Admin must address problem of chronically absent teachers

Lilly Lim, Co Editor-In-Chief

When students are chronically truant, they face consequences ranging from in-school suspensions to social probation.  When teachers are chronically absent or truant — well, few face any consequences. 

When a teacher is absent, five classes — approximating to 150 students — do not learn to their greatest potential for that day.  Typically when there’s a substitute teacher, the class will take notes on videos; other times, there’s a pause in the curriculum and students are given “work days” when almost nothing productive is accomplished.  

A consistently absent teacher builds a certain reputation and students start caring less about the class as the important connection and bond teachers form with students on a daily basis is stretched thin.  When it comes to Advanced Placement (AP) classes, students face even greater consequences when taking the AP exam unless they become self-taught.

Student athletes rely heavily on their grades to remain on sports teams.  In many situations, students’ grades in the gradebook may not reflect their actual grade in the class because the teacher didn’t input the grades, which could result in students not making grades for sports when they would have otherwise.  With a consistently absent teacher, it may take longer for papers to be graded and recorded in the gradebook.  Teacher absences may also result in less work which creates an insufficient number of opportunities for students to raise their grades in the class.  

All teachers are given 10 days per year in which they can be absent — mainly for illness or personal necessity.  Once teachers exceed that number, paying for substitute teachers comes out of the teacher’s salary.  While this system covers monetary costs for substitute teachers, there is a greater cost to student learning for which many cannot substitute with money.  

Teachers usually provide legitimate reasons for their absences, but that doesn’t excuse  the day of instructional time that students lost.  Teachers run classes.  They play a significant role in determining whether 150 students will learn the curriculum or not that day.  When teachers are absent, they decrease the chances of students learning, but there’s no disciplinary action taken against the teachers.  

For some teachers, chronic absenteeism or tardies are not new.  Administration continues to do nothing, perhaps because few options exist to reprimand or discipline chronically absent or tardy teachers thanks to protections by teachers’ unions.