Report: Nashville teacher absences rank 3rd highest across U.S.

Report: Nashville teacher absences rank 3rd highest across U.S.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A new report shows Nashville ranks the third highest in teacher absences in 40 districts across the country.

The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) showed data that, on average, Nashville teachers took 14.2 days off during the 2012-2013 school year.

In most districts, about 73%, teachers took less short-term leave than what the district offered. However, in 11 of the districts, Nashville included, teachers took more short-term leave than what was offered.

The report stated Nashville is one of three districts with “relatively generous” leave packages, but teachers still exceeded the annual allotment.

Metro-Nashville Public Schools spokesman Joe Bass takes issue with the study.  He said the NCTQ's definition of absences differs from Metro's.  For instance, the study counts teacher development days as absences, while Metro schools allows five professional days per year which Bass said benefits students.  

"While it's true the teachers are not necessarily in the classrooms, on professional development days they are in fact in classrooms as students themselves learning new skills," explained Bass.

Bass added while the study shows teachers nationwide were in classrooms 94% of the time last year, he said the attendance rate figure for Metro public schools was 95.8%, which is significantly higher than the NCTQ report.

"Furthermore, this pass year 2013-2014, we're showing a preliminary finding of an attendance rate of 96.2%, so it's gone up even more than that," said Bass.

Both local and state education officials like Gera Summerford, the President of the Tennessee Education Association, contend the study needs to look at teacher absences on a case by case basis.  They also feel one year of sampling is not enough to cause all this alarm.

"You need to focus on just those that fall into that chronically absent category and see what the causes are and how to address those. I think you need a lot more detail than what we saw in this first report," said Summerford. 

The NCTQ compiled attendance data from the largest public school districts across the nation and examined the policies in place for those areas.

Absent rates were categorized by the number of days missed in the year beginning with three or fewer days up to 18 or more.

Both of the highest absence rates were in Ohio, Cleveland with 15.6 days per year and Columbus with 14.8.

The NCTQ noted that long-term absences for serious illnesses and maternity as well as paternity leave were omitted from the study.

*The National Council on Teacher Quality contributed to this story.

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