It would be amazing if Albuquerque Public Schools could cut the number of days students are gone from the classroom by 15 percent with one basic policy change.
And in fact that’s what’s happened to the other half of the learning equation: teachers.
After the New Mexico Department of Public Education made attendance a part of its new teacher evaluations, teacher absences in APS dropped by 15 percent.
In the first six months of the current school year there have been 5,068 fewer teacher absences. That’s 5,068 fewer class days with substitute teachers, 5,068 fewer taxpayer-funded checks for what – even in the best-case scenarios – amounts to less effective instruction.
Under PED’s evaluations, attendance counts toward 10 percent of a teacher’s overall score. APS Superintendent Winston Brooks says “there is no doubt in my mind that the decline we are seeing in teacher absences is directly related to the new teacher evaluation system. Every month has seen absenteeism lower this year than last, in some cases a thousand fewer days of absences than the same month one school year ago.”
And while concern was expressed early on that the policy would unduly burden teachers, it includes 10 days for routine illness and excuse absences for catastrophic injury, family medical leave, long-term illness, maternity leave and other circumstances.
An equally valid concern is that when there are only 180 instruction days, every day needs to count. And effective classroom instruction is crucial to learning, as evidenced by the new emphasis at Rio Grande and Highland high schools that boosted graduation rates
It bears pointing out that according to the APS Handbook, a student is considered “a habitual truant at 10 unexcused (emphasis added) absences in a year.” Teachers should be held to the same standard, because, while they absolutely should take sick days when they are sick, as APS Board President Marty Esquivel says, “the more time the regular teacher is in the classroom, the better the overall instruction is.”
Love or hate the new evaluations, there’s little question APS students have had 5,068 better days of instruction so far this school year.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.