An exploratory study of causes underlying differences in absence rates of teachers in urban public and Catholic secondary schools in Western New York
Lyonga, Martin E
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Urban schools in the U.S. confront an ongoing problem of teacher absenteeism. This loss in teacher contact hours suggests we research this problem for the gain of students and parents, teachers and administrators, stakeholders, taxpayers and politicians. The purpose of this qualitative study was to research causes underlying differences in absence rates between teachers in urban public and Catholic secondary schools in Western New York. To explore the causes, I interviewed 40 public and Catholic principals and teachers (8 principals and 32 teachers with 7-25 years of teaching experience) to ascertain their perceptions of organizational, occupational and personal cultures and how these cultures might explain teacher absence. Interviews centered on teachers' individual and group perceptions regarding work, work setting and work attendance. Moreover, principals were interviewed to pinpoint commonalities and differences in perceptions with the teachers they supervise. The Steers & Rhodes Process Model (1978) provided the conceptual framework for interpreting and understanding the findings. The outcomes of this study centered on five positive supports of the ideal teaching worksite: (1) motivated students, (2) involved parents, (3) collaborative colleagues, (4) compassionate principal, and (5) spiritual calling/mission. Policy recommendations include implementing the ideal conditions present in schools with low absence rates into schools with high absence rates and seeing whether teachers would begin to like their work more and want to come to work more often. The significance of this study is to increase students' overall academic achievement and to add new knowledge that will become catalysts for further research projects.