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Report: In a stormy year, city teachers still showed up for work

New York City teachers miss fewer days of work than those in other large school districts, even when faced with a once-in-a-lifetime storm.

In a school year upended by Superstorm Sandy, the average city teacher missed about nine days of work, the fifth fewest number of days among the country’s 40 largest school districts, according to a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington, D.C.-based education think tank. 

The city’s 95 percent teacher attendance for the 2012-13 school year was one point higher than the national average. It would have been even higher were it not for the damage that Sandy wrought when it slammed into New York City on Oct. 29, 2012. Dozens of schools were shuttered for weeks, even months, while their students and teachers were temporarily relocated to school buildings.

Some teachers lost almost everything where the storm hit the hardest, in Far Rockaway, Staten Island and parts of south Brooklyn. But even on their first day back to work on Nov. 2, about 82 percent of teachers showed up—and that was the lowest attendance rate of the school year, said Nancy Waymack, one of the report’s authors.

A small number of the worst offenders bring down average attendance in each district. Across the 40 districts, 16 percent of teachers missed at least 18 days, accounting for more than a third of all absences. In New York City, about 5 percent of teachers were chronically absent. (The study only factored in absences that lasted 10 days or fewer to exclude instances of maternity leave and serious illness.)

The report’s authors called chronically absent teachers “a big problem for districts,” pointing to studies that show a link between student achievement and teacher absences. But the authors wrote that they were surprised not to find a relationship between teacher absences and high-poverty schools.

Here’s the very top and bottom of the list:

Lowest average teacher absence (days per year)

Indianapolis: 6.1

Washington, D.C.: 7.3

Louisville: 8.1

Milwaukee: 8.3

Tampa: 8.6

Highest average teacher absence (days per year)

Cleveland: 15.6

Columbus: 14.8

Nashville: 14.2

Portland: 14.1

Jacksonville: 13.9