Report Manufactures Alarmist Picture on Teacher Absenteeism

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Fordham report seems designed to discredit teachers rather than to provide a thoughtful analysis.

Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools, authored by David Griffith and published by the Fordham Institute, compares average rates of frequent teacher absence for teachers with and without union or union-like contracts in public schools and charter schools.

Patricia Hinchey, Professor Emerita of Education at Penn State, reviewed the report and found that it 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.

The study focuses on teachers who are absent for more than 10 days in a school year, contending that these higher levels of teacher absence substantively harm students and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. It finds that teachers contractually allowed more absences are absent at the “frequent” level more often than teachers allowed fewer absences. Based on these averages, the report assumes a causal relationship between the contracts and the absences, and it concludes that the higher average number of absences is uncalled-for—based on illegitimate reasons. The report recommends that contracts be made less generous.

Concerns about teacher absences, and more broadly concerns about classrooms without a full-time, certified and experienced teacher, can—if thoughtfully presented—be grounded in high-quality research evidence. But Professor Hinchey cautions that this 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 about “chronic absenteeism” 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.

Find the review, by Patricia H. Hinchey, at:

Find Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools, by David Griffith, published by the Fordham Institute, at:

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William J. Mathis

Patricia H. Hinchey
Penn State
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