Report: Teacher absenteeism a widespread problem in Hawaii

Report: Teacher absenteeism a widespread problem in Hawaii

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new report says that absenteeism among Hawaii teachers is a widespread problem.

But the Hawaii teachers union and the state Department of Education said they suspect the study is based on flawed numbers.

Education Week reported that 75 percent of Hawaii's teachers are out of school more than ten days each year, or about three times the national average.

Nevada, which had next highest absentee rate, saw half of its teachers absent ten days or more.

"It doesn't seem like it's just a few scofflaw teachers in one or two schools. It seems like something that's pretty systemic," said Sarah Sparks, reporter for Education Week.

"You had I believe it was close to 80 schools where 9 out of 10 teachers are absent ten days or more."

Sparks said Hawaii's teacher contract provides for a relatively high number of sick days.

Teachers here are given 18 days a school year for sick leave and may convert up to 6 of those for personal or professional leave.

The absenteeism report is based on figures that the Hawaii Department of Education provided to the federal government for items such as sick days, jury duty, maternity leave and personal leave."

Corey Rosenlee, president of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, believes the figures for Hawaii aren't an "apples-to-apples" comparison with other states.

Several years ago, a similar study ranked Hawaii second worst in the nation for teacher's attendance but it also included teachers' days off for mandatory professional training and travel for school-related events in Hawaii, which should not have been included.

"Having worked for years in Hawaii's education system,  I've seen very hard working teachers. Teachers that come in even when they are sick. So yes, I have some serious questions about this study," said Rosenlee.

Experts say education suffers when teachers are out for even a week of school days.

"You can measure learning loss when a teacher is out of the classroom for as little as five days a year," said Kate Walsh, president for the National Council for Teacher Quality.

"Kids test scores will go down from a teacher being absent."

The DOE says it also suspects discrepancies in the report and they are talking with Education Week about the data.

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