I think the Star-Advertiser did a disservice to teachers with story on “teacher absenteeism” in Sunday’s edition (“Isle teachers miss 17 days on average“).
Unless I’m misreading the story, it appears teachers were actually at work and on duty the majority of what the Star-Advertiser calls “missed” days.
The problem is that the jumps between two distinct issues–teachers absent from their classroom for any reason, and teachers taking sick days.
I think the average reader will see the headline, read a bit of the story, and conclude that teachers are generally abusing sick leave.
The first few paragraphs report that teachers “were absent from their classrooms an average of 17 days last school year,” and a national expert is quoted about teachers absent 10 days or more having an impact on children’s learning.
Two key facts don’t appear until later in the story. First, “missed” days referred to in the headline included those days when teachers were at work and on duty. They were doing other parts of their official duties that take place out of the classroom.
The brief explanation appears in a paragraph split by the jump from the front page (in the print edition), where we learn that an “absent” teacher is most likely in training, professional development, or at school-sponsored activities.
Second, although teachers missed an average of 17 days, the majority of those absences involved teachers working outside the classroom. Here’s the math. According to the story, teachers missed an average of 17 days, which included an average of 7.5 sick leaves days. That seems to show a majority of absences, 9.5 days on average, involved teachers doing other official duties.
Yes, the educational implications need to be examined, and I credit the Star-Advertiser for pushing for release of these data. But failing to clearly distinguish sick leave from other valid official reasons for being out of class conveys a faulty impression to the reader and tends to reinforce a negative public perception of teachers.