April 30, 2008
A causal link between increased teacher absences and decreased student achievement exists. So it's no wonder that school leaders are looking for ways to keep educators in the classroom. "We have terrible attendance," said Van V. Lundy of Palm Beach County's school district, "especially on Friday." Researchers suggest that rewarding consistent attendance by paying teachers for unused sick days (either yearly or at retirement) is one good idea, as is altering the social structure of the school, so that teachers would have to call principals directly whenever they plan to miss a day. But few district programs that implement such thinking ever make it out of pilot status--because they're simply ineffective. "It seems to be that this, like so many other things, boils down to problems with the lack of penalties in k-12," said education economist Michael Podgursky. System-wide change may therefore be a long way off, but individual principals can still confront this problem in their own schools by encouraging a professional culture that frowns on teachers who abuse their sick days. If school leaders can engineer it so that slackers are ostracized in the teachers' lounge, it's a safe bet that attendance will grow better.
"Districts Experiment With Cutting Down on Teacher Absence," by Bess Keller, Education Week, April 30, 2008