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Dr. Joanne Meier
Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.
No substitute for a teacher
Molly's teacher leaves this Friday for maternity leave. The long-term sub has been hired, the kids have been prepped, and they're throwing her a baby shower before she goes. Sounds good, right?
I sat down to our local paper last week to the headline: Increased use of substitute teachers has negative effect. USA Today carried the story with an even stronger headline: Teacher absences hurting learning. Ouch! Not what this mother wants to read as her daughter embarks upon 8-10 weeks with a substitute teacher.
According to the story, the problem with subs isn't just with teachers home for a day or two — it's the use of subs to fill full-time vacancies. Nationwide, according to Education Department data, the number of schools reporting that they used substitutes to fill regular teaching vacancies doubled between 1994 and 2004.
Other data, from a study out of the University of Washington, suggests that 10 teacher absences within a year cause a significant loss in math achievement (fourth-grade math test scores being the measure used). YIKES!
There are so many issues: good teachers are hard to find, good subs maybe even harder, varying state standards for subs, lack of meaningful lesson plans left for subs, bonding between students and the sub, and differing expectations just to name a few.
For our own personal situation, the silver lining to this cloud might be our county guidelines: "To be approved to fill a long-term substitute position, candidates or applicants must hold or be eligible for a Virginia teaching license to teach the subject/grade of the long-term assignment." It's not a panacea, for sure, but a step in the right direction.
What's your experience with subs? What are your district's requirements for substitute teachers?