Are there patterns of teacher absences throughout the academic year, and if so, do teacher characteristics predict their absences?
There is a well-established research base linking teacher absenteeism and students’ academic outcomes. This research was undertaken in partnership with a metro-Atlanta school district to understand leave-taking patterns of teachers within the district better. C. Kevin Fortner and Kate Caton examined leave-taking behaviors across the district, by school, and by cluster to identify patterns of teacher absenteeism based on calendar timing and teacher characteristics. We used several types of regularly-collected administrative teacher data, including teacher-level daily absence data and teacher demographic and employment characteristics for the 2012 through 2019 school years. This work identified total absences, discretionary absences, spells of five or more consecutive days absent, and chronic absenteeism. It also identified teachers with perfect attendance. We use descriptive statistics and regression analyses to analyze the data.
Our findings indicate that overall teacher attendance rate in the district is high at about 93% and remains consistent over time throughout the time period. The district-wide aggregation of data, however, masks patterns of teacher absenteeism when we disaggregated the data into smaller units such as individual school buildings or grade level (elementary, middle, or high school grades). Regression analysis explains little of the overall variation in absences, though some characteristics of teachers and their students are predictive of teacher attendance. The characteristics that most strongly predicted absenteeism were teacher experience level and gender. These findings indicate that teachers newer to their positions may feel more pressure to avoid absences, and the gender-based differences in absences, which are well-documented across industries, might be mitigated through interventions that address out-of-work burdens such as family care.
This research does not address the potential trade-off between the student benefits of having teachers more often in their classrooms and the negative impacts of burnout and stress on teachers that strong interventions to minimize teacher absences may increase.
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