Teacher absences: Are they excessive and do they hurt students?

Most discussions about school attendance focus on students. Now, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to talk about teachers.

Duncan has made teacher attendance one of the measures to determine which low-achieving schools receive federal improvement funds. So, for the first time, the federal government will collect data on how many days teachers miss classes each year.

The reason is simple: Research shows that students suffer a small, but significant decline in academic performance as a result of teacher absences.

In addition, the nation’s public schools pay a big price — as much as $4 billion a year according to the National Center for Education Statistics — to hire substitutes to fill in for absent staff.

When he was CEO of Chicago public schools, Duncan was dismayed to discover that the system was spending more than $10 million a year on substitute teachers. He tangled with the teacher unions when he added teacher attendance data to school scorecards.

“This is important to parents,” Duncan said at the time. “There’s never been a spotlight on this, and that’s a mistake. I think it’s like any workplace. When people feel good about the work, people want to be there. This is not only important for student learning, it’s important to school culture.”

As one of the leading researchers on the impact of teacher absences on achievement, Raegen T. Miller, associate director for education research at the Center for American Progress, applauds the new emphasis on teacher attendance.

Patterns of high absences within a school can be a marker of deeper problems. “Controlling for age and other factors, there are still wildly different patterns that tell you about the professional culture in the school building. The Department of Education really gets this,” says Miller.

In his research, Miller found that public school teachers are absent between nine and 10 days per year on average.

Between kindergarten and 12th grade, that means a student is taught by someone other than the regularly assigned teacher for the equivalent of two-thirds of a school year, he says.

Every 10 absences lowers mathematics achievement by the same amount as having a teacher with one year to two years of experience instead of a teacher with three years to five years of experience, says Miller.

In his analysis, Miller found that most teacher absences — 56 percent — were discretionary, meaning they were either short-term sick days or personal days.

Those days often fell on Mondays, Fridays and before vacation breaks, suggesting that teachers were deliberate in the days they chose to stay home from work. (Nondiscretionary absences would include a family death, long-term illnesses or jury duty.)

That’s led Miller to advocate for public disclosure of teacher absences so that the public is aware of patterns within schools, patterns that may undermine student achievement.
Miller also says states should look at leave policies that may be overly generous or that encourage teachers to take off time.

“There is no question that a ton of resources are devoted to paying teachers when they are not there,” Miller says. “In some states, the statute provides for 10 days a year. In other states, it is nearly twice as much.” (Georgia gives 12.5 days per year.)

Many leave policies reflect political concessions.

“In years where there is no money for a raise, just to get people to go away from the table, the administration is likely to throw people another sick day . Or it may be the Legislature throwing out another day rather than more money,’’ says Miller. “But when teachers get paid leave for 10 percent of the school year, it’s probably excessive.”

Miller advises local systems to consider incentives to reduce teacher absences.

Teacher absence rates are about three times those of managerial and professional employees, a fact that teachers attribute to the health risks of working with children. Because the profession remains largely female, Miller says absences are often linked to child care needs.

Because teacher attendance data is not published, there’s little information about how often teachers miss school in Georgia. An exception is Cobb County where a school system official recently studied the question.

For her graduate work at Kennesaw State University, Mary Finlayson, investigations manager for the Cobb system’s human resources department, examined absences in the county and the impact on students.

Her 37-page study, “The Impact of Teacher Absenteeism on Student Performance: The Case of the Cobb County School District,” contains these findings:

-While the national average is 10 days, Cobb teachers are out of the classroom an average of 14 days per year.

-Cobb spent $8.5 million to hire substitutes to fill in for 6,800 classroom teachers and clinic nurses in the 2008-2009 school year. The system had only budgeted $4.6 million for subs.

-Students in lower-income areas experienced more teacher absences.
An analysis of third-grade CRCT scores in Cobb supported the national research that higher teacher absenteeism led to lower math scores.

In her report, Finlayson echoes the conclusions of most national researchers:

“From experience, I have learned that if employee attendance is allowed to become a problem in a school, it will affect other employees who also begin to take time off work. There needs to be an awareness of how pervasive this problem might be and consistency among all schools about what is expected from teachers and staff.”

211 comments Add your comment

adam conn

November 29th, 2009
7:06 am

Hello Maureen. I have not missed a day of teaching in almost five years and have accrued close to 1200 hours of sick leave. I arrive an hour before required time and leave an hour after the day has ended. So basically, a consequence for being absent yet never once in five years a simple pat on the back for being there day in and day out. It is the only profession where one cannot wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just turn off the alarm clock and get a few more hours’ sleep. Please stop picking on teachers. It is easy and fuin to do when no longer in the classroom.

Singing to the Choir

November 29th, 2009
7:47 am

I see that they addressed sick days but what about training and teacher collaboration which goes on during the instructional time? Cobb County has quite a lot of that. And now very few Cobb schools use subs, instead they use parent volunteers to come in and cover the classes for free. These parents do not have any type of screening nor do they need to have a high school diploma or equivalent. The PTA in East Cobb is very supportive of this process. I think the important issue is to look into why teachers are absent. In Cobb you will find more are absent for some sort of training and now that they use parent volunteers how do you track it?


November 29th, 2009
7:49 am

I have to agree somewhat with Adam. Teachers miss days because they are stressed, tired, or have sick children and there is no one to stay at home with the kids. They also miss days because of trainings or other professional development. The administrators of schools are partly responsible for allowing too many distractions take teachers away from the classroom. They also allow too many assessments to eat up powerful and important instructional time. I do agree teachers take too much time off, but that is because, in part, they are not supported in the ways they need to be right now. They need a great deal of support for their instruction and other factors that go into teaching these days. Low-income schools are not supported; they are trashed in the media and therefore become places that high-impact students or teachers or administrators do not want to be around. It is a vicious cycle. There are many dedicated teachers out there, but I must say this year I have seen more stress-related illnesses taking their toll upon many that were relatively healthy. Teacher stress also takes its toll on students, who get sicker and for longer periods of time. Overall, I think our schools are trying but they are test driven into illness.


November 29th, 2009
7:59 am

When I or my family is sick, it is NOT discretionary! What IS discretionary is being sent to every kind of “workshop” for every cure du jour our central office can get a kickback on! It isn’t the training that is the problem; it’s that many teachers have ten or more days of it per year, and there are quite a few teachers chosen for this school-wide. I have only been gone one and a half days so far for workshops, with at least 4 more to go. But math and reading sucks up hundreds of teacher-days per year in our system. (This is not including the after school, during our now limited teacher planning days, and during planning time). Let teachers teach instead of justifying our “coaches’” and “administrators’” pay. If you identify a teacher who has problems, send that teacher for remediation. Quit wasting our time taking a bite of this or that (like one strategy from Singapore math, for Goodness Sakes)

In addition, teachers, like others, have to occasionally conduct business during business hours on business days.

Finally, I agree about the health of the school reflected in some teacher absences. When you hear your colleagues discussing how to become disabled to get out of teaching at your school, you KNOW you have a serious problem!

Rebecca H

November 29th, 2009
8:02 am

This article literally sickens me! I spend up to 14 hours a day at school doing all that is required and beyond and now I can’t even take off if I get sick?! What is this?!! We are already underpaid and not respected. I work so hard and bust my you know what every single day. I don’t get to have a bad day. Every day I have to have my game face on 100%. Teachers work around gazillions of germs each and every day, and now we are being made into villains for taking off sick?? Would it make you feel better if we all came to work sick and infected the entire staff and student body?? Seriously this attack on teachers has got to stop. No wonder Georgia is always at the bottom of the education barrel. The way these people here treat their teachers would deter most sane people away from the profession all together. The parents don’t honor education and take the initiative for their own children and the population as a whole has a very negative attitude towards educators. Keep on attacking teachers and putting us down. Keep on with the budget cuts that lower our pay that was already on a destitute level. See where it gets you. You guessed it …with more and more talented educators leaving the field and Georgia continuing to drop to the bottom!!

Florida Teacher

November 29th, 2009
8:02 am

After 11 years in the Ga, I left 55 sick days there with no compensation for those days. Do I wish now I had taken more days so as not to give those days to the state? Yes!! Or I wish I had missed 5 less so they would count toward retirement.

Here is my Florida district there were perfect attendance bonuses accrued by the 9 weeks with each bonus slighter learger each nine weeks. However, in an effort to cut down expenses, my district did away with the bonuses this year. I had perfect attendance 30 of the 36 nine weeks I have been here. This means one year when I battled cancer I only missed 4 1/2 days and had 4 surgeries (one was over Christmas—yes I said the word—break) and 33 treatment of radiation!! We are not allowed to take less than a 1/2 day.

I agree with adam conn, that teaching is the only profession where you can decide at the last minute not to show up and students not suffer. When I am out, it takes me about 4 hours to make plans for 1 day so that there is a script for the sub to follow so that my students wouldn’t suffer. Unfortunately, sometimes subs think they know more than you and do their own thing.

Years ago when I had jury duty, I spent my after hours making plans where other people just called the boss and said they wouldn’t be there. I have only used my emergency plans twice in 19 years of teaching: one was the death of my father and the other was this Sept. when I was admitted to the hospital with chest pains. For the past two weeks I have not left school before 7 pm and I have stayed as late as 10 pm.


November 29th, 2009
8:05 am

In addition, in most professions (other than health, education, and money-handling), people are not exposed day after day to the viral and bacterial load teachers have to deal with. So many sick kids who should be home! I blamed working parents for it before, but now with so many not working, I blame laziness and NCLB for having these sick kids at school making others sick. As a journalist, how many times in your job have you been vomited on?


November 29th, 2009
8:07 am

Lost 8 am post.

Becca Champion

November 29th, 2009
8:08 am

Way to go Bonnie, you nailed it on the head!!!! Most people have no idea of what it is really like in the classroom and there is little to no support for teachers in this test driven society! Just like in any profession, if someone is abusing the attendance policy, then “man up” and address it. Quit trying to take down the whole lot.

Sherman Dorn

November 29th, 2009
8:16 am

I’m going to bet that like many compassionate employers, the Center for American Progress grants Miller and her colleagues at least 8 hours of various forms of leave accrued for every two weeks of work… or 10% of the time she works. Maureen, can you call Raegan Miller or CAP up and ask that to see if she’s being inconsistent?

sped teacher bibb

November 29th, 2009
8:23 am

FYI-Many of the missed days are for “required” training. Often the math and science departments will have a system wide work shop on the same day. Great planning-huh! If you have two subs each section for an entire system you might as well lock the doors as little if any learning is going to take place that day.

We should however monitor those who choose to abuse sick leave.


November 29th, 2009
8:24 am

Guess which profession has the greatest number of kidney/IT infections — teaching. If we would get back to basics in the classroom, when the teacher is absent, the substitute would simply continue to teach the class. There would be no lattice multiplication, or other useless ‘new’ ideas. Our kids can’t spell, yet we are spending less time on it. Our students are overweight, yet we are cutting out recess and PE. Anyone else see a problem here. When a teacher is absent, school doesn’t have to be free day. Learning can still take place.


November 29th, 2009
8:29 am

As a teacher I had perfect attendance. I had over 800 hours of sick leave time. The reward for a years perfect attendance… 40 hours of bonus time that could only be used after I used my 800 hours. Why would you reward someone with something they clearly don’t use. I went to my cousins wedding which fell on a holiday weekend and was docked a days pay for missing a day either before or after a holiday. This docked day was recalculated before summer and lowered my summer pays. One day cost way more than I get paid a day and of course human resources had a formula that should why. With swine flu they tell us to stay home if we are sick but then we get scolded for being absent. My solution, I will now come to school sick get every kid sick and make it so the parent has to stay home.

Voice of Reason

November 29th, 2009
8:38 am

I recently retired after 30 years of teaching. During that time I missed 31 days and accrued 2 years toward retirement benefits. This study is long overdue. I am usually the first to go to bat for teachers, but I saw many teachers abuse the system. For the most part there is no way that adequate teaching is going on in a substitute-filled classroom.


November 29th, 2009
8:39 am

Hate to break the news to you, but these days teachers are afraid to miss days due to illness and/or sick kids for fear that it will be used against them at their review time. Schools are cutting back on teacher training days also, again due to the economy.


November 29th, 2009
8:42 am

I forgot – these teachers who don’t dare to take any time off also work more than a 50-60 hour week, and grade papers late into the night. Not getting a good night’s sleep and being under stress also tend to make you sick. Teachers, thank you for each and everything you do, and apologies for the totally undeserved bad press this study is giving you.


November 29th, 2009
8:44 am

I agree wholeheartedly, Maureen. Let’s keep teachers in the classroom. The legislators and admins can start with the “furlough days” in which almost every teacher gives up pay and works anyway. After repaying us for several of those this year and promising to never do it again, we’ll promise to take less of our fairly earned leave. Deal?


November 29th, 2009
8:57 am

Sometimes doctor’s appointments can’t be scheduled except during school hours. If you work in the private sector, you can usually take “comp time” and avoid taking a sick day, but teaching doesn’t work that way. Even if you only miss your planning time or get a coworker to watch your class, the district will frequently require you to take a day or partial day of sick leave since you are leaving campus.

It is true that some teachers will take “mental health days” or sometimes days to catch up on grading – we’re supposed to have “planning days” for that, but usually on those days we instead have meetings out the wazoo. If you have small children, you usually end up taking your days when they are sick.

There’s no immediate reward for having perfect attendance, either. Some districts used to pay a bonus for teachers who didn’t miss any time, but I haven’t heard of anyone doing that lately.

Ann Denis

November 29th, 2009
8:58 am

I am a Cobb County School teacher. Mary Finlayson’s research was not properly completed. As a student, she should have researched how many of those days were due to training. Our teachers take four days for curriculum planning during the year. This year I was hit with the flu for four days with a doctors note. Yes, we have teachers who abuse the system. We do have one teacher who is out twice a month and schedules doctors appts during the day. It is up to administration to talk with those people who are absent. Cobb County should stop allowing curriculum planning during the day! People do not realize that teachers planning periods are utilized by administration, we DO NOT have teacher work days, we have to correct all our papers after hours, and report cards and progress reports are done after hours. Our pay way cut this year and our benefits went up. Mary should have done a better job with her research to show most absences are due to training!


November 29th, 2009
8:58 am

Why are sick hours carried over? Very few companies allow employees to accrue sick or vacation time. It must be used in the year it was earned or lost.


November 29th, 2009
9:01 am

What about a study that shows what furlough days does to teacher morale…and how underpaying them may be linked to student performance…and a study about how totally crappy parents who don’t play any part in raising their kids affects student’s learning? Come on and wake up! The system is broken! Focusing on things like this will do nothing but create a punitive work environment. “Create teacher incentives for good attendance?” You know that will NOT be the case…it will be, “How can we punish these teachers for missing?” I think it’s time for teacher’s to strike…then do a study on that, why don’t you?

Jacks Mum

November 29th, 2009
9:02 am

I realize that teachers do work very hard, and that they have to work at night to grade papers, however, they reap the perks of several “breaks” and holidays. Please do not lose sight of the fact that your choice of a career is stressful, is time consuming during the school year, yet provides you with more time off than any other profession that includes pay during your breaks.

When you are sick, you are sick…but when you are sick and tired, please consider the children. They are in need of you, their teachers to bring it 110% every school day, so that they can learn everything they can! Teaching is a calling not a job.

Jacks Mum

November 29th, 2009
9:03 am

Southern Gal – because they are unionized…please see comments from WOW!. WOW! you need to go and find a job, because teaching is NOT your calling.


November 29th, 2009
9:08 am

Mom247, sorry, but missing 14 days out of 190 is just too many. That’s nearly one day ever two weeks. I work 50-60 hours per week too, but we only get 8 sick/personal days in an entire year.. not just 9 months.

WOW...just wow!

November 29th, 2009
9:10 am

Hey, catlady…..u forgot to mention that if a teacher were to wear a mask to fight off the germs (like health professionals) and/or gloves (like many people dealing with $), they would be ostracized for infringing on rights of the kids. The administrators and parents would be extremely offended if Ms. Catlady came to class with a mask and rubber gloves, but obviously you better come in and help the sick kids who come to school regardless!


November 29th, 2009
9:32 am

Um, Jacks Mum. I do have a job…and it is NOT teaching (thank god!) But, I live with a teacher…every day of the year. I know exactly what responsiblities she shoulders, how little she is paid and how incredibly UN-supportive administrators and parents are to her quest to try to bring some sense and order into a room full of ill-behaved and ill-raised, disrespectful children. It’s remarkable to me that people still continue to try to pass the buck on to teachers…parents blame teachers, administrators blame teachers, and parents blame teachers…for everything…when in reality, it’s the students actions that determine success or failure. I had many bad teachers while I was growing up, but that didn’t prevent me from getting A’s in my classes, or going on to college, or becoming a physician. And, if teaching is a “calling” not a job, then why don’t we treat them with that reverence, instead of like it is a job?

It would appear that you do NOT know what is really going on in the school systems around our area today, I, however, do. I realize that teaching is not my calling because I would tell the administrators, and parents to get out of the class room, and I would discipline my students and teach them to behave and respect like their parents should be at home. This is not what is wanted in education right now…we want our children to be perfect without discipline, without having to study, or take homework home, and to be able to play on their cell phones for the entire class period! GIVE ME A BREAK, lady! WAKE UP!!!

Old School

November 29th, 2009
9:34 am

I was written up and the letter placed in my personnel file when my sub chose to ignore my very detailed lesson plans and even sent a kid TO HER HOME to bring back movies. Those plans were detailed down to exactly what each student was expected to work on, complete, and turn in and what specific lab chore was to be completed by each at the end of class. Because I knew who the sub was to be and because lab cleanup was a daily part of class, AND because I had clearly explained my expectations to each of my classes, I thought I could take my vocational club students to a state conference and return to no surprises. Wrong. My lab was wrecked and, in spite of my being 200 miles away in Atlanta for the conference, I was held accountable. My uber-detailed lesson plans with the subs handwritten notes of “we had such fun” and “your students are delightful,” were pretty much dismissed when I was called on the carpet.

Folks, we instructors have no control over how a sub fills in for us, no matter why we are out of our classes. Given that kind of disdain by administrators, is it any wonder some might take a “mental health” day?

And just fyi, I’ve accumulated several years worth of sick leave days but will realize nothing from them because I’m half-way through my 36th year. I have always arrived at school by 6:30 a.m. and typically leave around 4:00 p.m. or later. I even spent 3 hours this past Friday in my lab preparing for my students and our countywide evaluation teams’ visits.

My career. My choice.


November 29th, 2009
9:36 am

I am so glad that someone is finally looking into absences of teachers. We only have 190 workdays a year anyway and when we miss it does really hurt. There are many dedicated hardworking teachers but there are certainly those that work the system. And, yes, the teacher workdays or in-service days are ridiculous as most teachers would tell you that they had rather be in the classroom. Most schools have cut back on these this year but only due to budget restraints. Otherwise, we would be paying for a sub at least once a month for every teacher in the schools for such days!

Teachers are not under paid. Look at the benefits, look at the number of days of year that are worked and quit whining people! Heck we even have a contract for a whole year’s work which is amazing these days! We get salary increases, usually every year and paid more with more education, superlatives, etc. When we are observed, we have advance notice and can prepare our lesson accordingly. We have wonderful holiday leave and the list goes on. Oh, and aren’t most people exposed to germs and how many teachers get donations of germ-x for their classrooms, etc. Yes, it can be stressful dealing with so many students/parents and putting up with administration and red tape at times but aren’t most jobs stressful or difficult at times?

Most jobs you can earn a maximum of sick leave over the years. Not so with the education system as you earn about 1 to 1.5 days a month leave and it carries on forever. I know some teachers who over the years accumulated a lot of sick leave or short term leave and now that they are close to retirement take a day off just to go get a blood pressure check, etc. Maybe more tracking of “sick” or short term leave should be implemented or maybe the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated should have a maximum per year.

Let’s look at what we have to be thankful for besides, there are a lot of unemployed teachers out there that would love to be in our shoes!

I say let them do studies on how to improve the system. After all, it’s all of our tax dollars that pay for the excessive use of subs! While you are at it, study how to cut back on some of the unneeded positions in the county offices.

Gwinnett Parent

November 29th, 2009
9:36 am

Last year my daughter’s teacher was out the day after Labor Day, and missed several days afterwards. We received a letter 2 weeks later informing us of a permanent sub. The original teacher came back in October. The kids had to stay in for recess a few times, because the class was not meeting their skills requirement. I visited the class a few times and noticed that there was always a different teacher. It got to the point that my daughter did not know who was teaching her class. In November we received another letter informing us of another permanent sub. Her school has a policy of getting a permanent sub. after 10 days of consecutive absences. I called the school requesting that my daughter be transferred to a class with a teacher that stays and was told that my kid just had to deal with it. Finally they decided to split the class up after Thanksgiving. My daughter did not start learning new material until February of that year. Her reading skills also started to decline. However, she started kindergarten able to read on a 1st grade level, which helped her because there was no one there to teach class. It is great that she comes from a nice stable home with 2 college degreed parents and a mom with a flexible schedule. Not every kid in her class had this luxury. However, her school expects kindergarteners to do word problems and a meet other skill requirements. It’s hard to imagine how the kids meet these requirements when there is no one there to teach them.

Stop Picking on Them

November 29th, 2009
9:37 am

Pay teachers what they are worth and then you have a right to complain about the things they do. Until then, stop picking on them!!!


November 29th, 2009
9:39 am

Someone mentioned sick days not getting carried over in the “business world” of work. From what I have seen employees also get paid for those unused days, I have about 80 days (I have lost over 60 when I transferred districts a couple of years ago) and I will use them to retire early if I make it that long. If I don’t make it to retirement, I will simply lose all those days.

I would bet that if someone did another study on missed days in other professions/jobs they would have similar findings on the days missed (Mondays, fridays, around or on holidays)…so why just go after teachers?


November 29th, 2009
9:44 am

Jacks Mum…. those paychecks we get over the summer are only for money we earned during the school year, just prorated over 12 months. We are not paid for summer unless we teach summer school. Teachers are paid for 190 days a year. We earn 10 hours a month of sick time for every month we work (so we don’t earn that over the summer). There is no such thing as a “paid vacation” if you are a teacher.


November 29th, 2009
9:46 am

I tried to be dedicated this year. I came to school sick. Now look at me. A month later, I relapsed again and spent this entire Thanksgiving break in bed with a high fever. I’ll be up tomorrow to face the kids and still weak. But do I hear a thanks? I’ll stand before the kids and try to teach and they will whip out the cell phones, turn their backs, and little do they know how sick I feel, but God forbid I call in and risk losing my job and let’s pray my own child doesn’t catch this bug!


November 29th, 2009
9:48 am

Oh, and I forgot, while we’re linking achievement to teacher absences, what do I do about the student who has missed 40 days so far this semester (and I have more than one of those). At some point we need to start withholding credit from students who don’t come to school.

Bio Teacher

November 29th, 2009
9:57 am

flipper, you obviously do not know what you are talking about! Teachers are in class continuing to learn during summer vacation and/or programs for recertification as well as improving class room skills. They work on plans during all breaks and deal with uninformed and ill-mannered parents EVERY WHERE they go. They deal with admin. that is out of touch and do not care. It is a 12 month a year job that is thankless and unpaid, that is why I will not return to secondary or middle education.


November 29th, 2009
10:07 am

I worked in business for 18 years before becoming a teacher. I have taught 10 years and have maximum sick leave accrued, and lose days every year. Other than planning, I am confined to the classroom. I am told don’t sit at your desk, be up teaching or monitoring. I can’t walk out of the room to go to the bathroom if I have an upset stomach. Once at work, I can’t leave unless I find a substitute, which I can’t do from the classroom. This requries me to take sick leave sometimes when I would otherwise come in to work.


November 29th, 2009
10:10 am

My daughter’s math teacher, in 8th grade, was out sick at least 3 or 4 days a month. I felt sorry for her, because I knew she was truly sick. However, I knew it would come back to hunt my daughter, who is a “B” to “A-” student in math. There were so many topics that were not covered in detail, that is being pushed into the light. She’s in Algebra this year and the math teacher is always saying they should have covered the current topics in 8th grade. I’m just thankful that he is an excellent math teacher and has the patience to recover things my daughter missed in 8th grade.

I’m happy to say that this year has been great and we haven’t had a problem with excessive absentees of any of her highschool teachers. My daughter is taking both Physics and Chemistry this school year and if these teachers are absent, she would be screwed.

Also, I’ve been sick and had an operation just last week, so I do understand that being sick is not something we can control. But, we need subs who can at least teach the subjects they are covering.


November 29th, 2009
10:10 am

What a stupid story.
Guess what? I teach 1st grade. I am sneezed on, coughed on and thrown up on all year. How many office workers have 22 kids doing all of that right into their faces all day long. I tend to catch strep at least once a year, several bad colds and other viruses.

Then there are my own two children. YES, I stay home if they are sick. Do you want me sending them to school sick?


November 29th, 2009
10:11 am

JacksMom – We’re not paid during our breaks – our salary (based on 10 months employment) is split into 12 payments in order to make it easier for us to budget. For me, teaching is a calling, but I don’t think it’s unfair of me to expect society to pay me fairly for it. After all, society benefits greatly from having an educated populace. I also have noticed that as the stress upon teachers grows, absences grow – stress has been shown to increase illness. My stress comes from higher health costs, furlough days (lowering my salary), and no retirement or social security paid (for this year). Basically, I have taken a huge pay cut, am expected to “do more with less”, and now am expected to improve my attendance. In my entire career, I have missed many more days for professional learning than I have for being sick. Perhaps school systems should look at a new model for professional learning in order to keep teachers in the classroom.

Part of the Pack

November 29th, 2009
10:13 am

Jack’s Mum, Just for clarificaion teachers in Georgia are NOT unionized. I wish you and many others could get a good look into just how my so called time off is spent. This is my time to work on new lessons, find new resources, look at current research, and do all the other things I simply do not have time to do during the year. I came to teaching late in life. I worked for many years in the private sector, and I would dare say that I work more hours with that time off than I did working a full years schedule. Now I love what I do and no one makes me do this. I KNOW that, but I also know it is what is best for the students, and that is why I do what I do. The complaint I think most teachers have is that we do all this, and yet we are the only profession that is constantly told what an awful job we are doing. Everyone seems to think the understand what educators do, but that is simply not the case. Please realize that there is a whole lot more that goes on behind the scenes than parents and law makers ever see!


November 29th, 2009
10:14 am

G. parent: That teacher may have cancer, heart disease, etc. They may have had a dying parent or child. You just don’t say. No school system will give long term leave without proper consideration. I was one out for three weeks with flu and complications then one at a time both my kids had chicken pox. My husband used up most of his vacation time taking care of me. I was too sick to move and ended up in the hospital. I also took my six weeks when I had my children. When I retired I had two additonal years of sick time added to my pay.
Be careful judging teachers. They have families, get sick, and have to move just like others. All they have to use are personnal leave, 3 days, or sick days. Not everything can be done in the summer.

Veteran Teacher

November 29th, 2009
10:15 am

Oh my.. we get paid during our breaks? I hate to break it to you but we are paid to TEACH.. all those “breaks” that get covered with PAY are simply each school system’s way of breaking up the total salary to help cover time off. It is not extra… it is just less money from our monthly pay that comes back to us during those “breaks”. Sure, they could take that money out and put it back into the actual months that we are affectively teaching but then how many people are really good at budgeting during the summer to have enough money for bills and living expenses? Don’t blame us for taking needed time off throughout the school year and then threaten us because part of our salary is paid to us during breaks. I am another of those who are at school when the building is being opened daily and one of the last to leave (with the principal) on most days. I have enough sick days built up to take almost a year of school off. They certainly do come in handy when needed.


November 29th, 2009
10:16 am

In 2007, I told my administration that I did not want to attend any more trainings. During the 2006-2007 school year, I missed 26 days due to trainings.Because I was head of the leadership team, I had to attend a lot of training. I was only out two days for sick leave–so you do the math. I have over 100 days of sick leave and if I were to go to another school district, I would lose 55 of those days–is that fair..This may be a reason that teachers use their sick leave.It does not matter how many studies you do, you cannot make teachers come to work if they do not want to come.

Sick of paying for illegals

November 29th, 2009
10:20 am

One reason why teachers are constantly sent yo another training, another worthless seminar, another boring workshop, etc,etc, is because they are government schools and the government doesn’t have a clue what it takes to educate our children. They just send down mandates and requirements that kill the budget and exhaust the teachers, who are trying to jump through all the hoops the government requires of them. Imagine what our healthcare is going to be like when our government takes over our healthcare!


November 29th, 2009
10:23 am

Part of the Pack – Do you think that the lack of respect is because children are so undervalued in our society – and consequently those who work with children, as well as their work, is undervalued? Or could it be because work that earns or produces money is valued in our society, and teachers do neither – consequently, teaching is not respected?

drew (former teacher)

November 29th, 2009
10:24 am

Yes…some teachers abuse sick leave.
Yes…some teachers are extremely dedicated and hardly ever miss work.

The fact is, the vast majority of teachers are very dedicated and professional. Then you’ve got a small minority of teachers who think it’s perfectly OK to abuse sick leave. I worked with one teacher who viewed sick leave as compensation…just like their paycheck. As soon as this teacher earned a day’s leave, he’d be out sick. My experience was that the worst teachers were usually the same ones abusing sick leave.

Oh, and the main reason sick leave is allowed to rollover is that without rollover, you’d see a lot of teachers “using up” their sick leave, so as not to lose it.

Proud teacher!

November 29th, 2009
10:26 am

I understand now why our profession is so widely criticized. We whine too much oppose to addressing the issue. The issue is about teacher abseteeism. The other issue is should districts track this information. I have no sympathy for fellow teachers that are missing work for no good reason. In my opinion, I think districts should track this information. I am not worried because I do not miss a lot of days of work.

Address the issues- educators!- it may be helpful to the profession.

Children first?

November 29th, 2009
10:39 am


Wow, how do you and your wife approach disciplining your children at home. You can not convince me that your angels are perfect at home. You have to discipline your children at home. Now imagine your imperfect child walking into a classroom with other imperfect children and the teacher hating the job for all the reasons you mentioned above. God help us!

Joy in Teaching

November 29th, 2009
10:41 am

I’ve been teaching for 23 years. For the first 15 or so years, I was seldom out unless I had a stomach thing going on, couldn’t speak due to laryngitis, had a fever higher than 102, or had a death in the immediate family. I lost all sorts of days in the beginning because they wouldn’t allow teachers to accumulate over a certain amount of days.

I admit that I’ve taken off more days since No Child Left Behind became law. Why? Because the stress is killing me. Administrators have gotten more spineless and parents have become more demanding. And the kids? Well, to be honest, many of them have become less capable because the curriculum has been dumbed down to the point to where they can’t even do the basics any more. And teachers aren’t encouraged to go beyond that because it could affect AYP.

In the last 8 years, I’ve gone on blood pressure pills as well as an anti depressant. (Neither of which runs in my family and I am physically fit otherwise.) Last year, I actually had an anxiety attack during class and my doctor said, “Either take a few days off or I’ll put you in the hospital and force you to do so.” I took a few days off and some parents complained. Apparently, there are some who would rather a teacher drop dead in the classroom instead of being absent. Stress is eating me alive. Lately, I’ve actually thought about retiring early at 25 years rather than 30 years because I really am tired of jeapardizing my health for this job that I used to love.

Want to really do a study, Maureen? Do a study on teacher absences since No Child Left Behind came along. You’d be amazed at the difference.

No Real World Experience

November 29th, 2009
10:43 am

Why not pay teachers the amount that would go to a substitute if they are not absent.