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Teacher Absences & Subs

Talk Data to Me: How Many Absences are Substitutes Actually Filling?

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A recent Talk Data to Me post titled “Trends in Absence Management and Substitute Pools” outlined the state of teacher absence trends nationwide. It reported that while the number of absences and the number of registered substitutes have returned to a pre-covid normal level, absence fill rates remain lower than they were before the pandemic. It suggested that a primary reason for this is that the proportion of substitutes that are filling absences is lower than it was previously. Prior to the pandemic, about 40% of available substitutes filled at least one absence per month. More recently, less than 30% of available substitutes filled at least one absence in a given month.

Fill Rate – The proportion of substitute-required absences that are filled by a substitute.

Given the subset of registered substitutes that are actively working in classrooms, coupled with the almost-back-to-normal absence fill rates, this iteration of Talk Data to Me asked, “of the substitutes that are filling absences, how many absences do they tend to fill?”. The answer may surprise you.

The Data

According to data from the Frontline Research and Learning Institute, during the 2022-2023 school year, about 64% of registered substitute teachers nationwide filled at least one absence and the average substitute worked 41 days and about 50% them worked less than 25 days. But perhaps most surprisingly, the most common total number of days for a substitute to have worked for the entire school year was just one. The chart below shows the proportion of substitutes by the number of days that they worked for the 2022-2023 school year.

Just over 7% of substitutes worked a single day, followed by about 5% of substitutes that worked only two days and 4% that worked only three. In fact, 25% of substitutes that worked at least one day, only worked four 4 days or less.

What You Can Do

Know Your Data: Frontline’s Human Capital Analytics makes in-depth data analysis easy and accessible. Users can assess their district’s historical absence trends, including the proportion of their substitutes that are actively filling absences and detailed reports on how many they are filling. There is even a machine-learning powered analysis that predicts the number of substitutes you can expect to need on any day in the future for the current school year.


Recommended Resources:

The Local Teacher Shortage: An investigation into varying degrees of labor shortages by region.

How to Solve Shortages and Increase Substitute Effectiveness: Why do so many schools struggle to maintain effective substitute programs? Why do low fill rates and substitute shortages plague administrators across the country?

Accessing the Health of Substitute Teacher Pools by State: Many different factors can impact the size of a district’s active sub pool, including locality and the effort and focus that organizations put into attracting substitutes.

The Substitute Teacher Shortage: If there was one singular cause for the lack of substitute teachers, it would be simple to come up with a one-size-fits-all solution. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. So, what’s behind the shortage and what can you do to retain quality substitutes?