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Thursday, February 14, 2008

No skipping class

BoardBuzz found this article

in the Star-Tribune (Minnesota) pretty interesting. It seems that
missing class affects student learning. And no, it's not what you think.

When students miss class, of course it affects their learning. But this
editorial asserts that when teachers miss class, that also affects
student learning. "The more time teachers spend away from their
classrooms, the more student achievement suffers, according to recent
studies. That means school officials and educators should take steps to
reduce teacher absences and use substitutes more effectively."
As the article points out, everyone gets the flu and misses a day from
class here and there, but:
Nationwide, school officials reported that the number of subs
needed to fill regular teaching vacancies doubled between 1994 and 2004.
Federal Education Department data shows that about 20 percent of public
schools use substitutes to fill longer-term openings, often in subject
areas where there are teacher shortages. And that makes it more likely
substitutes will be asked to teach outside their areas of expertise.
Studies from the University of Washington and Duke University
indicate that districts rely so heavily on temporary teachers that
American students spend the equivalent of a full year with a sub in 12
years of schooling. Even as few as 10 days with a replacement teacher,
according to the study, can lower student test scores.
And in these times where we are constantly striving to increase student
achievement, every little bit helps. "Training and consulting with
colleagues is important; teachers need continuing education for their
jobs just like other professionals. However, given the impact on
students, districts and educators should look for creative ways to offer
training and minimize classroom absences." Districts in Minnesota are
working hard to ensure that teachers miss as little class time as
possible for professional development.

Another way to address the problem is to prepare for times when
substitutes are needed. Some teachers do an excellent job of planning,
providing detailed lesson plans to assure that students don't miss a
beat. That kind of preparation should be more widely practiced.
Reducing teacher absences alone is not the answer to all
education woes. But giving teachers and pupils more time together is one
of several factors that can improve student achievement.
As any teacher knows, planning is the key to classroom success, and
planning for absences is just another crucial part of the equation. How
does your school district effectively manage teacher absences?

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