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Can Hiring Ed. School Students Help Solve Substitute Teacher Shortages?

Aspiring teachers in the education program at Midland University in eastern Nebraska can now gain some extra classroom experience and get paid for their work. They're part of a new effort to help alleviate the area's substitute teacher shortage.

The new program, which was launched in February, allows teacher candidates to cover for absent teachers in 11 school districts in the northeastern part of the state, reports the Fremont Tribune.

Nebraska is not alone in its attempt to leverage teacher candidates as a way to solve the substitute teacher shortage. California, for instance, also allows ed school undergraduates to earn substitute teacher certification, and for the past two years so has PennsylvaniaIllinois lawmakers are considering the idea

Midland's education students appreciate the extra cash for what amounts to on-the-job training. They earn $100 for a full day, and $50 for a half day. (Regular substitutes  in northeastern Nebraska  are generally paid somewhere around $138 for a full day and $73 for a half day. Nationally, substitute teacher pay varies widely, from $20 to $190 per day, according to the National Substitute Teacher Alliance.) Upon completing their second assignment, teacher candidates are reimbursed for the $55 substitute-teacher certificate fee.

Education school students must be in their last year to substitute teach, and there are currently 15 of them participating in the program. Eight districts have requested substitutes from the program so far, and teacher candidates have filled in 35 of the 88 times that districts have asked for coverage, according to Ted DeTurk, the administrator for Educational Service Unit 2. The regional agency provides support services such as teacher training to 16 public school districts and nine private schools in the northeastern part of the state. 

"The hope is to address some of the substitute teacher shortage while providing future teachers with great experience and a little money in their pocket," DeTurk told Education Week. He added that the program couldn't solve the entire substitute shortage for the area, at least not without a larger pool of teacher candidates. But the effort provides some relief to districts looking to replace teachers who are out sick or attending professional-development workshops, while providing teacher candidates with much needed training.

Midland University's program was inspired by a similar initiative at local Wayne State College. The Northeast Nebraska Teacher Academy was launched nearly 20 years ago, with the intitial aim of training and certifying substitutes to teach in 10 northeastern Nebraska districts experiencing severe shortages. The Academy currently works with 18 school districts and fills up to 300 substitute-teacher openings each semester, according to the Fremont Tribune.

Hiring teacher candidates to fill in for absent teachers is just one plan in the works to solve the substitute teacher shortage. School districts across the country are finding other creative ways to increase the number of substitute teachers, testing out strategies such as holding job fairs specifically for recruiting substitutes, targeting retirees and stay-at-home parents through email blasts, cutting back on requirements, or simply raising pay. 


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