Teacher absences on Molokai below state average; Hawaii has second highest rate of absenteeism in country

| February 19, 2013 | 0 Comments

Why do so many teachers in Hawaii take so many days off? Is it the good weather, the stress of the job, or do certain schools have an “absence culture?”

Local honorees shown with members of the Hawaii Board of Education when they visited Molokai in August, 2010.

Local honorees shown with members of the Hawaii Board of Education when they visited Molokai in August, 2010.

A recently released study by Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education shows that Hawaii’s public school teachers had the second highest percentage in the country of teachers who were absent 10 or more days. The study, based on data collected during the 2009-10 school year, shows 49.6 percent of Hawaii’s teachers took 10 or more sick days in a year. Only Rhode Island had a higher number at 50.2 percent.

On average, 36 percent of teachers nationally were absent more than 10 days during the 2009-10 school year based on the 56,837 schools analyzed. The U.S. DOE considers the measure of teachers absent 10 or more times during the year a “leading indicator” of the relationship between absence rates measured at the teacher level and student achievement.

A closer look at the Hawaii numbers shows that the absences figures are not evenly distributed between schools. One cluster of schools has a very low rate of absences while the rest have values concentrated at the high end of the range. In comparison, the state of Michigan, which is close to Hawaii at 45.6 percent, has a fairly uniform distribution of values.

What does this mean about Hawaii? The Center for American Progress hypothesizes that “absence cultures in Hawaii’s schools exert a strong influence on individual teachers’ behavior. In some schools this means it’s rare for any teacher to be absent more than 10 days; in others, the majority of teachers miss school frequently.”

The Center for American Progress describes what this “absence culture” means: “The professional culture of a school — the norms, formal and informal, that guide teachers’ behavior — has a facet related to absence. Researchers have studied this facet, the so-called absence culture, along two dimensions. The first has to do with how similarly teachers behave to one another. One study found, for example, collusive behavior among teachers in one school as an explanation for its consistently high absence rates relative to rates found in neighboring schools. Researchers in Australia found that an increase in the average absence rate of a teacher’s colleagues increased the teacher’s own absence tally.”

This statewide tendency appears true on Molokai as well where there is a wide disparity between schools. The island’s average percent of teachers who took 10 or more days of sick leave was 33.2 percent, below both the state and national average. Out of the five DOE public schools on Molokai (as a public charter school, Kualapu’u Elementary School data was not reported), three fell below the state and national average for percent of teachers who took 10 or more days of sick leave while two fell well above the average.

Percent of teachers who took 10 or more days of sick leave

Molokai High School: 27.27 percent (out of 33 teachers)
Molokai Middle School: 26.67 percent (15 teachers)
Kaunakakai Elementary School: 56.52 percent (23 teachers)
Kilohana Elementary School: 55.56 percent (9 teachers)
Maunaloa Elementary School: 0.0 percent (5 teachers)

Average number of all absences per teacher

Molokai High School: 15.79 days
Molokai Middle School: 20.93 days
Kaunakakai Elementary School: 20.65 days
Kilohana Elementary School: 21.22 days
Maunaloa Elementary School: 16.60 days

In Hawaii, public school teachers are granted 18 days of sick leave per year.

Hawai’i Fress Press recently published links to the school-by-school state data released by the Hawaii Board of Education Human Resources Committee as well as the national report released by the Center for American Progress.

Category: News, Schools

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