A new study names Seattle among a small crowd of school districts that require substitute teachers to have a complete teaching license. Some districts require a smaller substitute certificate, others no training at all.
When it comes to fixing the substitute teacher-shortage plaguing schools in the Seattle area, one route might seem obvious: Ax the state mandate that says all subs must have teaching licenses, opening the door to other college-degree holders who may be itching to sign up.
Not all states have such stringent requirements, after all, as we noted in a November story chronicling the shortage in the Puget Sound region.
Now, a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality shows just how rare that teaching license requirement is.
Among more than 100 of the country’s biggest school districts, Seattle is one of only 10 that require a full teaching license to substitute teach, the study found. Most districts require either a substitute license — some combination of a background check and a day or two of training, the study’s authors said — or no license at all. In 14 of the 118 school districts studied, licensing for subs was not addressed in state or district policy.
Most of the school districts studied don’t even require their substitute teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, the report found.
“Seattle sets a pretty high bar,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. For the study, the group looked at state and district policies in 118 of the country’s biggest school systems and other award-winning districts.
Among the districts that require a full teaching license to sub: Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Diego. Spokane, too, requires subs to be certified teachers.
“In terms of kids’ best interest, it is a policy that makes a lot of sense,” Jacobs said. It’s less disruptive to a kid’s learning, she said, to have a licensed teacher in the front of the room.
But, she said, it puts a bigger strain on districts. Not only are certified teachers more expensive, they’re often harder to find. In Philadelphia, for instance, school district leaders considered outsourcing the work it takes to hire substitutes to a private staffing company.
The council did not make recommendations about what training school districts should require for subs, but Jacobs noted one solution that she thinks is smart: building a permanent substitute teacher into a school’s staff.
That’s a strategy at least one Seattle school adopted in response to the sub shortage this school year. At Emerson Elementary, which was hardest hit by the crunch, the district assigned one substitute teacher to work at the school a couple days a week, every week.