New county policy lowers substitute teacher qualifications

By Heather Wang

In July, the MCPS Board of Education lowered the qualifications to be a substitute teacher. New legislation made the minimum academic experience for substitute teachers an associate degree or 60 college credits, where a bachelor’s degree used to be necessary. By adopting this policy, the Board hopes to increase the amount of available substitutes. 

MCPS has frequently faced substitute teacher shortages due to a high demand and a small pool. Though many retired MCPS teachers come back to teach as substitutes, an average of 120 substitute teacher requests remain unfilled everyday. 

“At certain times of the year, we have people out due to sickness or special holidays,” MCPS Board of Education vice president Patricia O’Neill said. “Rarely a day goes by during which we don’t need a substitute for one of our schools.”

MCPS officials decided to change the criteria for substitute teachers after a Paint Branch High School parent suggested that individuals with associate degrees should be able to substitute teach.

In addition to the parent’s suggestion, officials also compared MCPS’ amount of substitute teachers to those of other counties in the area. For other counties, including Fairfax and Prince George’s County, an associate degree is sufficient to be a substitute teacher; these counties had less of a substitute shortage.

Finding substitutes in MCPS has been much easier since the new policy went into effect, several Whitman teachers said.

“[The policy] makes it easier for the administration, because they don’t have to scramble to get coverage for people’s classes,” social studies teacher Andrew Sonnabend said. “Some parts of the county have a tougher time finding substitutes, and [this policy] maybe will help them by making a bigger pool of people who can substitute.”

Even though the policy may make it easier to find substitutes, Leslie Appino, an English teacher at Paint Branch, is concerned that it may lead to the lower quality of subs.

“If a teacher leaves clear sub plans, any sub should be able to handle the job and students should be working,” Appino said. “If either the sub is inept, or the sub-plans are inept, or both are inept, then instruction can be minimal.”

Appino’s concerns reflect those of many teachers. O’Neill, however, isn’t worried.

“Someone who has a college degree that never was a teacher is not better qualified than someone with an associate degree,” she said. “You could have had an associate degree in rocket science, and still be a good substitute for a high school class.”