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4 Important Spring Absence & Substitute Trends

Teacher Absences & Subs

There are a few general truths when it comes to the end of the school year. Students get restless, the weather gets warmer and absence rates rise. And we don’t just mean student absences — teachers and other district employees tend to take more time off in the spring, too.

How do we know this? It’s not just intuition — this is confirmed by data from the Frontline Research and Learning Institute’s March absence report. Let’s take a look at the report’s key findings and what they could mean for your district.

Key Findings

One thing to keep in mind is that this report is based on data from nearly five thousand educational organizations and over 2.7 million employees. With such a comprehensive data set, these numbers are representative of national norms. But averages can hide variations, so it’s still important to have an effective way to track and manage employee absences within your own district. With that in mind, let’s dive in!

1. More Absences per Employee

Comparing absence data from January through March reveals a few noteworthy trends. For example, the average number of absences per employee jumped from 1.58 to 1.63 —mostly for employees that do not require a substitute, and mostly on Mondays and Fridays. That’s not to say that every district saw their absence rate increase — we saw wide variations between districts of different sizes and locations.
absences per employee chart


2. More Vacations, Fewer Sick Days

We also found that absence reasons changed with the seasons. The percentage of absences due to illness fell while the percentage of absences for vacations rose. That makes sense, as cold and flu season ended and employees probably took time off around spring break.
more vacations, fewer sick days chart


3. Lower Fill Rates

Here’s some bad news. Even though the same percentage of substitutes was actively taking jobs, fill rates fell from 89% in January to 84% in March. Like the average number of absences per employee, this also varied wildly depending on district location and size. In particular, rural schools and small urban schools had the highest fill rates — while small suburban and very large urban schools fared the worst.
lower fill rates chart


4. Non-Working Substitutes

The percentage of non-working substitutes has stayed consistent over the past few months. In March, 58% of substitutes. As you might expect, districts with more non-working substitutes have lower fill rates.
non-working substitutes chart


Taking Action in Your District

These statistics can help you prepare for more absences and lower fill rates as the school year winds down. And comparing your own district’s data against national trends can help you make even more strategic decisions. But these aren’t the only statistics you should keep in mind.

You’re in luck: you can read more of our findings and see what questions you should be asking in our full March Absence Report.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Buttner

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the K-12 staffing shortage, and best practices in human capital management.