Jacksonville, FL - The Duval County School District is making changes to cut back on “chronic” absenteeism among teachers.
The National Council on Teacher Quality has found that more than a quarter of Duval teachers missed 18 or more days in the classroom, which is among the worst rates in the nation. Teachers also missed, on average, nearly 14 days- three days more than the national average.
Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says many of the absences relate to their former policy on trainings, where teachers were essentially able to decide when they wanted to attend a training through a contract service the District had. That would often require a substitute to be brought in for a full day.
“There are examples of excessive absenteeism outside of professional development as well,” Vitti says.
Vitti says the report came as no surprise because he noticed this problem when he took the helm at Duval about 1 ½ years ago. Since he noticed the problems, he says there have been changes.
Specifically with training, Vitti says they now have District personnel travel to schools to conduct group trainings during teacher planning periods, rather than having individual teachers attend widespread trainings. He says this more effectively uses their resources financially and educationally. Since implementing this new model, Vitti says professional development-related absenteeism has fallen 13%.
With absenteeism not linked to trainings, Vitti says they’ve begun to place more accountability on teachers. If an educator has a problem with absenteeism, he says they are invoking penalties like suspension without pay and even termination.
“We have to do a better job of improving teacher attendance,” he says.
He says they’re also looking at some of the root problems that could drive low attendance, like school morale.
More changes to drive better attendance will also be included in the strategic plan for next year.