages, where over 62 percent of schools noted zero teacher absentees, included: New Hampshire, Florida, New Mexico, Idaho, and Arizona. This raises questions about why we see this pattern.

After removing the schools that reported zero teacher absenteeism from the sample, the share of charters increases only to 18 percent, the same as South Dakota—and still not on par with the national rate. Even so, the number of schools that were listed with zero teacher absenteeism was three times higher in charter schools than in all other schools. You can find out which charters in your state document having zero cases of teacher absentees the database below.


Alex Harwin in a research analyst with the Education Week Research Center.

Source: Education Week Research Center analysis of Civil Rights Data, 2018

Note: More than 1,000 schools, out of over 95,000 schools nationwide, were removed from the analysis due to missing teacher and student information. 


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