Low-income schools see heavy reliance on substitute teachers

Dive Brief:

  • Though standardized testing and teacher evaluations have been prioritized as helpful measures over the past few years, the Washington Post reports that a near-constant stream of substitute teachers in some schools keep students from learning and performing their best.
  • Experts say it’s better to try to retain good teachers in poor schools instead of focusing on evaluations to show which pre-existing teachers rank worst in order to remove them.  
  • Yet the substitute teacher problem is rooted in other underlying issues, with some saying high-poverty schools are difficult workplaces because of "unsupportive administrators and student misbehavior."

Dive Insight:

The National Council on Teacher Quality says that just 27 American states require substitutes to be certified teachers, and roughly half of all districts polled by the Council require subs to have a bachelor’s degree. Eleven more only require a high school diploma or GED, the Washington Post reports, and another eight have no requirements at all.

The American Civil Liberties has linked the issue to “persistent chronic failure at certain schools,” and has filed lawsuits aimed at addressing the issue.

The achievement gap between racial groups, and income levels, has manifested in California schools as well as Minnesota and others. Two studies released in October recommended ensuring students with the biggest performance problems be paired with top teachers, or that teachers receive additional professional development for working with those students.

That’s where the substitute teacher problem kicks in. Teacher instability is a proven and common problem in high-poverty schools, the Washington Post reports, and providing better training and pay, along with hiring more experienced educators, would likely help since inexperienced teachers are also reportedly the first laid off when budget concerns arise — a factor that further impacts those schools.

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Filed Under: K12 Policy & Regulation
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