Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report: Duval High in Teacher Absences; County Has Fifth-Highest Total among 40 Districts, According to Research

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Report: Duval High in Teacher Absences; County Has Fifth-Highest Total among 40 Districts, According to Research

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Hong

More than two-thirds of Duval County teachers were "frequently" or "chronically" absent from their classrooms last year, which research shows can significantly damage student achievement.

The district's teachers, on average, missed the fifth-highest number of days in 2012-13 among the 40 big-city districts examined nationally, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Council on Teacher Excellence.

Nearly 67 percent of Duval teachers missed more than 10 days, the amount of vacation time afforded to many district teachers and a number that has educational significance, as well.

"It matters because teacher attendance definitely has an impact on student achievement," said Nancy Waymack, who helped oversee the study. "When teachers are absent 10 days, the decrease in student achievement is the same difference between having a brand new teacher and one with two to three years experience."

The report labeled 27 percent of Duval teachers as "chronically absent," meaning they missed 18 or more days of school. Only five other districts included in the study had more teachers in that category.

In contrast, only 5 percent of Duval teachers missed three or fewer days, the third-lowest among the other districts.

VITTI NOT SURPRISED

Duval Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said he isn't surprised by the report's findings. After reviewing last year's attendance data, he said he drew similar conclusions.

"One thing we saw was the number of days teachers were out of the classroom," Vitti said. "I agree, it has a detrimental impact on student achievement."

Vitti said one way the district is working to reduce absenteeism is changing how teachers receive professional development training.

Before, they would leave school to take classes. That model led to teachers taking anywhere between five to 10 days off for professional development. Now, Vitti said the district is working to train teachers at their schools, where they can attend sessions in between classes. He said the total number of teacher absences dropped compared to last year. …

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