CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Every day across the Lowcountry, teachers get students excited about learning. But on any given day, the familiar face your child is used to seeing, may be absent from the classroom.
Just as employees in any type of business or industry, teachers sometimes have to miss work, but the federal government points out a concern with those who miss more days than usual.
The US Department of Education calls it "chronically absent."
On average, 27 percent of all teachers nationwide miss more than 10 days of classroom time. According to federal education officials, when teachers miss more than 10 days in a school year, they are considered "chronically absent."
Seven Lowcountry-area school districts were offered the opportunity to provide their most recent figures on how many teachers deemed chronically absent.
Georgetown and Charleston Counties were the only ones to do so.
For the other five, the following data comes from the US Department of Education from a 2013-14 Civil Rights Survey:
- Williamsburg county had the highest number. With a teaching staff of 248, 139 of those teachers missed more than ten days for a chronically-absent rate 56.05 percent.
- In Dorchester District Two, of 1,459 teachers, 590 missed more than 10 days, with a 40.44 percent chronically-absent rate.
- Colleton's rate was 37.52 percent, with 135 of 364 teachers being out more than 10 days.
- Berkeley County was at 25.59 percent, with 494 teachers of 1,932 missing more than two weeks.
- Dorchester District Four had a rate of 16.92 percent with 28 of 165 teachers being considered chronically absent.
It is important to point out that those numbers include absences of more than 10 days for all reasons, and that means all reasons including teachers who are out on maternity leave, as well as those dealing with a serious illness or injury, and those who have to take leave to care for loved ones.
In Georgetown County for the school year 2016-17 school year, of 684 teachers, 281 were chronically absent, that's 41.08 percent. But 77 of those teachers were out because of either family medical leave, sick leave or workmen's comp, d ropping the rate to about 29.8 percent.
In Charleston County for the same year, of the 3,129 teachers, 225 were chronically absent, for a rate of 7.19 percent. That number includes teachers who missed time for sickness, personal business, bereavement, and jury duty, but does not include those who were absent because of family medical leave.
No matter the reason an educator has to miss school, research shows a teacher's absence can directly impact a student's ability to succeed in the classroom.
"Jadesha's experience with substitute teachers, I'll say it like she said it, she felt like they were just there giving them busy work." Janetta Holmes and her husband live in Dorchester District Two. "I have two kids, Jadesha and Justen. Jadesha's 18, she's a freshman in college. And Justen is 9, so a 4th grader."
With Jadesha in college studying to become a pharmacist, Holmes now focuses her full attention on Justen's learning process. While she is very pleased with the quality of education in DD2, but her daughter was easily frustrated, whenever there was a substitute, even for just a day or two.
"Jadesha loves structure, so when the regular teacher is there, they are more effective, they have structure, they know what they are going to do at what time," Holmes said.
But the situation was just the opposite for Justen, who had a long-term sub when his third-grade teacher was out last year on maternity leave.
"She made it hard not to like her, she was nice," Justen said. Justen says she used creative games to help them learn. "Like, one of my favorites were science where we were learning about electrical circuits and electrons."
Kelly Services recruits substitutes for Charleston and Berkeley Counties. District Manager Becky Jennings admits, it can be a tough assignment.
"Substitute teaching is not an easy job. You have to have the ability to think quick on your feet, you have to be kind of able to roll with the punches as they come," Jennings said. All subs must have basic educational requirements set by the individual school district, and long-term certified subs, have to meet even tougher standards.
"They have gone to college, have completed their degree in education, and that they would sit and be certified by a state department of education, to become a certified teacher," Jennings said.
Kelly also provides additional training for substitute teachers on classroom management, which provides them with techniques to help keep students focused in class.
But even the best subs can face challenges.
"Keep in mind you're dealing with children with a variety of learning styles, but that teacher also has a rhythmic style as well, and so if information is presented to the children in a style that they may not be accustomed to, sometimes it can hinder or alter learning," according to Dr. Vashti Washington.
Washington is a retired educator, who served as a former teacher and principal for Charleston County, and former superintendent for Jasper County. She says substitutes play an important role in the flow of education, so training is key.
"Yes, it's very critical to train them well, to make certain that they understand what their purpose is and how to follow the lesson plans and use their talents and creativity to enhance that lesson in the classroom," Washington said.
That's exactly what happened for Justen, and what school districts hope will be the case for all students when there's a substitute in the classroom.
Charleston and Georgetown Counties provided additional numbers on teacher absences for school years 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17:
- 2014-15 3,444 - 238 = 6.91%
- 2015-16 3,536 - 305 = 8.672%
- 2016-17 3,129 - 225 = 7.19%
Number of teachers: 719
- Total absences in excess of 10 days: 4,226
- Number of teachers absent for more than 10 days: 248
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded FMLA: 1,036
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) days: 49
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Worl‹men’s Compensation (WC): 647
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 WC days: 9
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Sick Leave Banl‹ (SLB): 90
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 SLB days: 3
- Total number of days: 719 (teachers) x 190 (working days) -- 136,610
Number of teachers: 702
- Total absences in excess of 10 days: 4,679
- Number of teachers absent for more than 10 days: 238
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded FMLA: 1,247
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) days: 53
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Workmen’s Compensation (WC): 376
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 WC days: 7
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Sick Leave Bank (SLB): 211
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 SLB days: 4
- Total number of days: 702 (teachers) x 190 (working days) -- 133,380
Number of teachers: 684
- Total absences in excess of 10 days: 5,553
- Number of teachers absent for more than 10 days: 281
- Number of the absences from like 2 coded FMLA: 1,739
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) days: 67
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Workmen’s Compensation (WC): 276
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 WC days:
- Number of the absences from line 2 coded Sick Leave Bank (SLB): 56
- Number of teachers from line 3 who missed more than 10 SLB days: 3
- Total number of days: 684 (teachers) x 190 (working days) = 129,960