Sixty college credits is enough

Oct. 14, 2019, 6:46 p.m. | By Lucie Peyrebrune | 4 years, 9 months ago

MCPS' new policy on substitute teacher requirements will benefit all parties involved.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) recently changed its substitute requirements so that anyone with at least 60 college credits or an associate degree can apply to be a substitute. Previously, applicants needed to have at least a bachelor's degree. The change was made in response to increases in substitute vacancies and enrollment. Although it may seem like MCPS' decision is lowering standards, it's actually beneficial to students, staff and potential applicants.

More substitute applicants leads to a wider pool to choose from when teachers can't come to work. This means that there are fewer vacancies, so students are still under adult supervision. Ensuring that students are learning and getting work done prevents teachers from worrying about them falling behind. It eliminates the need for teachers who are supposed to be having a planning period to provide in-class coverage as well.

Critics may may also be concerned that less educated substitutes aren't knowledgeable enough about all subjects to be teaching them, however, the majority of teachers assign "busy work" consisting of textbook assignments and review guides that don't require the substitutes to do anything other than to supervise the students anyway.

Blair substitute Weston Martin remarks that because substitutes don't always teach the same subject when they fill in, being an expert in a specific field is not necessary. "Generally, the subs are not required to only substitute in specific areas," he said. "I have training in science, so I'm more comfortable in a science classroom. But I could easily go into a history classroom, or a foreign language classroom… and maintain discipline and have [the students] be on task," he added.

Additionally, non-certified teachers are only paid $18.41 per hour, whereas certified teachers make $19.58 per hour, which may encourage more substitutes to become certified.

Furthermore, MCPS is bringing its standards to the same level as neighboring counties such as Frederick, Howard, Prince George's and Fairfax, all of which have 60 college credits as their minimum requirement to apply to be a substitute teacher. Martin points out that this ensures the county is able to compete with other districts in recruiting subs since it increases the potential substitute pool. "I think requiring a bachelor's degree actually shrinks the pool," he said.

The quality of substitutes in the county is already higher than what most think. Martin explains that many immigrants who were teachers in their native countries are not allowed to be teachers in Montgomery County because they don't have all of the necessary degrees and certifications, so they sub instead while they work towards getting their degree. "There's a large body of subs who were teachers in their own country… but they don't make the requirements here, in the United States, to teach in the classroom," he said, "If I'm going back to school to get my certificate as a teacher, and I can sub, I'm getting experience in the classroom, I'm making some money on the side, I'm learning the system." This means that there are substitutes with teaching experience in classrooms, and although they are not always teaching in their native languages, they do understand the content.

Substitute teachers don't need the expertise in a specific area required of a regular teacher (courtesy of Creative Commons).

Furthermore, the new policy allows MCPS to build partnerships with local community colleges, specifically Montgomery College (MC), while potential substitutes work towards their degrees. MCPS has not yet elaborated on what this might look like. 

MCPS also predicts several other benefits as a result of this change. "MCPS expects this change to increase the number of available substitutes; decrease unfilled vacancies; limit the need for in-school class coverage; lead to a more diverse range of candidates; and help build partnerships with local colleges while candidates earn their degree," it said in a press release.

Overall, there are many advantages that result from MCPS' decision for students, staff and subs. Sixty college credit hours is more than enough to be a successful substitute teacher. 

Last updated: Oct. 17, 2019, 6:32 p.m.

Tags: MCPS teachers

Lucie Peyrebrune. Hi! I play basketball for Blair in addition to running cross-country and track. My favorite track event is the 300m hurdles. In my free time, I’m usually running, reading, playing violin or cello, watching TV or hanging out with friends and family. Feel free to … More »

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