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Efficacy of Implementing an Organizational Attendance Incentive Program in a Public Educational System Addressing Teacher Absenteeism

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Don K Vixaysack
Abstract:
Abstract Previous research on promoting teacher attendance through incentives is limited to post-program implementation outcomes. A targeted nominal incentive program employing an operant conditioning framework was examined to determine if it could reduce teacher absenteeism and increase job satisfaction. Specifically, the quantitative study determined if offering 6 th , 7th , and 8th Grade teachers nominal incentives in an urban public school setting would increase attendance at the start and end of a workweek. Sixty middle school teacher participants were divided into 2 groups, an incentive program and a control group and their attendance on Mondays and Fridays over a 3 month period were tracked. All participants completed the Job in General (JIG) Scale of the Job Descriptive Index before and after the study period. An ANCOVA was used to observe differences between groups for absenteeism and job satisfaction. The results indicated that the nominal incentive program had a significant effect on teacher attendance on Mondays and Fridays. Results from the independent sample t-test indicated that the participants' job satisfaction was not a significant factor in determining whether or not the teachers had higher work attendances on Mondays and Fridays. A regression analysis was also performed to assess if family obligations was a factor in absences and indicated that it was not a significant influence. Implications for positive social change include a decrease in teacher absences from the classroom, lower associated organizational costs tied to hiring substitute teachers, and improving teachers' morale through job satisfaction.

Table of Contents List of Tables ..................................................................................................................... iv List of Figures ..................................................................................................................... v Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study................................................................................... 1 Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1 Background of the Problem .......................................................................................... 8 Statement of the Problem ............................................................................................ 15 Purpose of the Study ................................................................................................... 15 Research Questions and Hypotheses .......................................................................... 16 Theoretical Framework ............................................................................................... 17 Definitions of Terms ................................................................................................... 19 Significance of the Study ............................................................................................ 21 Assumptions and Limitations ..................................................................................... 23 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 24 Chapter 2: Literature Review ............................................................................................ 27 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 27 Organizational Incentives and Teacher Absenteeism ................................................. 31 Job Satisfaction and Teacher Absenteeism ........................................................... 38 Teacher Autonomy and Absenteeism ................................................................... 41 Personal Characteristics and Frequency of Absences ........................................... 43 Job Characteristics and Frequency of Absences ................................................... 47 Implications of Past Research on Present Research ............................................. 50

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Summary ..................................................................................................................... 51 Chapter 3: Research Method ............................................................................................. 53 Study Overview .......................................................................................................... 53 Procedure .................................................................................................................... 53 Participants .................................................................................................................. 54 Ethical Protection of Participants................................................................................ 55 Instruments .................................................................................................................. 56 Data Collection ........................................................................................................... 58 Research Questions and Associated Hypotheses .................................................. 59 ANCOVA ............................................................................................................. 60 Multiple Linear Regression................................................................................... 61 Data Preparation and Analysis .................................................................................... 62 Summary ..................................................................................................................... 65 Chapter 4: Results ............................................................................................................. 67 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 67 Results of Analysis ..................................................................................................... 68 Descriptive Statistics ............................................................................................. 68 Research Question 1 ............................................................................................. 74 Research Question 2 ............................................................................................. 79 Research Question 3 ............................................................................................. 81 Research Question 3 ............................................................................................. 81 Research Question 4 ............................................................................................. 84

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Summary ..................................................................................................................... 87 Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusion, and Recommendations .............................................. 90 Introduction ................................................................................................................. 90 Summary and Interpretation of the Findings .............................................................. 91 Research Question 1 ............................................................................................. 91 Research Question 2 ............................................................................................. 92 Research Question 3 ............................................................................................. 93 Research Question 4 ............................................................................................. 94 Implications for Social Change ................................................................................... 94 Limitations and Recommendations............................................................................. 96 Conclusion .................................................................................................................. 99 References ....................................................................................................................... 103 Appendix A: Extensive Overview of Leave Policy ........................................................ 122 Appendix B: Cohen’s Statistical Analysis Table ............................................................ 140 Appendix C: Teacher Absenteeism Survey .................................................................... 141 Appendix D: JIG Scale ................................................................................................... 143 Appendix E: Permission to Use Instrument .................................................................... 144 Curriculum Vitae ............................................................................................................ 146

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List of Tables Table 1. Mean Number of Absences on Mondays and Fridays by Month and Group ..... 69

Table 2. Mean JIG Scale Scores by Group ....................................................................... 69

Table 3. Years in County and Number of Dependents (Child or Adult) by Group .......... 72

Table 4. Frequency Distribution for Tenure, Gender, and Attendance ............................ 72

Table 5. Frequency Distribution for Understanding County’s Leave/Absence Poli cy .... 73

Table 6. Frequency Distribution for Selected Definitions of Involuntary Absenc es ........ 73

Table 7. Frequency Distribution for Selected “Voluntary Absences” Definiti on ............ 74

Table 8. Repeated-Measures ANOVA Results for Attendance ........................................ 76

Table 9. ANCOVA Results for Attendance ...................................................................... 78

Table 10. Means for Job Satisfaction by Attendance ....................................................... 80

Table 11. Independent t-Test Results for Job Satisfaction by Attendance ....................... 80

Table 12. Means for Job Satisfaction by Attendance and Tenure .................................... 81

Table 13. Independent t Test Results for Job Satisfaction by Attendance and Te nure .... 81

Table 14. Regression Results for Attendance Based on Elderly Dependents (Contr olling for March Monday and Friday Absences.................................................................... 84

Table 15. Regression Results for Attendance Based on Child Dependents (Controlling f or March Monday and Friday Absences) ........................................................................ 87

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List of Figures Figure 1. JIG Scale of the JDI score by group. ................................................................. 70

Figure 2. Mean number of Monday and Friday absences by group. ................................ 77

Figure 3. Standardized regression predicted value and residual values. ........................... 83

Figure 4. Standardized regression predicted and residual values. .................................... 86

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Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study Introduction As the 21 st century continues to face economic uncertainty, the need for organizations to maintain a consistent workflow by hiring employees who have a strong work ethic characterized by dependability and work schedule adherence is critical (Hill & Petty, 1995 ) . As such, the hiring process of employing the best qualified candidates has increasingly become one of the most arduous and sometimes formidable tasks for m any organizations because “many supervisors and managers do not have a clear understanding of the competencies necessary for success in that job and how to assess

those competencies” (Prien, Goldstein, Goldstein, & Gamble, 2009, p. 3). However, once employees are hired, it often is difficult to determine whether those employee s can maintain a good work ethic and good workplace habits that most organizations want and expect. Traditionally, different organizations, including school districts, use various hiring methods and tools to recruit potential employees. Most organizations evaluat e the qualifications of potential candidates based upon these hiring methods and tools that include reviewing résumés, letter of recommendations, and school transcripts , as well as conducting face-to face interviews to determine the potential employees’ s trengths and weaknesses (Faurer, n.d.). Within the educational field, the same standard procedures apply, so it is not uncommon for teachers to submit application packets that include the aforementioned items in an effort to be chosen for interviews. Organizations, includi ng those in the education arena, have a vested interest in selecting the best candida tes. In the

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case of teachers, schools are looking for teachers who exhibit a strong wor k ethic as well as excellent job performance (Hill & Fouts, 2005). Even though different selection methods such as structured interviews are utilize d to screen for the best-qualified candidates, Van Clief (1991) suggested that suc h methods have only a 15% to 20% likelihood of accurately predicting job performance. Struc tured interviews often tend to have difficulty determining whether employees actua lly will maintain good work habits over the long term, and because these structured intervi ews lack incremental validity, the ability of the interviewer to predict job perform ance of the candidates may be compromised (Walters, Miller, & Ree, 1993). Moreover, beca use of the constant changes in the nature of work, employee selection and recruitment have now evolved from being a simple process to a highly structured one. Psychometric tes ts such as personality questionnaires and aptitude tests are commonly used within differe nt organizations for selection, development, and promotion purposes (Williams, 2009). Conversely, even when employers think that they have made the best decisions to hire the best qualified candidates for different positions, the job characteris tics and job demands serve as unique predictors of employee absenteeism (Bakker, Demerout i, Boer, & Schaufeli, 2003). Ultimately, these job characteristics and job demands can some times drive employees to become disengaged and impede the employees’ work flow and productivity, resulting in increased voluntary absences (Johns, 1997). According to Van Der Westhuizin (2006), this type of affective response and behavioral reaction to cer tain aspects of the job can result in employee absenteeism and may serve as a coping

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mechanism for workers, including teachers, in dealing with the daily strains and s tresses of the job. Although the nature of employee absenteeism from the workplace may be influenced by a confluence of factors, including legitimate illnesses, empl oyers still have a difficult time managing the excessive absences taken by employees w ho do not comply with employee absence policies. As such, employee absenteeism continues to be

problematic for all types of organizations, and to make matters worse, this abse nteeism will result in a downshift of organizational productivity because worker respon sibility is interrupted and shifted to other personnel (Libet et al., 2001). Employee attrition and absenteeism in any organization are common for many reasons. The root causes of employee attrition and absenteeism can include being absent f rom work because of an illness, having a low employee morale, enduring poor working conditions, or having a hectic work schedule. Hatch-Woodward (2007) asserted that the percentages of both involuntary and voluntary absenteeism in the workplace in the United States have risen considerably and that absenteeism has a direct link to empl oyee morale. Garrison and Muchinsky (1977b) estimated that “on the average (average per quar ter), 17% and 31% of the employees were responsible for 90% of the paid absences and unpaid absences, respectively” (p. 392). According to Swart (2010), “Unscheduled absenteeism [has cost one business] more than $760,000 per year in direct payroll cost” (p. 45). Swart also acknowledged that whether these absences are voluntary or involuntary, they remain detrimental to the organization because of their direct financial impact on the organization.

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Whatever the causes or reasons, organizations around the world have grappled with high rates of employee absenteeism in the workplace. Apart from the abse nteeism in any given week, organizations experience high rates of employee absente eism that occur on days adjacent to the weekend, typically on days before or following a scheduled day off

(Judge & Martocchio, 1994). Specifically, the upsurge in absences on Mondays and Fridays is costing organizations millions of dollars in lost revenue, and this upwa rd trend in absences is continuing to increase at an alarming rate (Libet et al., 2001). I f these absences are not handled properly and immediately, curbing this type of abus e will become more difficult for organizations and could rapidly fester into a serious business problem, including reduced organizational efficiency and productivity (Mock & Fitzgibbons, 1985) that fail “to meet work deadlines [and] business performance objectives” (Swart, 2010, p. 45). From an organizational standpoint, high rates of absenteeism, especially those occurring on Mondays and Fridays, are undesirable, a nd they can have a negative impact on the overall climate of the organization. These damaging implications include impacting the efficiency, workflow, and productivity of the organization as a whole and resulting in low output in production level. The magnitude and consequences of worker absenteeism, especially in an indus try that involves working in a team environment and where output is time sensitive, may have a fundamental impact on overall productivity, including loss of production (S. Nicholson et al., 2006). Within the field of education, Miller, Murname, and Willette (2008) asserted that absenteeism in this type of industry is no different in that

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productivity in student achievement is hampered and the financial burden associated wit h hiring substitute teachers becomes costly. High rates of absenteeism in the workplace create discontinuity and problems, a nd they usually disrupt the workflow for many organizations. Specifically, emplo yee absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays, or absences that occur before or after the weekends, seems to be a growing phenomenon within many organizations (Allen, 1983). Employee absences on Mondays and Fridays are not a new phenomenon, but they have become a trend that has increasingly been a huge concern for many personnel ma nagers and human resource officers. The effects of these absences usually carry a huge financial burden on the organization, including lost revenue, more sick pay, and the cost of paying temporary workers while full-time employees are absent (Haswell, 2003).

Within the educational arena, teacher absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays has also yielded huge concerns for administrators and local educational agencies, a nd they are “drawing more scrutiny as districts and states scramble for wa ys to cut costs” (Delisio, 2009, para. 3). With respect to monetary losses, an early cost study conduc ted by Hill (1982) found that at the time, a national conservative estimate of $2 bil lion each year was spent on hiring substitute teachers to fill in for absent teachers. A lthough this dollar figure did not reflect solely on teacher absences taken on Mondays and Fri days, the amount did yield concern nonetheless. Norton (1998) also acknowledged that school districts that tend to have higher teacher absences are likely to show a sig nificant increase in monetary losses. Moreover, besides spending billions of dollars on hiring substitute teachers to carry the weight of certified absent teachers, high rates of te acher absenteeism

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also adversely affect student learning and outcomes because these absences influence student absenteeism and students’ test score performance (Ehrenberg, Ehrenbe rg, Rees, & Ehrenberg, 1991). Similarly, chronic absences from the classrooms, especial ly those occurring on Mondays and Fridays, adversely impact the entire organization. According to Hausknecht, Hill, and Vance (2008), productivity losses can result when frequent absences occur, thus costing the organization millions of dollars each year when employees are routinely absent from the job site. Although these concer ns appear disconcerting, employers are still confounded as to what measures to take in an ef fort to curb high rates of absenteeism from the workplace. Addressing these high rat es of absences from the workplace is critical, and most employers are willi ng to do just about anything to see their employees come to work, such as holding contests as moti vational tools or implementing various incentive programs, including rewarding financial bonuses to employees who consistently come to work (Hassink & Koning, 2009; Howard, 1996). However, according to Fehr and Falk (2002), these incentive programs may not necessarily elicit the same reactions and responses from other employees . Nonetheless, the need to assess whether these absences are legitimate can be a diffi cult process because legal issues play an integral role in the process. Ichino and Riphahn (2005b) argued that it is more difficult to dismiss employees who are protected by v arious employment safeguards, such as having a secured employment contract. Stil l, in some cases, this process can result in dissonance between employers and employees w hen the employees sense that their absences are being closely monitored. In some ca ses, the

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employees who have excused sick absences are required to provide written excuse s from their primary care physicians (Ries, Bilec, Gokhan, & Needy, 2006). Although it is true that in most organizations, most full-time employees are entitled to a certain number of hours of absences for sick leave or personal days, depending on the time that they have invested in the organization, abusing or taking advantage of the absentee policies of an organization can lead to dismissal. There is a clear line between excused absences and unexcused absences. Although organiz ations in the United States are not legally bound to provide company benefits such as personal days, holidays, and paid vacations (Ray & Schmitt, 2007), these personal days, holiday s, and paid vacations are considered excused absences when the employers are notifi ed appropriately and in advance. Other excused absences include jury duty, bereavement, military obligations, work-related injuries, and illnesses (Bruno, 2002). Juxtaposed t o excused absences, unexcused absences or voluntary absences include nonsickness absences that have not been approved by management in any capacity (Bridges, 1980).

One of the biggest challenges for organizations is trying to find different me thods to manage unscheduled absences from work. Employees who habitually find excuses to be absent from work can cause an organization to lose revenue, which can be counterproductive because a decline in productivity can result. Workers’ absence s do cause substantial production losses for organizations, especially organizati ons in developed countries (Winkelmann, 1999). In addition, extended absences, such as the ones that occur on Fridays and extend into Mondays, impact the workflow of an organization. According to Lee, Yu, and Kim (2004), having a continuous workflow

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within an organization is critical to maintaining a stable workplace environ ment, thus producing quality labor. However, although it appears ideal for employers to er adicate totally excessive or unnecessary employee absences from the workplace, re alistically, attempting to monitor every employee absence is an impossible, time-cons uming, and cost-prohibitive effort. Within the pedagogical workforce, teacher absences from the classroom can impair the overall work environment, including costing the school district billions of

dollars each year and causing an interruption in the students’ learning process . Miller (2008) asserted that as long as teachers continue to be absent from the classroom, financial and organizational implications will always be largely affe cted. In addition, Miller remarked that financial costs related to teacher absences are not trivial, pointing out that more than $4 billion is spent annually in administrative costs to hire substitut e teachers when regular teachers are absent. Miller also stated that the organi zation will suffer the repercussions of teachers’ absences from the classroom and tha t students’ learning and daily routines will be disrupted. Background of the Problem Within the business sector, worker absenteeism is a human capital risk that is

typically associated with the rate at which employees miss scheduled wo rkdays for various reasons. Despite the apparent simplicity of the definition, absence dea ls with “non-attendance at work by an employee when attendance is expected by an em ployer” (Briner, 1996, p. 874). Absences from the workplace can range from 1 day to several days, depending on the employees’ personal circumstances. Whatever the rea sons for the

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absence, the employees are not physically present at the work site on the day t hat they were scheduled to come to work. Although some absences are legitimate, unschedul ed absences may remain undocumented. These undocumented absences are the ones that most employers have a difficult time managing. It often is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the initial inauguration of studyi ng absenteeism within the workplace started. However, within the last decade, vari ous studies of employee absenteeism gained recognition within different busine ss settings once different organizations began to notice an upward shift in excessive employee absenteeism. As the rate of employee absenteeism continues to rise at an a larming rate, this phenomenon has precipitated various studies to determine the root causes or links related to employee absenteeism. Within the organizational context, Chadwic k-Jones, Nicholson, and Brown (1982) acknowledged that absenteeism refers to the nonattendance of employees or the failure of employees to be at work and is distinct from othe r forms of absences such as paid vacation, paid holidays, or even paid annual leave. In addition, Deery, Erwin, Iverson, and Ambrose (1995) linked high rates of employee absenteeism t o various factors that include job motivation, supervisory support, and the cultural composition of the organization. Acquiring a deeper understanding of the structure of human behavior is necessary to gain a better understanding of employee absenteeism within the organizational context. The most important reason for incorporating studies involving human behavior within the psychological process is to obtain a better understanding of the attendant behaviors associated with employee absenteeism. Within the field of psychology, the gr owing

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influence of human behavior is significant, and practitioners within this paradigm s hould investigate the contributions of human behaviors to determine the cause of or link to employee absenteeism. Various studies of employee absenteeism have been i nstrumental in helping practitioners to develop as well as revise a theoretical understanding of human behavior by incorporating different theoretical models or conceptual framew orks related to human behavior, workplace attendance, and employee absenteeism (Avey, Patera , & West, 2006; Martocchio & Jimeno, 2003). Although the cause and effect of absenteeism from the workplace can be trigge red by different motivating factors within employees, the theory of economics of absence suggests that little research has been conducted to address the real issue of e mployees’ behavior and absenteeism (S. Brown & Sessions, 1996). In closely examining the relationship between behavior and absenteeism, one potential idea emerges. For e xample, in regard to assembly line workers, S. Brown and Sessions (1996) pointed out that thes e workers are more inclined to be absent when they exceed their desired contractual work hours. In applying this principle to the educational arena, educators also are contra cted to work a certain number of days each academic year. Although the nature of the work of educators cannot be compared to the nature of the work associated with assembly l ine workers, the theory of economics of absence still holds true in regard to employee

absenteeism. In a given academic year, sick and personal days are all otted to educators, depending on their years of service. With this in mind, the propensity for educators t o be absent from work and to use their sick leave in deciding to be absent is quite possible .

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The site for the present study was a school system in Atlanta, Georgia. Founde d in 1871, the Fulton County School System is one of the oldest and largest public school systems in terms of its geographical area in Georgia. As the fourth large st school system in Georgia, Fulton County currently employs more than 6,800 teachers to accommodate the growing number of students enrolled in the school system each school year. With a

projected system-wide enrollment of 93,000 students during the 2011-2012 academic school year, the school system currently houses “59 elementary schools, 19 middle schools, 16 high schools including two open campus high schools and seven charter organizations” (Fulton County, 2010a, para 5). Funded by federal, state, and local governments, the total operating budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year for all of the school systems in Georgia was $1,010,278,682 (Fulton County, 2010c). Within the Fulton County School System, the 2010-2011fiscal budget was $803,171,724. In breaking down the allocation of funds, the county received $5,923,873 (1%) from the federal revenue, $240,690,345 (30%) from the state revenue, and $566,246,391 (69%) from local revenue (Fulton County, 2010d). The school system’s absence policies are set up in such a way that when teachers

are away or take a leave of absence, they must notify their administrators 1 hour before the start of the work day (Fulton County, 2010a). Even though “employees are expect ed to maintain regular [work] attendance,” they have the right to request to take a pe rsonal leave should an illness occur but “must notify their immediate supervisor as far i n advance as possible” (Fulton County, 2010b, p.1). For example, if a teacher wants to take a leave of absence for a day because of sickness, the teacher must notify t he immediate

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administrator first before calling in the appropriate absence reporting syst em and before arranging for a substitute teacher. The teacher also is responsible for ar ranging for a substitute teacher to cover the class and for preparing lessons for the substitut e (Fulton County, 2010b). According to the district’s absence policies, upon returning to work, absent teachers may be required to provide statements from their physicians expl aining why they were absent (see Appendix A for an overview of the leave policies). Under the Fami ly and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), employees are able to take an unpaid, job- protected leave of absence from work for up to12 weeks for medical needs or to address

family responsibilities (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). Within the Fulton County system, teachers who request to take extended absences for more than 20% of their work schedules must provide notice of up to 30 days in advance to be eligible for FMLA (Fulton County, 2010b). Conversely, although Georgia is a right-to-work state, employers in the sta te must adhere to the doctrine of employment at will according to the Georgia secret ary of state (Kemp, 2010). Within the school system, to dismiss or terminate teachers, formal

hearings must be filed according to the Fair Dismissal Law by the school boa rd of education, along with the involvement of the school system’s superintendent (Fulton County, 2010b). In addition, because Georgia’s teachers are not represented by a union, they have the option of becoming affiliated with different professional organiz ations in an effort to protect themselves from wrongful dismissal. Among the many differe nt organizations that advocate for teachers in Georgia are the Georgia Associat ion of

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Educators (GAE), the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, (PAGE), a nd the Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE). These professional organiza tions are dedicated to serve, protect, support, advocate, and provide legal protection for educators (GAE, 2010; MACE, 2010; PAGE, 2010). Job satisfaction can account for the high rate of teacher absenteeism in school systems worldwide, and very little research has been done to address it (Sargent & Ha nnum, 2005). Sargent and Hannum (2005) noted that of particular interest was the job dissatisfaction in rural schools in the United States and how this factor was close ly linked to teacher absenteeism. Turner (2007) examined four large urban school systems i n a North Carolina school district and the different variables associated with teac her absenteeism. Turner reported that the schools with the most work system interde pendence (i.e., interactions between teachers and administrators) led to high job satisfac tion and low employee absenteeism. The effects of teacher absenteeism have taken a financial and academic toll in the school setting (Zalubowski, 2008). As early as 1995, Zwieback estimated that 25% of the nation’s 3.5 million teachers are regularly continuing to abuse the sick leave poli cy in their school systems. Tackling

Full document contains 159 pages
Abstract: Abstract Previous research on promoting teacher attendance through incentives is limited to post-program implementation outcomes. A targeted nominal incentive program employing an operant conditioning framework was examined to determine if it could reduce teacher absenteeism and increase job satisfaction. Specifically, the quantitative study determined if offering 6 th , 7th , and 8th Grade teachers nominal incentives in an urban public school setting would increase attendance at the start and end of a workweek. Sixty middle school teacher participants were divided into 2 groups, an incentive program and a control group and their attendance on Mondays and Fridays over a 3 month period were tracked. All participants completed the Job in General (JIG) Scale of the Job Descriptive Index before and after the study period. An ANCOVA was used to observe differences between groups for absenteeism and job satisfaction. The results indicated that the nominal incentive program had a significant effect on teacher attendance on Mondays and Fridays. Results from the independent sample t-test indicated that the participants' job satisfaction was not a significant factor in determining whether or not the teachers had higher work attendances on Mondays and Fridays. A regression analysis was also performed to assess if family obligations was a factor in absences and indicated that it was not a significant influence. Implications for positive social change include a decrease in teacher absences from the classroom, lower associated organizational costs tied to hiring substitute teachers, and improving teachers' morale through job satisfaction.