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How to improve your last-minute substitute teacher fill rate

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last-minute teacher absences are a part of life in K-12 education. Whether it’s a bug going around or a family emergency, there are a number of reasons why schools may face an unexpected, hard-to-fill absences.

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At Swing Education, we’re no strangers to covering last-minute teacher absences — our substitute teacher community has filled nearly 7,000 last-minute requests this school year alone! Over the years, we’ve developed a number of strategies to help our 1,200-plus school partners improve their last-minute fill rate. Here are five of the most effective:

1. Use historical data to project need

It’s impossible to predict with 100% certainty how many last-minute absences you might have on a given day, but historical data can help you develop an informed plan. If, for instance, you know that you’ve averaged five last-minute teacher absences on Mondays in February, you can reserve subs in advance to ensure adequate coverage for those days.

2. Time is of the essence

Every second counts when it comes to filling a last-minute teacher absence. The sooner you push a request to substitute teachers, the more likely you’ll be able to get it filled. Developing a process around issuing requests quickly can go a long way toward improving fill rate.

3. Delay the assignment start time

If, say, a request goes out at 7:30 a.m. for an assignment that begins at 8:15 a.m., there may not be enough time for subs in your area to accept, get ready for the day, and commute to your building. In fact, this is among the most common concerns Swing substitute teachers express about accepting morning-of requests — subs sometimes pass on assignments rather than risk getting negative feedback for being late.

Given this context, it can be a good idea to delay the start of an assignment (even if it means an administrator or another teacher has to cover the first-period class) to increase the chances that a sub can arrive on time and cover the absence.

4. Issue detailed requests

In addition to concerns about getting to campus on time, confusion about the specific nature of a last-minute request can cause some substitute teachers to avoid it (or, worse yet, accept the request and then cancel). The more important details you can include in the request, the better. This includes areas like:

  • Grade level and subject
  • Where to park
  • Where to check in
  • Any available lesson plans/notes for the day

5. Expand your sub pool

Ultimately, a big part of successfully filling a last-minute teacher absence comes down to sheer numbers. The more substitute teachers you have in your pool, the better chance you have of finding one in a pinch. So, in addition to developing and maintaining a reliable, quality group of your own substitute teachers, a resource like Swing Education, which has the ability to push out your last-minute requests in real-time to a vetted pool of high-quality, experienced subs in your area, can go a long way toward getting classed covered.

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