Report on teachers' absences is misleading

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I am writing in response to the article “Pittsburgh Teachers’ Absenteeism Called ‘Startling’ ” (May 23), and I have a confession to make. I am a chronically absent teacher. To date, this school year I’ve missed six days of work for illness, personal responsibilities and a funeral.

But I’ve also worked 12 days when I was not in the classroom. These days included a trip to Dallas to study systems that identify students’ college readiness and a field trip to Carnegie Mellon University, where students studied architecture, drew and wrote poetry that was later published. I went with students to Camp Guyasuta and to the Heinz History Center, both wonderful learning experiences for all of us.

However, since the policy advocates who wrote the National Council on Teacher Quality report decided to lump together professional and personal absences, the headline had a good deal of shock value.

Make no mistake about it, they could have chosen to separate the absences and not to eviscerate many teachers like me, but that’s not their style. Throughout the country, this group has become legendary for teacher-blaming and perpetuating policy recommendations about teacher evaluation and talent management that have no support in actual research. The report on Pittsburgh schools is no different.

I am chronically absent. And it sure is startling. But what should be more startling is that anyone who cares about public education would give credence to statistics that are clearly used to embarrass those of us who dedicate our lives to teaching Pittsburgh’s students.



The writer is a Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher and a member of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

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