Missouri could have a speedy option for aspiring substitute teachers. The state Board of Education has unanimously approved a comment period for a rule that would permanently allow them to complete online training of at least 20 hours as another choice to earn a substitute teacher certificate. The standard 60 college credit hours will remain as the other option.

Last August, the board voted to temporarily give prospective substitutes the alternative pathway to achieve certification. The move was meant to help bridge a projected gap in a teacher shortage during COVID-19.

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Spokesperson Mallory McGowin tells Missourinet the public comment period could begin in June. The board is expected to formally vote in August on a proposal that would make the expedited training option permanent. If approved, the program would launch sometime after that.

By February, about 4,400 individuals had completed the online program, according to Dr. Paul Katnik, assistant commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has been gathering data to allow the board to decide whether the program should be offered on a permanent basis. During Tuesday’s board meeting, Katnik said some districts have filled out surveys about the alternative path.

Penmac Staffing Agency surveyed the performance of 103 substitute teachers who completed a total of 1,356 assignments in a variety of Missouri school districts. Katnik said the agency did not have any negative feedback about the program.

ESS Staffing also worked with subs who have completed the online training.

“All superintendents felt that they (subs) performed at least as well if not better than others. All superintendents were in favor of continuing the online training,” Katnik said.

DESE conducted its own survey to find out what schools have to say. About 221 people responded.

“Ninety-percent have hired substitute teachers who did the online training. Eighty-percent filled over 10 assignments. Forty-percent over 20 (assignments). Ninety-five percent of the responses said they (subs) met or exceeded expectations. In particular, they highlighted competence in engaging with students, showing professionalism, providing basic instructional strategies, performing classroom management techniques. Sixty-nine percent felt they performed as well, 22% slightly or significantly better than those with 60 semester hours. Ninety-six percent said they will continue to use substitute teachers who are trained online. Nearly 93% felt the online training should be a permanent part of the substitute teacher certificate,” said Katnik.

Frontline Education is the company who offered the accelerating training.

“Since September 2nd, 5,981 absences were completed by the subs who did online training there. Those subs, in their ratings scale, 1-5, received a 4.75 rating, which compares to a 4.72 rating if you had 60 semester hours,” he said.

The training topics include engaging students, basic instructional strategies and working with at-risk youth as well as students with special needs.

The training cost to state or local agencies and individuals or private entities is estimated to be no more than a total of $500 each.

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