Sub Shortage forces MCPS’ Hand

by Zach Seymour ’20

In Montgomery County the shortage of substitute teachers is obvious throughout schools. Last year on average 120 requests for substitutes were left unfilled each school day.  This left schools scrambling for other educators in the building to cover classes, ripping them away from their work. This practice also can leave teachers not versed in the subject to cover a class that they cannot teach. This level of unreliability in their pool of subs pushed Montgomery County Public Schools to change their requirements for prospective substitutes over the past summer. 

In hopes of finding a larger number of substitutes, MCPS has lowered the entrance requirements to become a substitute teacher in public schools. For many years MCPS held a higher standard for qualifications for substitutes than eight other school systems around them, which drove to a smaller pool of applicants for the job. The requirements for an MCPS substitute will now only be an associate’s degree or 60 college credits. 

With these new changes to the qualifications needed for the position, MCPS should have had an uptick in the number of substitutes and a decrease in the spots being unfilled. But and it is yet to be seen if these changes will be successful. Extensive red tape may be contributing to the continuation of the shortage. Since the changes were approved by MCPS in July, many who are in the new wider pool of applicants may not have been able to be certified in time to fill positions. The process of becoming certified as a substitute teacher can consist of the applicant waiting for months while absences go unfilled. 

Though a countywide issue, some schools such as Sherwood seem to be faring better with the shortage, according to Carolyn. Holonich, School Administrative Secretary at Sherwood. This is because of the practice of where teachers find their own substitutes rather than relying on the MCPS system. This gives teachers a sense of security of who is overseeing their class and allows them to pick someone who they think can take care of their plans for the class.  Many Sherwood teachers have formed connections with substitutes which they use and will have a way to contact them directly instead of going through the MCPS system. The Social Studies department has a list of well known subs which explains the familiarity that the Sherwood students have with many “regulars” known around the school.

It is yet to be seen if lessening requirements on the prospective teachers will fix the problem facing MCPS. The true effectiveness of these changes will be tested later in the year when more candidates will have had the opportunity to get through the certification process.