The Missouri Board of Education has voted 6-2 today in favor of temporarily giving substitute teacher candidates an alternative to get certified. The proposal was offered to help reduce an expected shortage of substitutes during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under the plan, candidates can go through 20 hours of state-approved online training or complete the traditional 60 hours of college credit hours. The cost is expected to be about $100 to $200 per candidate, plus another $50 for certification.
During today’s board meeting, Paul Katnik, Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Educator Quality, said the training includes topics about:
1. Professionalism: Appropriate conduct, confidentiality, legal responsibilities
2. Honoring diversity: Basic terminology and appropriate actions
3. Student engagement: Basic definitions and appropriate strategies
4. Foundational classroom management techniques: Ways to control a classroom and diffusing conflict
5. Basic instructional strategies: Effective questioning, assessment methods, lesson plans
6. Supporting students with special needs: Basic terminology of disorders and characteristics and appropriate strategies
7. Working with at-risk youth: Learning traits, characteristics, and appropriate strategies
Katnik told the board the training must be aligned to Missouri teacher standards and include embedded assessments.
“So you can’t progress through the training unless you pass quizzes along the way that says ‘I learned what you just taught me,’” he said.
Katnik said data will also be produced about the effectiveness of each substitute’s training.
“Not only how did the individual do as they were trained and how well did they do when they started serving as a substitute teacher, but you have to offer up data that says school districts and teachers where this person worked can tell us how well they did at substitute teaching. I would just note, we don’t have that with 60 semester hours right now,” he said.
Member Mary Schrag of West Plains thanked Katnik for creating an accountability measure.
“I think for the rural areas in particular, it’s very helpful because finding subs is extremely difficult and even actually finding enough educators right now is a challenge,” she said.
Member Carol Hallquist of Kansas City, who backed the plan, said about 200,000 retired teachers or those who have left the profession could help. She questioned if the proposal is necessary.
“One of the substitute teacher providers checked in with their retired people and said ‘How willing are you to substitute teach?’ They said a great percentage of them said ‘not now.’ They’re going to be in a higher risk group. Those are going to be folks that are a little older and so the risks are going to be a little bit higher,” said Katnik.
Board President Charlie Shields of St. Joseph adamantly opposed the measure and said he is troubled by the message it sends.
“We have said as a board for as long as I’ve been on this board, that a post-secondary educational experience is important – that we believe nobody should stop at high school. So, I think this sends the message that it’s okay to stop at high school,” said Shields.
He also foresees the proposal becoming permanent.
“This idea that somehow we’ll go back after February, I’ve just watched it. There will be big time pressure put on us to continue to lower down the expectations of substitutes so we won’t go back,” he said. “So if you vote for this today, you’ll vote for something very similar for this in February. That’s just my experience of watching this on the board.”
Shields said the substitute shortage is about money.
“You have trouble getting substitutes for what you’re willing to pay substitutes,” he said. “They’re out there. You just have to find the right dollar amount to get them.”
Board Vice President Victor Lenz opposed the plan and shared a similar tone.
“How many people want to do it for what they’re getting for it? We need to elevate the teaching profession as is. Our teachers are not valued for what they are,” said Lenz. “A strong sub pool is deep with knowledge and ability and all that kind of stuff. What we’re talking about doing is making a big pool – a lot of people – but very shallow. I’m in a quandary with this whole thing because it is an emergency, but it’s not a total solution.”
Member Kim Bailey of Raymore said the proposal is probably economically-driven and fear-driven by the pandemic.
“I don’t know that we can fix either of those on an emergency basis,” she said. “I share your concern, Charlie, it’s a slippery slope and that we don’t want to slide down too quick and too fast on quality. And keeping in mind that we are in an emergency situation, I like the idea of cautiously moving forward and that there’s going to be measures on it.”
Member Don Claycomb of Linn supported the plan.
“The key word, I think, is emergency,” said Claycomb. “We’re in an emergency situation and when we’re in an emergency situation, I think we have to look at what is the lesser of the evils – granted that none of the options are perfect.”
Hallquist asked what would happen if a school runs short on subs and teachers. Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven said the school could move to online learning. Claycomb said additional kids could also be combined into other classrooms.
“What’s best for Missouri’s children,” asked Hallquist. “Is it to cram 45 into a class or is it to have someone who’s had some training handle that class?”
If the board is asked to make the alternative a permanent option like Shields predicts, member Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge of Pasadena Hills said members will need more information first.
“I don’t know about making this super permanent. I think this is something that could be perceived by some as watering down our quality pool,” she said. “So I would be happy with a balanced solution where we took this action but we monitored it very closely to make sure that we were getting the outcomes we wanted before we decided to make it more permanent. For me, it’s moving forward but moving forward cautiously to resolve the capacity constraints. If the data tells you this wasn’t a good move, we won’t over-commit and we can always correct.”
She said the longer-term measure would have to inject more quality in order for her to be comfortable with it.
“I think what we’re all struggling with right now is the short-term stopgap measure presented to us by Paul is meant to create a larger sub pool but we don’t feel good about the quality,” said Westbrooks-Hodge. “So, it’s quantitative and it’s not necessarily qualitative, which makes the monitoring and the short-term nature of this stopgap measure very real. For me, the monitoring of this short-term measure has to be there, but I don’t think long-term we can compromise the quality of the education that our students receive because we’re currently in crisis mode. I definitely understand the need to make an emergency short-term decision, but don’t think that we can compromise our children’s future long-term by making this permanent without a quality plan as well.”
The emergency rule is set to take effect on September 2 and expire at the end of February 2021.
Missouri has 555 public school districts and charter schools.
Missouri Board of Education to consider proposal intended to boost substitute teacher population: https://wp.me/p16gMv-wQT
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