Originally created 12/23/99

Blasts headline, non-analysis of data



I would like to take this opportunity to comment on Peggy Ussery's Dec. 13 article entitled "Teachers' Absences Raise Abuse Concern."

Is it any wonder teachers feel frustrated and threatened as their students feel empowered to be defiant, rebellious, and even violent? ... Perhaps teachers are on the defensive because the press too often prostitutes its once hallowed reputation by fabricating sensational headlines intended more to generate sales.

Add to that a situation where School Board members engage in shallow thinking and gratuitous remarks at the expense of the mere 1,265 faithful professionals who make Columbia County's schools a successful system. ...

The article creates a situation whereby teachers in Columbia County found themselves further undermined by an inappropriate, inaccurate headline neither supported by the data, nor by the responsible comments of Connie Davis. Disturbing is the fact that neither the article's author, nor School Board member Debbi Brooks, indicated any attempt to analyze the data, or Board policy factors which may bear on the data.

Has The Chronicle made any attempt to analyze the data presented, beyond casting the inapproprate title implying "systematic abuse"? ...

Consider the data. Forget momentarily the seemingly staggering number of 2,464 sick absences and normalize these data by dividing the number of certified employees (1,265) responsible for generating these absences into the total absences for the period. Once done, we find that the "average teacher" generated an absenteeism rate of 0.6 days per month for the period. The School Board's policy (given by Ms. Ussery) provides 12 12 days earned absences per academic (10-month ) year, or 1.25 allowable days per academic month.

Once calendarized, the calculated "abusive-absences" for the first 14 weeks amounts to a projected six absent days per teacher per year, or half of the established absence budget defined by the Board. So, on this basis alone, I find it difficult to imagine how the allegation, "abuse" finds its way into the article's headline.

Without statistical analysis, I can't say exactly how significant the "bias" for absenteeism for Monday and Fridays really is, but it would surprise me if it was worth the headline it generated. ...

Robert C. Hicks, Martinez