Can Someone with Minimal Skills and Training be a Successful Teacher

Senate Co-Sponsorship Memoran

Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 – 2016 Regular Session


Posted: May 24, 2016 10:09 AM
From: Senator Lloyd K. Smucker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Relieving the Substitute Teacher Shortage
I will soon be introducing legislation aimed at increasing the pool of substitute teachers for school districts faced with a growing shortage.

A joint Senate and House Education Committee hearing, held in October of 2015, highlighted a growing scarcity of substitute teachers in the Commonwealth, which is an offshoot of a growing shortage of teachers nationwide. Some school districts have been reporting “fill” rates of only 70 percent on any given day, and some areas have opted to outsource their substitutes or have been left with no choice but to request frequent “emergency” permits for day-to-day substitutes.

Among the solutions offered by educators at the October hearing was to tap into the pool of future teachers now studying in our colleges and universities.  Allowing these students to serve as substitute teachers will give them valuable experience and early exposure to the classroom environment, while also providing a readily available, cost-effective and high-quality pool of teachers for school districts.

Specifically, my legislation would allow college students who have completed 60 credit hours and who are enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a four-year college in Pennsylvania to substitute for a limited number of days in any school district in the Commonwealth.

For every year after their first year of substituting, college students would be required to obtain additional credits in order to remain a substitute.

Editor’s comment: I understand the issue of a substitute teacher shortage and the dilemma that creates for school districts. However, after serving as the Coordinator of student teaching for Slippery Rock University for over 11 years I have serious reservations about using college students who have only 60 credits. Many of these students will not have had important courses  and training in classroom management and teaching strategies.  The purpose of student teaching and field experiences is to mentor the teacher candidate so they will eventually be a successful teacher and eventually a master teacher. I know that many students are not ready to walk into a classroom and be in charge without the proper mentoring. If I was still a building principal I would not accept substitutes with these minimal skills and training.

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