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I-Team: Local School Districts With Highest Teacher Absentee Rates

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Nothing is more important to a child’s education than the presence of a good teacher.

Research shows learning goes downhill fast if the teacher is out of the class too frequently.

The I-Team wanted to find out if area high schools were experiencing high rates of teacher absenteeism. This was in the wake of a federal analysis which showed 36% of teachers nationally missed more than 10 days.

Students outside one area high school told us teachers are frequently out of the classroom.

Kate Walsh of the National Council on Teacher Quality said, “When teachers are absent from schools, kids don’t learn. It doesn’t matter why they are absent, whether it’s for professional development, a sick day, a mental health day, but that is learning that is not taking place.”

The I-Team checked absentee rates at dozens of area high schools, compiling days off for sick days, personal days, professional development, religious observations, and any other reason.

Bourne High School topped the list with an average of about 13.5 days out of the classroom per teacher.

High Schools in Woburn, Scituate, Boston, Swampscott, Beverly, Randolph, Salem, Lynn, Foxboro, and Wakefield all averaged more than 10 days out of the classroom per teacher.

Town Name Number of Teachers Teacher Days Missed Avg # Days Missed Per Teacher
Bourne 55 743 13.5
Woburn 102 1,179 11.6
Scituate 76.6 861 11.2
Boston 1,235 13,566 11.0
Swampscott 61 665 10.9
Beverly HS 86 936 10.9
Randolph 68.8 743 10.8
Salem 147 1,558 10.6
Lynn High Schools 244 2,571 10.5
Foxboro 72 753 10.5
Wakefield 79 825 10.4
Wilmington HS 77 801 10.4
Reading HS 92 907 9.9
Barnstable HS 172 1,664 9.7
Canton HS 54 500 9.3
Marshfield 134 1,238 9.2
Burlington HS 86 785 9.1
Pembroke 61 553 9.1
Norwell 45 397 8.8
Peabody 139 1,193 8.6
Needham HS 102.1 863.5 8.5
Falmouth HS 81 670 8.3
Chelmsford 124 1,013 8.2
Weymouth 157 1,239 7.9
Cambridge 196 1,542 7.9
Westwood HS 75 549 7.3
Newburyport HS 77 545.3 7.1
Everett 139 929 6.7
Brookline HS 138 876 6.3
Lowell 214 1,351 6.3
Braintree HS 108 675 6.3
Sharon HS 100.4 610 6.1
Lexington HS 187.7 1,133 6.0

Walsh said researchers have quantified learning loss can take place when a teacher is absent just three days out of the school year. “They see a drop in the student learning.”

Recent polls show the teaching profession is going thru a period of malaise. In the last five years, the number of teachers who say they are very satisfied with their jobs has declined from 62% to 39%. That is the worst response in 25 years.

“Stressed teachers feel they have less control and that everyone is always evaluating them,” said Professor Andy Hargreaves of Boston College.

Hargreaves believes administrators need to examine whether their overall culture is toxic and “teachers feel on their own, and badly led.”

Dr. Stephen Russell, Superintendent of the Salem Schools, told the I-Team he is concerned by our findings. He has now launched a review of attendance in all Salem schools, not just the high school.

Dr. Russell said he is constrained by union contracts which allow teachers 15 sick days a year. “I am sure if we were to negotiate those contracts fresh today, I am sure the benefits package would not be as generous.”

In these cash strapped times, there is also a financial concern. By one estimate, school districts around the country spend about 4 billion dollars a year on substitutes which is money that could obviously be used elsewhere.

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