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3 Ways to Take a Strategic Approach to Substitute Management

July 08, 2021   •   Insights

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A shortage of qualified substitute teachers is impacting districts across the U.S., an issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Permanent teacher absences and low substitute teacher fill rates continue to plague districts, leaving administrators searching for innovative solutions to support student learning.

Dedicated teachers have a profound impact upon student growth, but in their absence, learning falters.

A recent study at an unidentified U.S. school district found that its teachers were absent an average of about 11.8 days per year, or 6.6 percent of a 180-day school year. Significant teacher absences can result in lower student achievement, discipline issues, and loss of productivity among students. 

A strategic approach to substitute management to mitigate teacher absences should include the following three elements:

1. Policy

Increasing your school’s fill rate doesn’t just happen—it takes a thoughtful approach to building and managing an effective and enthusiastic pool of substitute teachers, as well as a variety of policy issues that include qualifications, compensation, and more. These elements can significantly impact the quality of substitute teaching in your school district.

HCLE-certified leaders familiar with recruiting and retaining talented faculty members can help develop a school’s organizational structure to find more qualified subs. Small preventative measures, such as establishing a directory of preferred subs that administrators can access and developing district policies to attract and retain subs, can help districts proactively avoid disaster when absences arise.

Because substitute teachers can have a huge impact on student performance, they should also be adequately prepared to face potential classroom issues such as disruptions, behavioral problems, and lack of thorough lesson plans.

2. The Right Technology 

Technology is a major factor in the success of your substitute teaching program since it makes sub interaction and assignment confirmation easier. Red Rover’s substitute management software allows administrators to find qualified subs quickly through fast, efficient vacancy postings, candidate selection, personal identification, and experience verification. 

Red Rover’s substitute management software allows district staff to contact subs in real time and alert them of available positions and open gigs. It also allows administrators to: 

  • Move subs around easily if they prefer a different classroom or teaching structure.
  • Streamline the sub placement process using modern resources and state-of-the-art technology, which creates less hassle and confusion for substitute teachers. 
  • Utilize an arsenal of tools to make a sub’s experience more convenient and positive, which makes them more likely to return.
  • Engage and collaborate with substitutes to make them more effective guest teachers for your students.

3. Culture

Fostering a positive and encouraging environment is paramount to attracting and retaining substitute teachers. Providing support for subs is crucial—most receive very little, so treating them as valued commodities goes a long way. Giving sincere praise, offering incentives, and providing continued learning opportunities can convince substitutes to stay with your district. Red Rover’s partnerships with multiple sub training specialists also empower teachers to grow professionally. Providing frequent, continuous training can help subs deal with these issues, which will help keep students on track and mitigate the negative effects of teacher absences.

Additionally, communicating regularly with subs to check on how they’re doing in the classroom can also help administrators address potential issues. 

Some questions administrators should consider include when dealing with substitutes:

  • Are there lesson plans that substitute teachers can refer to when permanent teachers are absent? 
  • Why are some educators frequently absent? Do they need more support?

Qualified subs are critical to student growth, and their importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Strategic substitute management can ensure continued student learning and minimum classroom disruptions when teachers are absent. 

Effective policies, the right technology, and a supportive culture are all important factors that will make subs want to stay, and Red Rover can help improve your sub management process.

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