The National 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. It’s a tangled combination of many factors, all coming together to cause school district leaders across the country a lot of stress.
- Teacher shortages make it easier for out-of-work educators to find full-time positions.
- Substitute teaching is not seen as a prestigious profession.
- Low pay and a lack of benefits (e.g. health insurance) dissuades qualified people from substitute teaching, especially as the economy improves.
- State and local laws may make it difficult or impossible for retired teachers to work as substitutes while still collecting retirement benefits.
- Fewer new teachers graduating from teacher prep programs limits the pool of newly-minted educators who work as substitutes before finding full-time teaching work.
Substitute Teacher Shortages within the School District
The Retention Problem
Even within a district with plenty of substitutes applying for jobs, fill rates can still be a problem. That’s because it’s still a challenge for many school districts to engage and retain substitutes.
Data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute shows that on average, about half of all substitutes aren’t taking any jobs during the school year. During the 2017-18 school year, 49% of substitutes didn’t work at all, and those who did take jobs worked an average of 33 days, or a little less than once a week. These low numbers aren’t driven by a lack of jobs, either — with an average fill rate of 82%, there were plenty of jobs waiting to be claimed.
What about your district? Do you have visibility into how often your substitutes work, or which substitutes have stepped back and no longer takes jobs? Once you have that data, you can create a strategy to re-engage non-working substitutes and bring them back to the classroom. Consider finding ways to more actively welcome them into the school community, provide training to help them become more effective educators and ensure that absent teachers leave enough resources for substitutes to make a difference in the classroom.
Differences in Fill Rates Across the School District
Within a single school system, it’s unlikely that every school has identical fill rates.
- Substitutes may prefer to work in certain buildings, and avoid others, based on school culture and whether or not they feel welcomed.
- Some school cultures may have a more laissez-faire approach to absenteeism, leading to relatively more absences that need to be filled.
- Certain schools may be closer to where substitutes live.
- Teachers in a particular school may be more conscientious about reporting absences in advance and including thorough lesson plans, helping substitutes feel prepared for the day.
Do you know how absence and fill rate patterns differ between your schools? With both district- and school-level data, you can see where your substitute program may be falling short, and take action to ensure that every classroom is filled with a qualified substitute.
The Substitute Engagement Challenge
While discussing the substitute shortage and fill rates, you can’t leave out substitute engagement. Data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute shows a strong correlation between substitute engagement and absence fill rates.
To boost substitute engagement, you can use resources, but you can also make it easier for substitutes to look for, view, and accept open positions at your district. Offering them more time ahead of the date they’re needed is a great way to start. Frontline Absence & Time’s mobile app does just that. With the app, subs receive push notifications directly to their device about open vacancies. They can also use the app to search for and accept jobs.
And of course, when you use a system like Frontline Absence & Time, you decrease the amount of time it takes for a teacher to request an absence, have an administrator approve the absence, and then kick off the search for a substitute.
It might be tempting to overthink substitute engagement, but sometimes it’s the little things — like making it easy to accept a job — that can make an impact.
Frontline Absence & Time
You can overcome the substitute shortage. Frontline Absence & Time saves you time by managing employee absences online and finding substitutes, while providing you with actionable insights.
- See how your district’s absence and substitute data stacks up against national and state benchmarks from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute
- Increase teacher accountability with real-time reporting
- Make it easy for subs to search for and accept jobs they’re qualified for
- Attach documents such as lesson plans or notes to help substitutes prepare
- Go paperless with online absence forms, sign-in sheets, approval forms and more
- Easily send substitute hours to payroll — no more manually entering data
- Allow subs to view and accept open jobs through the mobile app