National statistics reveal that the average teacher is absent 11 days every 186-day school year. Some of these absences are predictable (such as professional development opportunities or school field trips) and some are not (such as an illness or family emergency). School districts across the country need to cover these absences while maintaining instructional continuity. The scheduling of substitute teachers is, therefore, a significant responsibility. Without the necessary resources, the process can be cumbersome and labor-intensive. For this reason, it is important to carefully analyze district needs in order to facilitate understanding and optimize the scheduling of substitute teachers.
6 Tips for Managing Substitute Teacher Scheduling
There are several best practices to keep in mind when managing substitute teacher scheduling:
- Conduct a thorough study of teacher absence data to facilitate substitute scheduling; look at trends and observe patterns. Understanding your substitute teacher needs is the first step to managing the scheduling process more effectively.
- Stagger professional development between buildings and among grade levels. Data compiled by Frontline Education shows that fill rates are lowest on Mondays and Fridays, so those days should be avoided altogether. Many districts are opting to schedule widespread PD before the school year begins or on occasions such as Election Day when staff reports but students are not in school.
- Encourage early reporting of teacher absences whenever possible. Fill rates tend to be lower when absences are reported at the last minute. If teachers understand that scheduling a substitute is more likely the earlier their absence is reported, they will be more willing to comply.
- Create a culture of professionalism around your substitute teachers. Help them feel that they are valued and welcome in your schools. In a survey by Frontline Education, substitute teachers reported that district culture (48%) was more important than pay (33%), and administrative support (29%) was nearly as important when it comes to choosing one district over another. Nurturing this critical professional relationship has clear potential to improve substitute scheduling in your district.
- Provide training to substitute teachers. When substitutes feel prepared for the job, they are more willing to accept assignments. Having a comprehensive training program ensures better-prepared, more confident staff able to meet challenges head-on.
- Consider the use of an automated scheduling system, if one is not already in place in your district. It eliminates the need to have district personnel calling substitutes to schedule coverage and facilitates not only recordkeeping but data analysis, as well.
The Benefits of an Automated Substitute Teacher Scheduling System
The use of a 24/7 automated absence management system greatly simplifies the scheduling of substitute teachers. Here are a few of the advantages of online systems:
- Accessible around the clock via computer or mobile device, allowing for the remote reporting of teacher absences and rapid scheduling of substitutes 365 days a year.
- Eliminates the need for manual phone calls. Aside from the self-reporting of a teacher absence and the acceptance of a substitute assignment, no additional personnel transactions are required since all matching, scheduling, and notifications are automated.
- Connects your substitute teacher scheduling program with human resources and payroll platforms, dramatically reducing the paperwork required to manage substitute teachers by tracking hours worked in multiple locations.
- Improves communication as the teacher, substitute, and building designee receive automatic scheduling notifications.
- Efficiently improves fill rates as notifications of teacher absences are widely disseminated to qualified, available substitutes until accepted and scheduled.
- Allows for customized settings that provide data tracking and facilitate detailed analysis.
Expert Scheduling Solutions Are Available
When fill rates are low or substitute teacher scheduling becomes a problem, there is help available. Getting assistance from an educational staffing agency can bring clarity and customized solutions to school districts’ scheduling concerns. Not only can they help to analyze existing teacher absence data and hire more substitutes, but a top-notch agency can take the entire responsibility off of the district’s plate with a wraparound solution. This comprehensive approach will address shortages and improve outcomes, and it may also save the district time and money.
An education-exclusive company, like ESS, can meet your district where it is now, help you examine current data, and formulate a plan to improve fill-rates and ensure instructional continuity. Better yet, ESS will recruit, hire, and train qualified substitutes, including your “district originals” to create a fine-tuned database of quality substitute teachers. But perhaps the best news is that through an integrated platform of technology applications, we will assume the responsibility of scheduling and managing this key group of education professionals efficiently for the long term.
Contact ESS for help with fine-tuning your substitute teacher scheduling. With decades of experience, we have helped districts large and small optimize the management of this vital group of education professionals.
Phil has been supporting school districts across the country for more than 12 years. He works hands-on with districts implementing customized solutions to improve their substitute teacher and support staff programs. When he’s not increasing districts’ fill rates, Phil can be found swinging his clubs on a golf course.