We all get sick at times, and sometimes that means we need a day off. But most employers would probably be concerned if 41 percent of their employees were missing more than 10 days a year.

Most parents would be concerned, too, if those employees happened to be their children’s teachers.

The message here is that some Rhode Island parents do have reason to be concerned, because, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data, 41 percent of the state’s teachers missed 10 or more days of work during the 2015-2016 school year — enough to make Rhode Island third-highest in the nation for teachers deemed to be “chronically absent.”

This is not the first time Rhode Island has come in at the high end on the teacher absenteeism scale. Last year, a study released by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute concluded that 37 percent of Rhode Island’s public school district teachers were missing more than 10 days a year — enough to place the state fourth among the 35 states the study looked at. So it is troubling to see, again, that many Rhode Island students have been shortchanged on classroom learning time.

Advocates for teachers sometimes try to soften the blow, pointing to individual circumstances and an aging teacher workforce as factors that should be considered when looking at numbers on teacher absences. But that does not change the fact that we have yet another set of numbers that suggest Rhode Island has a problem.

State Department of Education officials, who pledged two years ago to study teacher absenteeism in detail by collecting data and searching for underlying causes, have begun to include chronic teacher absenteeism as a measure of school accountability. Schools are now required to report data on teacher absences in a uniform way, and that data will be among the factors used to rate schools on a scale of one star to five stars. Low-performing schools will require intervention, and high teacher absenteeism is one of the many factors that could trigger it.

These are steps in the right direction, but more is needed. As others have recommended, there should be some re-calibration of the number of sick days and how they are used. And letting teachers carry over unused sick days seems to be a bad practice, given the state’s absenteeism levels.

Nationally, 28 percent of teachers missed 10 or more days during the 2015-2016 year, according to the data, which counted sick and personal days but did not count absences for professional development, field trips or other activities. The national number is a lot lower than Rhode Island’s 41 percent, and so were the numbers in the other New England states: Connecticut, 33 percent; Vermont, 31 percent; New Hampshire, 28 percent; Maine, 27 percent; and Massachusetts, 26 percent.

There is no question that children lose out when teachers are absent, and tolerating high absenteeism runs counter to the interests of students, who should be the top priority when school policies are adopted. Too often, they are not, and the latest study of teacher absenteeism in Rhode Island provides yet more evidence.

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