Sunday, January 10, 2010

New York Times takes up the problem of substitute teachers: training and licensure

Carolyn Bucior ran an op-ed in the Jan. 3 New York Times, “The Replacements”, with some startling statistics: 77% of US school districts give substitute teachers no training, and 56% hire without a face to face interview. (In spring 2004, at least, Fairfax County VA did not conduct one, but nearby Arlington County did.)

In 28 states, principles can hire subs with only a high school diploma. They can be as young as 18.

In some cases, “real world” people (as subs) with no teacher training are actually good for kids --- if the kids are mature enough to grasp what the “real adult world” will expect of them, as they relate to an adult who has been in the real workplace, without the filter of teacher’s licensure education. (I used to say to some classes, especially the Honors ones, with a block-long assignment, “this is a dress rehearsal for the workplace.” In AP chem., I remember a kid -- who could have been a teammate of Michael Phelps if he had wanted to -- who would grab three lab desks to organize his work, and then just have it. I think he’s in med school now.) But less mature kids, needing more attention, may be lost, and that’s where the discipline problems can start.

Today, Jan. 10, the Times ran several LTE’s in reply (you can fund it all at this link), the last of which recommends that school districts hire only permanent certified teachers as subs and pay them as regular teachers. Of course, in today’s budget-starved world that doesn’t sound too likely in a lot of communities.

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