Teacher absences may have negative effect on learning

Sven Patterson & Natasha Levey, Staff Writers

Excessive teacher absences can have a negative impact on student learning, and although not a noticeable problem at ARHS, have caught the attention of Principal Thomas Mead.

At a recent faculty meeting, Mead sparked discussion about the negative repercussions that teacher absences have on student learning.

Teacher absences, unavoidable occurrences in the daily grind of a school day, all yield the same result: a substitute who cannot teach the material as well as the teacher can.

Though substitutes cost the school more money, the effects that the sudden adjustment has on students surpasses the financial setback.

“[The cost of a substitute] pales in comparison to the absence of teachers, and the impact it has on students,” Mead said.

A survey done by The National Council on Teacher Quality in June 2014 found that when a teacher misses 10 days of school within a school year, the student experience is equivalent to that of having a first year teacher rather than one with two or three years of experience.

According to Mead, “[teacher absences have] a negative impact because we have great teachers here”.

Mead later explained that though the district has high quality substitutes, they are no replacement for the great teachers at ARHS.

For teachers, an extended absence can lead to a huge setback in their lesson plan. It can also lead to the inability to provide students with the information needed in the right context.

English teacher Matthew Querino was out for four weeks in December through January for a back injury, and was concerned about his students’ learning in his absence.

“I think teacher absences greatly impact student learning,” Querino said. “It’s difficult to find highly qualified substitutes for every subject when you don’t know who’s going to be absent.”

English teacher Virginia Fitzgerald, who was recently out for 12 weeks maternity leave, said that one of her biggest concerns about being absent was the question of who was filling in for her.

“I was very grateful to have [retired English teacher] Deb Newman here for me because I know she cares not only about academic requirements, but about the students as individuals,” Fitzgerald said.

Due to Querino’s unplanned absence, he was unaware of when he would be well enough to return to school. Multiple short-term substitutes covered for him which led to a lack of continuity of instruction.

“[Short-term substitutes] wouldn’t know the big picture, or the steps in the process,” Querino said. “They wouldn’t know what students had done, and what they are trying to achieve.”

Senior Henry Noke agrees that long-term substitutes ensure a more stable learning environment.

“[Long-term substitutes are] more specialized, maybe not necessarily in the class, but at least in the general way of learning”, Noke said.

Despite his increased interest in the topic, Mead does not consider ARHS teachers to be chronically absent.

“We don’t have a teacher attendance problem, per se,” Mead said.

“Certainly, no one intends on being absent for extended periods of time, but life happens,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that, speaking for everybody, we love what we do, and we all want to be here.”