Teacher Absences Are Hurting Learning

A year is a long time in a child’s education, the time it can take to learn cursive writing or beginning algebra.

It’s also how much time kids can spend with substitute teachers from kindergarten through high school — time that’s all but lost for learning.

Despite tremendous pressure on schools to increase instructional time and meet performance goals, the vacuum created by teacher absenteeism has been all but ignored — even though new research suggests it can have an adverse effect in the classroom.

The problem isn’t just with teachers home for a day or two with the flu. Schools’ use of substitutes to plug full-time vacancies — the teachers that kids are supposed to have all year — is up dramatically.

Duke University economist Charles Clotfelter, among a handful of researchers who have closely studied the issue, says the image of spitballs flying past a daily substitute often reflects reality.

“Many times substitutes don’t have the plan in front of them,” Clotfelter said. “They don’t have all the behavioral expectations that the regular teachers have established, so it’s basically a holding pattern.”

To view the complete article, click here.
(msnbc/The Associates Press 01.16.08)

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