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Teacher absenteeism: An examination of patterns and predictors

Dissertation
Author: Kristy L. Pitts
Abstract:
Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, public school systems have been engaged in a system of educational reform fueled by a level of accountability that includes not only the performance of the students, but also the performance of the teachers and the administrators. Recent studies have found that student achievement has been negatively impacted by teacher absenteeism; however, there have been scant studies conducted in the United States regarding teacher absence behaviors. The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher absence data of a school division in central Virginia in order to determine teacher absence behaviors. This study focused on two specific research questions: What is the frequency of teacher absence? What are the predictors of teacher absence? The design of this quantitative study was secondary data analysis. The data set included absence data for 1,198 classroom teachers who were continuously employed for the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 school years. Data analysis included running descriptive statistics in order to determine the frequency of teacher absence, and by performing bivariate and multivariate analyses to determine the predictors of teacher absence. The dependent variable was the total number of absences taken, and the independent variables included demographic information, days of absence, teaching assignments, and types of leave. Analysis of the data found that absences occurred most frequently on Fridays and that sick leave accounted for most of the absences. There is evidence that teachers use leave to extend weekend or holiday leisure time. The use of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act rose from .1 percent to 1 percent of the total leave days over the course of the study. The total number of absences increased by almost 4 percent after the introduction of an electronic absence reporting system. Women are more likely to be absent than are men. Teachers at the specialty schools had the highest rates of absenteeism, and high school teachers had the lowest absence rates. As age advanced, teachers were less likely to be absent, but as years of experience advanced, teachers were more likely to be absent.

Table of Contents

List of Tables ……………………………………………………………………………vii List of Figures………………………………………………………………………...…..ix Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………....x Chapter I: Introduction ............................................................................................................1 Definitions ............................................................................................................................6 Chapter II: Literature Review .................................................................................................8 Overview ...............................................................................................................................8 Methods for literature search .............................................................................................10 Review of Literature ..........................................................................................................11 Teacher Absenteeism and Student Outcomes ..............................................................12 Student absenteeism ...................................................................................................12 Student achievement ..................................................................................................13 Predictors of Teacher Absenteeism...............................................................................18 Organizational Characteristics ..................................................................................18 Organizational policies ..............................................................................................22 Absence culture ..........................................................................................................26 Conflicting evidence of absence behavior ....................................................................30 Gender.........................................................................................................................31 Age ..............................................................................................................................31 Day of week................................................................................................................32 Chapter III: Research Methods .............................................................................................34

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Purpose of the Study ..........................................................................................................34 Research Design .................................................................................................................34 Setting .................................................................................................................................37 Sample .................................................................................................................................37 Data Management and Data Analysis ...............................................................................39 Chapter IV: Findings .............................................................................................................44 Purpose ................................................................................................................................44 Design Overview ................................................................................................................44 Results .................................................................................................................................46 Sample Statistics ............................................................................................................46 Descriptive Statistics ......................................................................................................50 Bivariate Analyses .........................................................................................................62 Summary of Findings .........................................................................................................80 Chapter V: Discussion and Recommendations ...................................................................83 Overview .............................................................................................................................83 Discussion of Results for Question One: Frequency of Absences .................................84 Discussion of Results for Question Two: Predictors of Absence ..................................86 Implications and Recommendations .................................................................................90 Current Leave Policies ...................................................................................................91 FMLA Leave ..................................................................................................................92 Electronic Absence Reporting .......................................................................................93 Absence Culture .............................................................................................................95

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Conclusion ..........................................................................................................................98 List of References ................................................................................................................ 100 Vita ....................................................................................................................................... 105

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List of Tables

Table Page

1. Description of Independent Variable………………………………………………....40 2. Ethnic Composition of Sample.....................................................................................47 3. Frequency of Highest Degree Earned………………………………………………...48 4. Frequency of School Type Placement………………………………………………..48 5. Frequency of Core versus Non-core Teachers………………………………………..49 6. Frequency of Gender……………………………………………………………........49 7. Mean of Teacher Age………………………………………………………...………50 8. Mean of Years of Experience………………………………………………………...50 9. Identification of Outliers……………………………………………………………..51 10. Frequency of Absence by Year……………………………………………...……...52 11. Definitions of Absence Reason Codes……………………………………………...56 12. Frequency of Absences on Workdays………………………………………………59 13. Frequency of Absences on Professional Development Days……………………….60 14. Frequency of Absences Before and After Holidays………………………………...61 15. Mean Difference of Absences by Gender…………………………………………..63 16. Analysis of Variance for Absences by Gender…………………………………......63 17. Mean Difference of Absences by School Type…………………………………......64 18. Analysis of Variance for Absences by School Type………………………………..65 19. Correlations of Absences by Age and Years of Experience………………………...66

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20. Factorial Analyses of Variance of Absences by School Type and Core Mean……..67 21. Factorial Analyses of Variance of Absences by School Type and Gender..………..68 22. Scheffe Post Hoc Test of Absences by School Type………………………………..69 23. Linear Regression of Absences by Age, Years of Experience, Gender Ethnicity…………………………………………………………………………71 24. Linear Regression of Absences by Age, Gender, Years of Experience and School Type…………………………………………………………………72 25. Ethnic Composition of Sample……………………………………………………...74 26. Frequency of Highest Degree Earned………………………………………………74 27. Frequency of School Type Placement………………………………………………75 28. Frequency of Core versus Non-core Teachers………………………………………75 29. Frequency of Gender………………………………………………………………..75 30. Mean of Teacher Age……………………………………………………………….76 31. Mean of Years of Experience……………………………………………………….76 32. Mean Difference of Absences by Gender…………………………………………..77 33. Analysis of Variance for Absences by Gender……………………………………..78 34. Mean Difference of Absences by School Type……………………………………..78 35. Analysis of Variance for Absences by School Type………………………………..79 36. Correlations of Absences by Age and Years of Experience………………………...80

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List of Figures

Figure

1. Percentage of absence by day of the week for 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008- 09………….53 2. Absence by reason code for 2005- 06 school year……………………………………54 3. Absence by reason code for 2006-07 schoo l year……………………………………54 4. Absence by reason code for 2007- 08 school year……………………………………55 5. Total absences by reason code for 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008- 09……………………...55 6. Percentage of absences by reason code a nd day of the week………………………...58

x

Abstract

TEACHER ABSENTEEISM: AN EXAMINATION OF PATTERNS AND PREDICTORS

By Kristy Lee Pitts, Ph.D. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, 2010

Major Director: Dr. Cheryl C. Magill, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Education

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, public school systems have been engaged in a system of educational reform fueled by a level of accountability that includes not only the performance of the students, but also the performance of the teachers and the administrators. Recent studies have found that student achievement has been negatively impacted by teacher absenteeism; however, there have been scant studies conducted in the United States regarding teacher absence behaviors. The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher absence data of a school division in central Virginia in order to determine teacher absence behaviors. This study focused on two specific research questions: What is the frequency of teacher absence? What are the predictors of teacher absence? The design of this quantitative study was secondary data analysis. The data set included absence data for 1,198 classroom teachers who were continuously employed for the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 school years. Data analysis included running

xi

descriptive statistics in order to determine the frequency of teacher absence, and by performing bivariate and multivariate analyses to determine the predictors of teacher absence. The dependent variable was the total number of absences taken, and the independent variables included demographic information, days of absence, teaching assignments, and types of leave. Analysis of the data found that absences occurred most frequently on Fridays and that sick leave accounted for most of the absences. There is evidence that teachers use leave to extend weekend or holiday leisure time. The use of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act rose from .1 percent to 1 percent of the total leave days over the course of the study. The total number of absences increased by almost 4 percent after the introduction of an electronic absence reporting system. Women are more likely to be absent than are men. Teachers at the specialty schools had the highest rates of absenteeism, and high school teachers had the lowest absence rates. As age advanced, teachers were less likely to be absent, but as years of experience advanced, teachers were more likely to be absent.

1

Chapter I: Introduction With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, public school systems have been engaged in a system of educational reform designed to change American school culture and to improve student achievement. That reform is fueled by a level of accountability that includes not only the performance of the students, but also the performance of the teachers and the administrators. School divisions must meet stricter qualifications for the quality of their teaching staff and for their performance. Some of the greatest challenges facing those school divisions include hiring and retaining qualified teachers, maintaining excellent curricula, providing the necessary resources, providing continual professional development of the staff, and procuring the necessary financial resources to meet these challenges. As school leaders search for effective methods of meeting the rigorous demands of NCLB, it is imperative that they continually examine the facets of their organizations which impact the performance of those accountability measures. One such facet is the subject of teacher absenteeism. Why is teacher absenteeism important in this age of accountability? Teacher absenteeism has the potential to be very costly, not only in terms of finances, but also in terms of student achievement. First, the financial cost of teacher absenteeism is significant. According to Miller (2008), providing substitute teachers and the associated administrative costs amount to $4 billion annually. This amount represents approximately one percent of federal, state, and

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local spending on K-12 public education (Miller, 2008). The rate of absenteeism for American teachers averages about five percent, or about nine days per 180-day school year (Ehrenberg, Ehrenberg, Rees, & Ehrenberg, 1991; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007). While those rates may be lower than teachers in other countries, they are higher than the rate of absenteeism for the rest of the American workforce, which averages about three percent (Clotfelter et al., 2007). Second, teacher absence often means that students have lost opportunities to learn. Studies have shown that teacher absence translates to lower student achievement (Miller, Murnane & Willett, 2007; Clotfelter et al., 2007). Further, substitute teachers are often less qualified than regular teachers. Thirty-seven states do not require a bachelor’s degree for some substitute teachers, and only North Dakota requires substitutes to have the same credentials as regular teachers (Miller, 2008). The qualifications of substitutes typically mean that they have less instructional knowledge than the regular teachers, and regular teachers typically leave plans which require much instructional burden for the substitute. Further, teacher absences disrupt the routines and relationships which support the learning process (Miller, 2008). Third, student achievement gaps in the nation’s low-income schools exist partially because of teacher absence. Teachers at schools with fewer than 24 percent of students from low-income families are absent at a rate of five percent or less, while teachers at schools serving higher percentages of students from low-income families are absent 5.5 percent of the time, on average (Miller, 2008). A study of schools in North Carolina

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found that teachers in schools with high poverty rates appear to be absent one day more per year than teachers in low-poverty schools (Clotfelter et al., 2007). School division administrators may consult research in order to understand the causes of teacher absence and its effect on student achievement. While research has clearly demonstrated that teacher absence has a negative effect on student achievement (Ehrenberg et al., 1991; Clotfelter et al., 2007; Miller et al., 2007), the research has not been as demonstrative about the causes or predictors of teacher absence. Conflicting evidence exists about the effects of characteristics such as gender, age, experience, time of week and school culture. For instance, some studies have shown that female teachers are absent more frequently than male teachers (Scott, 1990; Clotfelter et al., 2007), while others have found that men are absent more frequently than women (Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, Muralidharan, & Rogers, 2006) or that there was no association between absenteeism and gender (Rosenblatt & Shirom, 2005). Teachers’ use of discretionary days on particular days of the week also presented conflicting results. While some researchers found that teachers were more likely to use discretionary days on days associated with weekends in order to extend leisure time (Miller et al., 2007; Alcazar, Rogers, Chaudhury, Hammer, Kremer, & Muralidharan; Winkler, 1980), Unicomb and others (as cited in Norton, 1998) found that teachers were absent more frequently on Wednesdays. The results of various studies appear to be contextual in nature, and therefore, are conclusive for the environs in which they were conducted. As a result, division administrators must consider combining a review of research on the

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subject of teacher absence with a study of the teacher absence behaviors present in their localities. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to examine the teacher absence data of a school division in central Virginia in order to determine teacher absence behaviors. This study will focus on two specific research questions: What is the frequency of teacher absence? What are the predictors of teacher absence? The setting of the study is one of the fifteen largest school divisions in the state of Virginia. The school division is located in a county with a population of about 119,000 residents. The school system has 33 schools which serve the educational needs of more than 24,000 students. Twenty-six percent of those students are classified as economically disadvantaged, and 13 of the schools are designated as Title I schools. The school division employed more than 1,700 teachers for the 2008-09 school year. Teacher absence data will be examined for the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 school years, which provides a three-year longitudinal survey of absence behaviors. That examination will include only 10 and 11-month contract teachers who were employed continuously during that three year period, which will result in a sample size of approximately 1,200 teachers. In order to answer the research questions, it is necessary to examine the rates of teacher absence in relation to various characteristics of its occurrence. For instance, on which days of the week do absences peak? Are higher absences associated with days immediately preceding or following a holiday? Are absences greater on teacher workdays or teacher professional development days? Is there a prevalence in the type of

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leave taken? Is there an increase in the amount of leave taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act? What are the rates of leave used from the sick leave bank? Does the use of an electronic absence reporting system have an effect on the number of days that teachers will be absent? Specific teacher characteristics might also shed light on teacher absence behaviors. Does gender, age, or race play a part in teacher absenteeism? Does the level of education of a teacher or the number of years of experience have an impact on the number of days that he or she will take off during the course of a school year? Does the specific teaching assignment or the school level have an effect on absence behavior? These characteristics must be examined in conjunction with the overall frequency of absence in order to paint a clear picture of the absence behaviors of teachers. This research is important for several reasons. First, since teacher absence leads to lower student achievement (Miller et al., 2007; Clotfelter et al., 2007), it is important to find ways to lower absence rates or to mitigate the effects of absence. Second, research on the predictors or causes of teacher absence in the United States has been scant and mixed. Current research on teacher absence includes studies conducted in both industrialized and developing nations. It is difficult to arrive at reasonable conclusions about teacher absence behavior based on studies conducted in foreign cultures with differing policies and accountability measures. Further research might bolster previous findings or suggest new areas of research based on the culture of American schools. Finally, it is important to examine the contextual nature of absence culture as it applies in specific localities. If school administrators are expected to mitigate the effects of teacher

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absence and to implement the accountability measures of NCLB, it is important to recognize the predictors of absence behavior in a contextual way. Teacher absenteeism has the potential to rob school divisions of precious resources that may be better used in other instructional areas. It also has the potential to rob students of valuable instructional time with highly qualified teachers. The demands for increased student achievement for all students require a careful examination of the causes, predictors, and effects of teacher absenteeism. Definitions In order to provide clarity for the review of this research, it is important to define terms that will be used in the study. First, the term teacher refers to any employee of the school division who has been awarded a 10- or 11-month teacher contract and who is a classroom teacher who would require a substitute when absent. Second, the term absence refers to any period of time which necessitates a teacher’s use of some form of leave from work. That leave would include unplanned leave, such as sick leave, and planned leave, such as personal leave, professional development leave, and, in some instances, leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The terms absence and absenteeism will be used synonymously to indicate use of leave from work. Third, absence that is taken under the Family Medical Leave Act is defined as up to twelve working weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees for the birth of a child, for the placement of a son or a daughter for adoption or foster care, for the care of an immediate family member who has a serious health condition, and for taking medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. Further, immediate

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family members or next of kin may take up to 26 working weeks of unpaid leave to care for a member of the armed services who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy for a serious injury or illness (United States Department of Labor).

8 Chapter II: Literature Review Overview Teacher absenteeism is a constant concern in most American school divisions. The absences negatively impact not only school budget processes, but also student learning. In an era of accountability codified by the No Child Left Behind Act, school officials can ill afford to maintain systems in which students miss valuable instructional time under the auspices of substitute teachers who may not be highly qualified. Research suggests that the rate of absenteeism for American teachers averages about five percent, or about 9 days per 180-day school year (Ehrenberg et al., 1991; Clotfelter et al., 2007). While those rates may be lower than teachers in other countries, they are higher than the rate of absenteeism for the rest of the American workforce, which averages almost three percent (Clotfelter et al., 2007). Because the presence of an effective, highly qualified teacher is so important to gains in student learning, it is important to study both the causes and the effects of teacher absenteeism. According to Ehrenberg and others (1991), the lack of research on the causes of teacher absenteeism is unfortunate because of the effects that those absences may have on the classroom. Several researchers have attempted to draw conclusions about teacher absence behavior based on external factors rather than on cultural or organizational factors. These factors often include years of experience, gender, and age. The prevailing theory often appears to focus on the presumption that the amount of absence time consumed by teachers is dependent on the stage at which they are in their educational career.

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The Duke University study of teachers in North Carolina examined absenteeism rates using the variables of gender, age and years of experience (Clotfelter et al., 2007). The data on gender indicated that female teachers, like female workers in the larger workforce, were absent more often than men at a varying rate based on age. The data on experience indicated that novice teachers took an average of 1.8 more days during their second year of teaching than their first, 2.8 more days in their third and fourth years, and more than 3 more days after four years of experience (Clotfelter et al., 2007). Scott’s (1990) study of gender differences in absenteeism for secondary teachers found that while women did not have significantly higher occurrences of absenteeism than men, the duration of those occurrences accounted for a significant difference in the mean number of days taken by women (6.92) and by men (4.83). Further, results indicated that the most significant difference in occurrence of absence for men (3.04) and women (3.99) occurred between the ages of 21 and 39, or the childbearing years (Scott, 1990). In his review of absence data from the Current Population Survey in May, 1985, Klein supports the concept that the absence rate of women increases in their prime years while the rate falls for men at the same age. Women who had children under six, or women who maintained families alone had relatively high absence rates, while men who had children garnered relatively low absence rates. However, past the age of 55, absence rates for men and women were not significantly different (Klein, 1986). Recent studies at Duke University and Harvard University have shown that teacher absences significantly reduce student achievement (Clotfelter, et al., 2007; Miller, Murnane & Willett, 2007). However, researchers’ findings have lacked consistency in

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the causes or the predictors of teacher absenteeism. The research questions for this study focus on two areas. What is the frequency of teacher absence? What are the predictors of teacher absence? Methods for literature search The initial search for data about teacher absenteeism began with information presented in educational journals. Studies conducted at Duke and Harvard Universities provided the original impetus for study in this area. In a June, 2008, article in the electronic version of Education Week, the work of these researchers was highlighted. Those articles had not yet been published, but the working papers could be located at the National Bureau of Economic Research. While those studies focused largely on the use of leave and its effect on student achievement, they brought forth questions about the causes of teacher absenteeism. In order to find additional studies, a search of several educational databases was conducted, including ABI/INFORM Complete, Academic Search Complete, Education Research Complete, ERIC Index to Education Materials, and JSTOR. Using the terms teacher absence and student achievement additional studies were found. Inspection of those studies, however, garnered similar information about the impact of teacher absenteeism on student achievement; typically, there was a negative impact on student learning. There were not, however, sufficient discussions of the causes of teacher absenteeism. The search for additional studies took a different path at that point. First, continued searches of educational databases were limited to the terms associated with

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teacher absence or employee absence. Second, upon further investigation of those studies, sources mentioned in their literature reviews produced additional studies. While some of those studies focused specifically on the characteristics of teacher absenteeism, others focused on subjects such as organizational culture and the resulting employee absence, stress-related absence, and absence-control policies. Further, these studies included work done in other countries, which provided an avenue for comparison of absence culture and leave-taking habits. Inevitably, some of the studies proved more useful than others. Studies that were retained for the literature review were those that illustrated the behaviors associated with teacher absence culture, while those that were rejected focused more generally on the absence behaviors of the larger work force. Review of Literature In order to synthesize the literature, the findings have been organized into three conceptual themes: teacher absenteeism and student outcomes, predictors of teacher absenteeism, and conflicting evidence about teacher absence behavior. Student outcomes will be examined from the standpoint of both student absenteeism and student achievement. The predictors of teacher absenteeism will be examined according to organizational structure, organizational policies, absence culture, and the demographic nature of absence behaviors. Conflicting evidence about teacher absence behavior will include discussions of gender, age, typical occurrences of absence, and incentive programs.

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Teacher Absenteeism and Student Outcomes Research has shown that teacher absenteeism can impact student behaviors in a number of ways. Teacher absenteeism can have an effect on student absenteeism, which ultimately means diminished capacity to learn due to limitations on time in the classroom. Further, a teacher’s absence from the classroom can have a negative impact on student achievement. In addition to diminished learning opportunities for students, that negative impact may have deleterious consequences for schools and school divisions according to the accountability measures in place in the No Child Left Behind Act. Student absenteeism In order to garner information about the determinants and effects of teacher absenteeism, Ehrenberg and others (1991) sent surveys to the superintendents of the 722 public school districts in New York State, excluding New York City, requesting information on a number of variables including teacher usage of leave days during the 1986-87 school year. A total of 419 districts, nearly 60 percent, of the school districts responded. Additional data used in the analyses consisted of demographic data about both teachers and students from the New York State Education Department (NYE) and the U. S. Bureau of Census. Data on student absenteeism were obtained from the NYE Annual Education Summary: 1986-87, and student achievement results were garnered from the NYE 1987 Comprehensive Assessment Report (Ehrenberg et al., 1991). Ehrenberg and others (1991) suggest that student absenteeism may be categorized in three different ways. First, students may suffer serious illness which prevents them from attending school. Second, students may have minor illnesses which may or may not

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necessitate absence from school. Third, some are not ill and are simply truant from school. Unlike the first type of absence, the second and third types involve some measure of student choice (Ehrenberg et al., 1991). The findings of this study indicate that higher teacher absenteeism is associated with higher student absenteeism. Also, larger districts and districts with a higher proportion of teachers aged 55 or older had higher student absentee rates. Two hypotheses were formulated for these results. First, the behavioral hypothesis suggests that increased teacher absence from the classroom may reduce students’ motivation to attend school, which, in turn, increases student absentee rates. Second, the contagion hypothesis suggests that incidence of illness affecting large numbers of both students and teachers might account for larger numbers of absences for each. Ehrenberg (1991) contends, however, that the behavioral hypothesis has greater support in the study. Student achievement According to Ehrenberg’s (1991) study, student absenteeism has a much greater effect on achievement than does teacher absenteeism. For every three additional days on average that students are absent, performance on state standardized tests falls by about 1.0 to 2.5 percentage points. Conversely, they found no evidence that teacher absenteeism had any effect on students’ performance on the state’s preliminary competency test (Ehrenberg et al., 1991) More recent studies, however, have found that teacher absenteeism does have a negative impact on student achievement. In a recent study of a large, urban school district in the northern part of the United States, Miller et al. (2007) studied the effects of

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teacher absenteeism on the performance of fourth grade students on the Stanford Achievement Tests (Series-9) of mathematics. The district has nearly 80 elementary schools with approximately 200 teachers and 4,000 students at each elementary grade level. The researchers collected data, including demographic characteristics, home zip code, absences, experience, licensure and employment status, on 2,594 teachers who were employed at least one of the school years between 2002-03 and 2004-05 (Miller et al., 2007). While this data set was used to document important patterns of absence, the researchers chose to focus their study of the impact of teacher absences on student achievement using a subset of data from the fourth grade only (Miller et al., 2007). In order to measure that impact on achievement, the researchers used a sample of 8,631 students who were in the fourth grade in one or more of the three academic years studied. Student achievement scores were obtained from the Stanford Achievement Tests (Series- 9) of mathematics and reading that students took in the third grade, and from mathematics and English language arts examinations that are a part of state-sponsored assessments administered to fourth-graders in early May. The third-grade scores were used as covariates in regression analyses. The electronic report card system used by the school division enabled the researchers to match students to individual classroom teachers (Miller et al., 2007). Miller, Murnane and Willet (2007) found that 10 additional days of teacher absence reduced student achievement in fourth grade mathematics by 3.3 percent of a standard deviation, which they contend is significant enough to be of policy relevance.

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They posit three reasons for the significance of the impact of their findings. First, teacher absences directly affect the achievement of as many as 25 students. Second, small differences in the performance of small numbers of students on the state’s mathematics exam can result in the school not meeting the “Adequate Yearly Progress” mandate of No Child Left Behind. And third, by reducing the efficacy of regularly scheduled team planning and professional development sessions, teacher absenteeism may have in indirect impact on the students of a teacher’s colleagues (Miller et al., 2007). Duke University researchers conducted a study of the effects of teacher absenteeism on student achievement in the state of North Carolina (Clotfelter et al., 2007). Teacher absence data were collected for the school years 1994-95 through 2003- 04, which yielded a sample of more than 492,000 observations. Researchers were able to match North Carolina students in grades 4 and 5 to the classroom teachers who taught them math and English. Using state achievement test scores, that matching enabled a comparison of the academic achievement of students whose teachers differed in the number of days of leave taken (Clotfelter et al., 2007). Like the Harvard study, the Duke researchers found that having a teacher who took ten additional sick-leave days would mean a reduction in the student’s score on the state math test by 2.3 percent of a standard deviation. For reading, however, the same teacher absence circumstances lowered student achievement about one percent of a standard deviation (Clotfelter et. al, 2007). And, like the Harvard researchers, the Duke researchers agreed that the failure of small numbers of students to pass state examinations

Full document contains 118 pages
Abstract: Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2001, public school systems have been engaged in a system of educational reform fueled by a level of accountability that includes not only the performance of the students, but also the performance of the teachers and the administrators. Recent studies have found that student achievement has been negatively impacted by teacher absenteeism; however, there have been scant studies conducted in the United States regarding teacher absence behaviors. The purpose of this study was to examine the teacher absence data of a school division in central Virginia in order to determine teacher absence behaviors. This study focused on two specific research questions: What is the frequency of teacher absence? What are the predictors of teacher absence? The design of this quantitative study was secondary data analysis. The data set included absence data for 1,198 classroom teachers who were continuously employed for the 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08 school years. Data analysis included running descriptive statistics in order to determine the frequency of teacher absence, and by performing bivariate and multivariate analyses to determine the predictors of teacher absence. The dependent variable was the total number of absences taken, and the independent variables included demographic information, days of absence, teaching assignments, and types of leave. Analysis of the data found that absences occurred most frequently on Fridays and that sick leave accounted for most of the absences. There is evidence that teachers use leave to extend weekend or holiday leisure time. The use of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act rose from .1 percent to 1 percent of the total leave days over the course of the study. The total number of absences increased by almost 4 percent after the introduction of an electronic absence reporting system. Women are more likely to be absent than are men. Teachers at the specialty schools had the highest rates of absenteeism, and high school teachers had the lowest absence rates. As age advanced, teachers were less likely to be absent, but as years of experience advanced, teachers were more likely to be absent.