PROVIDENCE – Providence teachers missed on average about 13 days in the school year, slightly above cities’ national average of 11 days for absenteeism, according to a report released Tuesday by The National Council on Teacher Quality.
The study, “Roll Call: The Importance of Teacher Attendance,” found absences ranging from a low of six days a year in Indianapolis to a high of 16 days a year in Cleveland. Providence came in at 12.89 average days absent.
Based in Washington, D.C., the council is a research and policy organization that seeks to ensure classrooms are led by “quality” teachers.
The council defines a year as 186 days, the average length of the school year nationally. The organization studied 40 municipal school districts and more than 234,000 teachers during the 2012-13 school year.
The report categorizes teachers’ attendance rates as excellent (less than 3 days absent); moderate (4-10 days absent); frequent (11-17 days absent) and chronic (18 days or more).
Absences could be for any reason, but typically included illness, illness of a family member, personal business or professional development, the report states. Most districts described reasons for absences as authorized leave by their districts for professional development, new curriculum adoption or such concerns as union negotiations.
“While professional development can be valuable, districts should avoid at all costs cutting into precious classroom time,” Kate Walsh, council president, said in a statement. “Even ‘good’ absences have bad consequences for kids.”
The study found that 16 percent of all teachers were chronically absent – “precisely equivalent” to the 16 percent group of teachers who had excellent attendance during the school year.
On average, the attendance rate was 94 percent, based on a weighted average of the number of teachers in each district. Indianapolis had the highest attendance rate, 96.7 percent, while the lowest was Cleveland, with 91.5 percent. Providence fell close to the middle, with an attendance rate of 93 percent.
As excellence went up in each district, “the number of chronically absent teachers did not always go down,” the report found. In fact, Providence had just under 25 percent of its teachers classified as chronically absent (absent 18 days or more), ranking it seventh worst. Buffalo, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, topped that list.
Buffalo had the second highest rate of attendance along with the highest rate of chronically absent teachers, the report noted.
“While these big city school districts are struggling to improve student achievement, they may be overlooking one of the most basic aspects of teacher effectiveness: every teacher being regularly on the job, teaching kids,” said Walsh.
The study also reported that more affluent schools were just as likely to have high rates of absences as poorer schools, a finding that contradicts past research.