Fewer teachers are calling in sick in Albuquerque (Photo: Dinesh Ramde/Associated Press)

The number of school teachers who call in sick has dropped significantly in Albuquerque under a new regime of teacher evaluations, a development that supporters say could improve education outcomes and save school districts money at the same time.

The new rules implemented by the New Mexico Public Education Department evaluate teachers in part based on their attendance. Showing up for work counts for 10 percent of a teacher’s overall evaluation.

During the first half of the school year, teacher absences were down 15 percent from the previous year, the Albuquerque Public School system reported this week.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the decline we are seeing in teacher absences is directly related to the new teacher evaluation system,” district superintendent Winston Brooks told the Albuquerque Journal in an e-mail. “Every month has seen absenteeism lower this year than last, in some cases a thousand fewer days of absences than the same month one school year ago.”

Bringing in a substitute teacher costs the school district between $8.58 an hour and $13.05 an hour, the Journal reported. Fewer absences means the school district doesn’t have to pay those bills. And keeping regular teachers in the classroom more, instead of substitutes, can lead to better education outcomes, school board president Marty Esquivel said.

Teacher unions aren’t entirely thrilled with the new program. The Albuquerque Teachers Federation would prefer to see misused sick days handled under disciplinary rules, rather than in evaluations, union president Ellen Bernstein said.