NEPC Review: Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools (Thomas B. Fordham Institute, September 2017)

This report compares average rates of frequent teacher absence (more than 10 days) for teachers with and without union or union-like contracts in traditional public schools and charter schools. The study’s rationale is that such absences substantively harm students and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. It finds that teachers contractually allowed more absences are frequently absent more often than teachers allowed fewer absences. Based on these averages, the report concludes that the contracts result in non-beneficial, or uncalled-for absences, rather than absences for legitimate reasons, and it recommends that contracts be made less generous. However, the report lacks support for its major claims, ignores known discrepancies in data, uses cited resources in highly selective ways, ignores large bodies of contradictory research, and draws unwarranted conclusions. In addition, the report’s idiosyncratic use of the term “chronic absenteeism” misrepresents the data and, along with its use of graphics, appears intended to create a national alarmist picture unwarranted either by the data or by other research. Accordingly, the report appears to be an effort to generate numbers and charts useful in discrediting teachers as irresponsible shirkers.

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