Lots of N.C. Teachers Are Playing Hooky These Days | News

Lots of N.C. Teachers Are Playing Hooky These Days


This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Nearly 23 percent of North Carolina teachers are “chronically absent,” meaning they’ve used ten or more non-consecutive sick days, according to a new state report. This is in addition to the ten days of annual leave all teachers receive each year, a little more than one per each month school is in session—though annual leave days cannot be used when class is in session—and a much smaller number of personal days (0.2 per month of work). The sick and annual leave can’t be rolled over year to year, or cashed out when teachers depart or retire; personal days can.
  • “Given that teachers cannot use annual leave on instructional days and personal leave is limited to two days per year, teachers might use sick leave as a way to manage an unexpected need to be away from work when students are in session,” the report says. The chronic absentee rate in 2016–17 was pretty much the same as it was the year before and up almost a percentage point from 2014–15. The problem appears most acute in the northeast and southeast parts of the state.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, schools with more chronically absent teachers tend to score worse on the state’s grading system—or perhaps I’ve got the causality backward, and teachers at poor-scoring schools just need a break more often.

  • The State Board of Education says you shouldn’t read too much into that data. From the N&O: “‘What we have here is a system that says it’s OK to take that day once a month and then we’re going to turn around and say, “You’re doing that because it’s allowed and now we’re going to label you chronically absent,”’ said state board member Amy White. ‘That’s not really fair.’ … White, the state board member, said that part of the reason for the chronic absences could be that young female teachers have to take time off to care for sick children.”

WHAT IT MEANS: This presents two obvious problems for school districts: 1) They have to hire more subs, which costs more money. 2) There’s a lack of continuity in instruction, which hinders learning. So what can the state do about it? For starters, make teachers feel like the state gives a damn about them—and that begins (but doesn’t end) by paying them a reasonable wage.
  • From the N&O: “Lisa Godwin, a state teacher of the year and state board adviser, said that if teachers feel valued they'll value walking into the classroom each day. ‘To have teachers really feel that this is a profession that’s viable for a 30-year period of time, we’ve got to change the narrative and we’ve got to do things that are innovative and push the envelope on elevating this profession and making it what it used to be in the eyes of society,’ she said.”

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