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How Quality Substitutes Impact Learning and Achievement in Charter Schools

How Quality Substitutes Impact Learning and Achievement in Charter Schools

The merits of quality substitute teachers may seem obvious, however, in light of the turmoil in education (the world, really) over the past few years, that fact is even more vital. Students need additional social-emotional learning, teacher absenteeism is rising, and there is a shortage of substitute teachers—quality or otherwise. School leaders cannot afford to settle and assign any adult to fill classroom vacancies. This point is even more critical in charter schools, as the implications of unhappy parents and stakeholders carry the additional danger of losing students to competing institutions. 


What DO Substitutes DO?

What responsibilities are your substitutes covering? They:

  • Take attendance

  • Make announcements

  • Handle discipline and maintain classroom order  

  • Continue a teacher's duties (i.e., lunch/hall/bus/recess duty)

  • Teach provided lessons

This list is merely a jumping-off point, as many substitute teachers manage these and many other tasks. Long-term substitutes may plan lessons, give and grade assignments, attend field trips, oversee clubs, and attend meetings. 

Traditionally facing much more adversity from students than regular teachers, substitutes must be flexible, fearless, and firm. Quality substitute teachers also have strong interpersonal skills, resilience, confidence, and character.

Substitute Teacher Relationships 

Building positive relationships with students is essential to student learning and academic achievement. According to ScienceDirect:

“Substantial research literature indicates that positive teacher-student relationships (TSRs) promote students' academic achievement.” 

The same applies to substitute teachers. Building relationships takes time; there needs to be consistency in who delivers their instruction, not a cast of rotating characters, which is why maintaining a quality substitute teacher staffing pool is so important for schools. Many charter schools are smaller than their public counterparts, so building relationships is even more essential. 

Bridging the Gap

In recognizing substitute teachers' significant contributions to school programs, the National Education Association refers to substitutes as educational bridges. In an ideal world, when teachers cannot be present in their classroom, there should be a seamless transition to a substitute. That can only happen when students are familiar with and comfortable with a substitute teacher. 

Professional Development and Student Achievement

The better the teachers are, the better the outcome for students, and that holds true for all schools- charter, private, and public. Even the most seasoned teachers can grow and improve; professional development has long been one-way teachers have accomplished this. 

Learning for Justice explains:

“Good teachers form the foundation of good schools, and improving teachers’ skills and knowledge is one of the most important investments of time and money that local, state, and national leaders make in education.” 

Professional development days are often built into school calendars, however, for the most part, those days focus on general teaching skills and best practices. Enhancing these skills can certainly lead to increased student success. Still, teachers (and, by extension, students) also require professional development geared toward their specific subject area. 

More often than not, these content-specific professional development opportunities require a teacher to be out of their classroom, often out of their building, for a day or more, thus necessitating the need for a substitute. If a teacher is lucky enough to have a school with a substitute teacher to step in to teach their class, they often still hesitate to attend the professional development out of guilt that students will lose precious learning time. 

If schools provide quality substitute teachers, teachers will be more likely to seek out opportunities for professional development, secure in the knowledge that a capable, reliable substitute teacher will be with their classes. 

Finding Quality Substitutes

Just as teachers are pulled in a dozen directions, charter principals and other administrators are as well. Spending time finding, interviewing, vetting, and cultivating quality substitute teachers is time taken away from the many other, equally important tasks. This is where a professional staffing agency can help, specifically one solely dedicated to educational staffing. 

A competent substitute teacher staffing agency will work with a school to customize a substitute pool. They will talk extensively with school leaders to find the people who will be the most successful for their building, ensuring a good fit for the school’s culture, demographics, and specific needs. 

The ability and effort to match schools with candidates that best fit their needs are particularly essential to charter schools. At a charter school, decisions about how best to serve students aren't made at a district office; instead, they are made by teachers and administrators who know the student population they serve. An educational staffing agency whose people spend time and effort familiarizing themselves with a school’s culture and builds a customized substitute pool is invaluable.


Substitute Hiring Tips for Busy Charter School Administrators

How can hiring quality substitute teachers help reduce teacher burnout, boost staff morale, lower teacher absenteeism, and improve overall school performance? We have answers! Check out our new ebook, The Power of Quality Substitutes: How Hiring and Maintaining the Best Substitutes Can Improve Your Charter School. Stop struggling with finding and hiring substitutes. Use our ebook to make the process much easier and more successful! 

the power of substitutes