With the substitute teacher shortage taking a toll across the country, many schools and districts are struggling to find the best way to cover teacher absences.
Many turn to outside agencies to improve fill-rate. Schools and districts use these agencies in different ways — some outsource their entire substitute teacher operations, others supplement their internal teacher pool, while others use them specifically for hard-to-fill absences.
When finding subs through an agency or a platform, like Swing Education, you’re guaranteeing that the substitutes are qualified, highly vetted, knowledgeable, and eager to work.
No matter how you choose to supplement your sub pool, here are the benefits of working with a partner to find, manage, and retains subs:
1. Emphasis on substitute teacher recruiting
Recruiting is one of the most important functions of a successful substitute teacher staffing agency, and they have more time and resources to spend on this function than schools and districts. Without a large, reliable pool of subs, agencies likely won’t be able to provide sufficient absence coverage to their school partners.
Of course, agencies face the same barriers to hiring substitute teachers as schools and districts do — namely, that there’s a limited supply of qualified subs in many states. That’s why it’s so important for agencies to invest heavily in substitute teacher recruiting.
When selecting an agency to partner with, look for someone that’s using a variety of methods to build their sub pools, including:
- Job boards
- Digital and print advertisements
- Programmatic advertisements
- Social media
- Job fairs
- University partnerships
2. Support system for substitutes
Substitute teachers have a lot of employment options in today’s K-12 landscape, and agencies that invest in and support their substitute teachers will often do a better job of attracting and retaining top subs. Given the importance of educator quality on student success, an agency’s investment in its substitute teachers can have a significant impact on learning in your school communities.
Some of the ways top agencies support their substitute teachers include:
- Reimbursements for educator certifications and clearances, including renewals
- Free professional development materials
- Appreciation events and giveaways
- Free text notifications for jobs (some agencies rely on paid services like SubAlert, SubSidekick, or Jobulator to help inform subs of openings)
3. A focus on quality subs
Investing in substitute teachers is a big piece of developing a high-quality pool of substitute teachers, but there’s more to it than that. Staffing agencies also have policies and processes in place to support substitute teacher quality.
As you evaluate different agencies, consider asking the following questions:
- Screening: Does the agency have safeguards to ensure all substitute teachers meet local requirements for background checks and certifications?
- Development: Does the agency offer courses/professional development opportunities to its substitute teachers?
Feedback: Does the agency have a coaching/support mechanism in place to act on constructive feedback from school partners?
4. Strong customer service
As with any business, customer service is an important part of a successful substitute teacher staffing agency. Given the nature of K-12 education, however, the consequences of inadequate customer support in a staffing agency may be more severe than in other fields.
For example, if a school needs to fill an unexpected teacher absence but can’t reach the agency’s support team to coordinate, that absence may go unfilled — which could force schools to combine classes or pull staff from prep periods.
Similarly, if a substitute teacher has to back out of an assignment at the last minute, it will be important for the agency to maintain close communication with the school and quickly find an available educator for that day.
5. Effective technology
Different substitute teacher staffing agencies operate differently — and use technology in different ways — but no matter the specifics, technology is an important part of covering absences.
Two of the most important ways effective technology can help agencies provide a superior experience relate to fill rate and sub-school fit.
Agencies that have technology to quickly process requests and make them available to a large number of substitute teachers in real-time will be more likely to be able to cover hard-to-fill absences. And software that helps schools identify subs that best fit their communities goes a long way toward building the right pool of educators.
Ideally, the benefit of outsourcing your sub pool is that your partner becomes an extension of your team, able to invest in the sub experience so you can focus your energy elsewhere.