Letter: Real education policy solutions needed

The Detroit News’ recent editorial, “Too many teachers skipping class, Nov. 10” cites a recent report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that includes unsubstantiated attacks on public school teachers and sick leave policies included in collective bargaining agreements. Holding up such a report without acknowledging the limitations of the report distracts from real education policy solutions and vastly underestimates the challenges facing contemporary school districts.

In a recent academic review produced by the National Education Policy Center, Dr. Patricia Hinchey from Penn State University found that the Fordham report made unsubstantiated claims and assertions about teacher absences.

Hinchey’s review found:

■The Fordham report claimed absentee rates for teachers in non-union charter schools were lower than teachers with union contracts, yet the report failed to acknowledge a wide body of research on higher teacher turnover in charter schools.

■The report irregularly defined “chronic absenteeism” as missing 10+ days of school, whereas the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) considers the minimum standard for chronic absence is 18 days.

■It also overlooked a growing trend where schools are increasing time off for school employees as a way to improve work-life balance and make sure teachers are healthy and at their best when they are in the classroom.

Fostering a nurturing and welcoming learning environment for students starts with making sure teachers have the supports they need to provide a quality education for their students. We need to support teachers and school employees who need occasional time off like other professionals. No one, teachers included, can perform at their best when they are burned out, exhausted or sick.

The News correctly acknowledges that teachers play an integral role in student learning. But by holding up an imprecise report, they do a disservice to educators across Michigan and to policymakers seeking to find workable solutions to contemporary challenges facing schools.

Daniel J. Quinn, Ph.D.

executive director, Great Lakes Center for

Education Research and Practice