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Is Teacher Absenteeism An Issue For Pittsburgh Public Schools?


Last week, the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) released a roadmap to enhance teacher effectiveness in Pittsburgh Public Schools. The report was commissioned by the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and A+ Schools. Kate Walsh, CEO of the National Council on Teacher Quality explains some of the good that has come along with the roadmap and Pennsylvania’s teachers.

“We’re seeing the district has come up with a new evaluation system for teachers, is meaningful and makes sense. And accompany that with a different salary schedule. In this country, we’ve been paying teachers to get endless amounts of graduate credits and that’s been how they earned pay raises, is to keep going back and getting credits. The funny thing is, the research says, those credits never make teachers more effective, or if they do, it’s pretty rare…this district is now saying, no, if you’re effective, you’re going to qualify for more meaningful positions, you’re going to qualify for greater pay.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane calls reports of teacher absenteeism “pretty startling.” Walsh said the district has a large problem with absent teachers, however Pittsburgh is not unique. Across the country, about 20-25% of teachers were reported to be frequently to chronically absent. According to Walsh, no sanctions are in place for teachers who miss large amounts of school.

Teachers Respond to the Study

Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, reacted to the NCTQ study, especially Walsh’s comments about sanctions for absent teachers.

“Our district has a strict attendance policy, believe me, any teacher can tell you that. We’ve had some people, unfortunately, literally lose their jobs over tardiness, or attendance issues. You are literally called in after you have six, one or two day absences.”

Although there may be sanctions in place for chronically absent teachers, there are still issues regarding what counts as an absence towards these statistics. According to Carey Harris, executive director of A+ Schools, these teacher absenteeism statistics also factor in “professional development days,” days teachers are absent due to things such as field trips for students.

Overall, Pennsylvania was graded with a “C” for teacher effectiveness. The grade may be startling at first, before other states are taken into account. But none of the 50 states received a grade higher than a “B” when it comes to the effectiveness of teaching staff.

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