- The Shelby County Schools in Tennessee is looking into whether it should outsource the task of training and supporting substitute teachers in order to have a more-qualified pool of substitutes, according to the Commercial Appeal.
- The district’s attention to the competencies of its substitutes increased after a high school chemistry class was taught for much of the school year by a substitute with a teaching license, but none of the students in the class tested proficient on the state chemistry test.
- Outsourcing, according to the district’s human resources chief, would mean that an agency would take on the responsibility of training substitutes and determining whether a particular candidate is a good fit for a certain class and grade level.
While school and district leaders often face the challenge of having an adequate supply of substitute teachers, ensuring they can contribute to students’ learning while they are in the classroom is also important. A 2013 Education Next article highlighted U.S. Department of Education data showing that the average public school student will be taught by a substitute teacher for more than six months out of his or her K-12 years. The article also highlighted research suggesting that being in a class with a substitute has a greater impact on a student’s math scores than changing schools and is worse than “replacing an average teacher with a terrible one.”
Pointing to the “hodgepodge” of policies and procedures in states and districts related to substitute teaching across the country, a 2012 report from the National Education Association (NEA) urged districts to “place a higher priority on finding and employing qualified substitute teachers as well as on managing and supporting them.”
Some districts are recruiting education majors at nearby colleges and universities to work as substitutes, which allows them to gain some practical experience and could mean that they are more invested in learning instructional practices and developing content knowledge, especially if they are taking over a classroom for a long-term period.
The NEA also recommended creating incentives for retired teachers or non-working certified teachers to work as substitutes, providing substitutes with some training and professional development, increasing their pay, and offering bonuses for long-term assignments.