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White Paper: Substitute Teachers Should Pay for Skills Training

By For Administrators, Research, Training Options

There is a common consensus among professionals that training or certification is required for most jobs.  In these training courses or certification processes key skills and abilities are demonstrated or learned. These skills are necessary to excel in the desired profession. Society expects medical doctors and nurses have sufficient schooling and training, lawyers need advanced education and internships to set them apart, and even beauticians are required to hold certifications. Teachers and school administrators are also included in this group; licensing and an education are required to work within any school. In this paper we will discuss not whether substitute teachers are required to be certified or receive additional skills training but how training can be paid for.

Students entering college or university have several options available to them to finance their education; scholarships, financial aid, sponsorship, and other means, but these options are in short supply. The majority end up ‘going it alone’ and paying for the schooling or training themselves.  This self-investment is later returned in higher salaried jobs or opportunities.  Substitute teacher training can follow this same path; self-investment.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that an individual will change jobs on average ten times throughout a career.(1)  Though this number is different from profession to profession and industry to industry it is certain that most people will change jobs many times in their career.  With so many changes throughout a career more and more people are willing to invest in themselves.  Kelly Global Workforce completed a survey in Australia and found that 74% of Generation X are prepared to spend their own money on training to upgrade their skills.  This same survey shared that 72% of Generation Y was prepared to invest their own money and 68% of Baby Boomers were prepared to invest their own money in themselves.(2)  Today, more people today than previous generations are willing to invest their own money to improve their skill set.
Gary S. Becker in Journal of Political Economy found investment in “human capital” pays off in higher wages later in life, regardless of chosen field.  (He uses the phrase “human capital” meaning skills training, education, and certification a person does to improve themselves.)  He goes on to say, those who invested in “human capital” are an “abler” person.   In other words, those individuals who invested in themselves are a more capable person.(3)
Jim Giulliano, reported similar results in He started a program that encouraged members of his staff to select and fund their own training. The results were surprising to him. He found that those who took control of their training also were the most motivated and top performers. “The top people used the program to get better or to help themselves advance with the company.”(4)
In the case of a school district and substitute teacher; when potential or current employees invest in themselves there are advantages for not only the school district but for the employee as well.  The school district improves the substitute teacher pool without raising costs; and if training is done with an outside company without putting additional strain on those who manage substitute teachers.
The benefits for the substitute teacher are numerous. Those who are willing to pay for training are the more able, motivated, and top performers. The substitute teacher becomes more invested in his/her education and to the school. He/She is showing a desire and willingness to enter the classroom and not just be a warm body but to excel and help educate students. Substitute teachers who pay for training also know right away if they really want to be a substitute teacher. Skills training reveals much of what a substitute teacher encounters day to day and therefore a potential substitute teacher can make the decision before going through the hiring process. Saving the substitute teacher and the district time and money in processing.
If a school district does require a substitute teacher to pay for training a reward or an incentive could be offered. This, once again, could or could not cost the district additional time or money. Substitute teachers could simply be recognized. They could be offered additional training, such as on-going mentoring, throughout the school year. Or possibly could be placed more often in classrooms or higher on a calling list. Simply, a district could offer higher pay to trained teachers or even a reimbursement on training.
Therefore, when the question is asked; “We would like to have training but we do not have the resources to do so?”  The response can be; “Have the substitute teacher pay.”
1. Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Grab bag, Summer 2006 Vol. 50, Number 2
3. Gary S. Becker in Journal of Political Economy Vol. 70, No. 5, Part 2 Oct. 1962, pp. 9-49“Investment in Human Capital: A Theoretical Analysis”

Substitute Teacher Training and Student Achievement

By For Administrators, Research, Training Options

There are expectations for full time teachers. There are expectations for school nurses and athletic trainers. There are expectations for the principal, the superintendent, and all those who work in these offices. Some expectations are schooling for others certifications are required. But all are held to the appropriate expectation.

There is one teaching class that is different from the rest. The expectations for substitute teachers range from teaching certificates to none at all. (1) This raises multiple questions. How have substitute teacher expectations fallen so low? Why do we expect less out of at will teachers than full time teachers? How can the expectations for substitute teachers be raised to the appropriate level?

Teachers will continue to be absent, professional development will happen, sickness will befall teachers, and other functions will be required to attend to at no fault to the teacher. However, substitute teachers who step into the classroom need to counteract the negative effect of teachers being absent. (To learn more about the effect of teacher absenteeism click here) This can be accomplished by utilizing substitute teachers who employ a high self efficacy.

Psychologist Albert Bandura stated, “what people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave.” (Bandura, 1986) Self-efficacy studies were developed to measure an “individual’s perception of their ability.” (Pajares, 1996) Bandura in 1986 and Cheryl Trull in 2004 both agree and conclude, “self-efficacy appears to be a good predictor of behavior.” (Trull, 2004)

Much research has been done in the area of self efficacy and teacher efficacy. This research shows how a person who has high self efficacy impacts positively the students they teach. In a list of research in this area complied by Trull teachers who have high self-efficacy are:

•  More fulfilled and dedicated in and to their profession
•  They center teaching around the student
•  Willing to meet the needs of their students through new methods
•  Able to persist when things don’t go as planned
•  Able to perceive their student’s learning levels
•  More frequent in offering assistance to students with learning problems and to help them become more successful
•  Less likely to submit students with learning problems for special services
•  Able to set higher goals and expect more from students
•  Work longer with students who are falling behind
•  Able to teach students in such a way that the students outperform other classes
•  A predictor of success for students on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, the Canadian Achievement Test, and the Ontario Assessment Instrument Pool (Trull, 2004)

When substitute teachers enter the classroom with high self-efficacy they have a positive impact on the students they teach. Therefore, the focus of improving the classroom when the teacher is away is on the substitute teacher. A positive way to influence a substitute teachers self-efficacy, and as a result a students performance, is to engage them in skills training. developed The Substitute Teacher Self Efficacy Study (STSES) to measure the effect of skills training on a substitute teacher’s self-efficacy. STSES was based off the Ohio State Teacher Efficacy Scale (OSTES) later called the Teachers Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES) which, to quote Trull summarizing Tschannen-Moran, speaking of TSES “the instrument was demonstrated to be superior to previous measures of teacher efficacy by assessing a broad range of capabilities considered important by teachers, yet not so specific to deny comparisons of teachers in context, levels, and subjects.” (Trull, 2004)

STSES was utilized to measure the impact of the skills taught in The Substitute Teacher Handbook and in the SubSkills Online Training. Measuring those substitute teachers who passed training with an 85% (standard passing score) STSES found in the areas of Classroom Management and Teaching Strategies construct a substitute teachers self-efficacy increased. In addition, it was found that after training was complete and the substitute teacher entered the classroom their self-efficacy remained higher then pre training scores.

These results show that a trained substitute teacher in classroom management and teaching strategies can have a great impact on student achievement. Skills’ training is therefore necessary for substitute teachers who have not received skills training previously, such as certified teachers. Through training, non-certified substitute teachers can meet expectations and improve student achievement. developed its overall training courses with all these points in mind. Following this scheduled shows, most importantly, to improve student performance by raising a substitute teacher’s level of self-efficacy. Additional benefits of this method include:

1. Reduced the liability and exposure of a school district
2. Reduced hiring costs by eliminating excess applications
3. Reduced time managing substitute teachers by reducing complaints
4. Reduced turnover by having a more satisfied substitute teaching pool

The STEDI Model

  1. Establish high expectations for highly trained substitute teachers.
  2. Utilize SubSkills Online Training to raise the skill level of non-certified substitute teachers. Also as initial screening and training prior to hire and paid for by the applicant.
  3. Hold a live training using the Substitute Teacher Handbook allowing time for orientation of new substitute teachers, discussion, observations, and role-play of key skills.
  4. Use Advanced Online Training courses for substitute teachers who are looking to excel and to provide additional training.



Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Pajares, F. (1996). Role of self-efficacy beliefs in the mathematical problem-solving of gifted students. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 21, 325-344.

Trull, C. (2004). The Effects of Substitute Teacher Training on the Teaching Efficacy of Prospective Substitute Teachers in the State of West Virginia. Blacksburg, VA

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