Click on the picture and move to timestamp 4:50 to view the video of Coleman’s testimony.
The Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank, published a report in September making two claims: (1) that teacher absence affects student achievement, and (2) that teachers in charters use fewer sick days than teachers in regular public schools. Although the report was not peer reviewed, it was evaluated by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, which found serious methodological flaws in the study.
More recently, and closer to home, the organization Excellent Schools Pennsylvania conducted a study entitled “The High Cost of Teacher Absenteeism in Philadelphia, “Which claims that daily teacher absenteeism runs about 6% in Philadelphia schools, as opposed to the national average 2.8%. While the 6% figure comes from school district data on teacher absences, the 2.8% figure comes from a category in the Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey entitled “Education, training, and library occupations, which obviously covers many more professions than just elementary and high school teachers.
Furthermore, the school district number correlates with the national absentee rate of 6% provided in a 2014 study by the national Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
It appears that teacher illness is the latest fad for study by organizations interested in the privatization of education, the idea being that a single dubious study does not carry the same weight as an entire body of questionable work. These organizations believe that somehow, two or more wrongs make a right. Yet their research oddly neglects to address two issues closely related to teacher absenteeism. The first is teacher turnover, which often occurs in the middle of a school year, and affects charter schools at a rate much higher than public schools. Don’t such disruptions affect students at least as profoundly as teacher absenteeism? The second is achievement. The Fordham study goes to great lengths to explain the connection between absenteeism and student achievement, yet offers none of its own data to support this claim – possibly because respected studies offer very little support to show that charters outperform public schools.
Undergraduates have failed research 101 for using the methods these organizations have adopted for their respective studies. I hope that you agree with this assessment.