Schools at every level are assessing the cost of the Covid-19 pandemic. That cost isn’t just monetary. Aside from obvious learning losses due to school closings, most schools dealt with teachers retiring early, people leaving the profession altogether, a spike in teacher burnout, and a dwindling pool of substitute teachers.
With unparalleled transparency afforded to parents during the pandemic, charter schools faced difficult questions and challenging demands from parents and stakeholders, the answers often determining whether or not a student stayed at their school or took their tuition to a competing educational institution.
The Ripple Effect
When a teacher is absent, it has a ripple effect on the school. That effect is magnified when administrators cannot procure substitute teachers. In those instances, fellow teachers and administrators must fill the vacancy. The costs of colleagues covering for one another are numerous: they have less time to plan, grade, meet with parents, and recharge.
According to the nonprofit public policy organization Brookings:
"Chronically absent teachers can cause their classes to stagnate and potentially compel colleagues to work harder to pick up the slack."
Covering for colleagues when substitutes cannot be found adds to the responsibilities that lead to teacher burnout. In the United States, K-12 workers have the highest burnout level of all industries nationally, and the burnout gap between K-12 workers and all other workers has increased. Preventing this growing burnout is a formidable task for school leadership. Having a sufficient supply of quality substitute teachers is one remedy.
Of course, principals and assistant principals can also cover classes, but at what cost? When administrators have to cover a class (or several), they are not performing their myriad of other responsibilities. If there is a discipline issue in the school and the school leaders cannot address it promptly, it can disrupt multiple classes and affect other teachers and students. Office staff also feel the impact when administrators are unavailable, as they may have to handle parent, teacher, and student concerns. When administrators return from covering classes, they are often bombarded with multiple urgent items, which can be chaotic.
Proactive Vs. Reactive
School leaders are keenly aware of the impact competent substitute teachers have on schools. In the wake of the pandemic, that impact has intensified. When (not if), academic achievement suffers due to an inadequate supply of substitutes or merely mediocre substitute teachers, it’s the students who pay the price.
For charter schools, if the aforementioned ripple effect turns into a wave, it can lead to parents deciding to pull their student(s) (and their tuition) from the school. For these reasons and more, school leaders must be proactive rather than reactive in the quest for quality substitute teachers.
Deciding to work with a substitute teacher staffing agency–an agency specifically geared for the educational sector and dedicated to pairing competent, reliable, well-trained substitute teachers–increases the likelihood of a successful match that can be a foundation for future success. The cost-both financial and academic-is well worth the investment.
Evaluating A Substitute Teacher Staffing Agency for Charter Schools
If you've never worked with an education-specific agency, here are some critical things to seek out:
Research their experience, reputation, and quality of subs.
Find out their fill rate—this speaks to how proactive they are in connecting schools and subs.
Determine if they are a good cultural fit for your school.
Establish their support availability—Can they efficiently troubleshoot when something goes wrong?
Do they provide support and mentorship to their subs?
Is their service flexible and customizable?
Do they have a streamlined system that enables hassle-free staffing (i.e., a user-friendly online platform)?
Schools should look to avoid a staffing agency that places their people in a school and leaves them to fend for themselves. A first-rate agency will offer ongoing education and support to the substitutes they place, continually check in with school leaders to ensure placements are going smoothly, and provide access to an efficient customer experience team. Working with a staffing agency should not feel like a risk to a school and its students but rather an investment in the school's future.
Consistently Secure Quality Subs on Your Campus
As a charter administrator, you are juggling dozens of responsibilities and need to take advantage of support where possible. In our new ebook, The Power of Quality Substitutes: How Hiring and Maintaining the Best Substitutes Can Improve Your Charter School, we dive into tactics and solutions you can use to make hiring and managing substitutes one less thing you have to worry about.
Download to learn more!