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Volume 15, Number 5
September/October 1999

Schools Get Creative to Find Good Subs

Clusters, flexes, temps, and training help districts deal with a growing shortage


Every morning at 6 a.m., Charlie Skidmore, assistant headmaster at the Brighton (MA) High School, calls the city’s school department to find out how many teachers will be absent, and how many substitutes he’ll need to cover their classes. When there aren’t enough subs, teachers have to double up on classes, skip needed preparation time, and miss opportunities for professional development. "It puts a strain on everyone," says Skidmore. And not just at Brighton. Across the country, school districts are scrambling to find substitutes to fill empty classrooms.

While there are no national statistics showing just how many subs are needed, state data and anecdotal evidence confirm the problem. Several national trends are feeding the shortfall: ballooning student enrollments, dwindling ranks of teachers, and low unemployment that gives potential subs other options. "We were short of substitutes almost every day last year," reports Bob Minthorn, supervisor for school personnel in Hillsborough County, FL. "On our worst day, we needed 1,122 subs and I could only fill 914 of those vacancies. Substitutes who wanted to be teachers are long gone—they’ve been hired [as full-time teachers]."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    The Substitute Teachers Homepage offers information for and about subs.

    Geoffrey G. Smith
    Substitute Teaching Institute
    Utah State University
    8200 Old Main Hill
    Logan, UT 84322-8200

    Professional Year Program (PYP) Wright State University 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy Dayton, OH 45435-0001.

    Opis 401 Edgewater Place, Suite 140 Wakefield, MA 01880-6210.