The state should ensure that substitute teachers are appropriately placed and assessed in the classroom. This goal was new in 2017 and was not graded.
Montana does not offer substitute licenses, but it does maintain minimal requirements regarding the length of assignment of substitute teachers
(see below). In addition, the state does require all substitutes to have a minimum of a high school diploma or a GED.
Length of Assignment: Montana policy specifies that substitutes can teach for no more than 35 consecutive days in any one classroom unless the local board informs the State Superintendent that there is no other teacher available for that position. If an assignment requires a substitute for more than 35 days, the district can hire the substitute but only if the substitute is a licensed teacher.
Evaluation of Long-Term Substitutes: Montana has no requirements for the evaluation of any of its substitute teachers. Montana state policy is not clear whether substitutes with current teaching licenses are subject to evaluation under the state's evaluation requirements.
Require substitute teachers to have a substitute license.
Montana should require all substitute teachers to obtain a substitute teaching license. Licenses issued by the state allow for uniform minimum requirements so that all districts have access to a similarly qualified substitute teaching pool.
Distinguish requirements for short-term and long-term substitutes.
Montana should distinguish between requirements for short-term and long-term substitutes so that it can ensure that its requirements are appropriate for the needs of these teachers. The state's long-term substitute requirements should be rigorous (e.g., that all long-term substitutes have current or expired licenses) to help ensure that teachers who are spending extended periods of time with students are prepared to do so.
Limit the number of consecutive days a short-term substitute can teach in the same classroom.
Montana should limit the number of consecutive days a short-term substitute can teach in the same classroom without completing additional requirements or obtaining a long-term substitute license. The maximum number of days should be no more than 10 percent of the length of the school year. Montana's policy of allowing substitute teachers to teach 35 consecutive days in the same classroom may be detrimental to instructional quality and daily productivity.
Require long-term substitute teachers to be evaluated.
Montana should maintain standards for substitute teacher quality and accountability for all substitutes, but especially for long-term substitutes who are expected to stand in for licensed teachers for extended periods of time. Montana can help ensure that substitute teachers are held to high standards and have access to the supports necessary to improve their practice by requiring evaluations— which it may find appropriate to modify from its standard, state-required teacher evaluations— of long-term substitutes.
Montana recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
Research finds that teacher absences negatively affect student achievement and growth. While some of this is attributable to the disruption of regular classroom practices and instruction, it may also be attributable to substitute teacher quality. The gap in instructional quality and daily productivity when a regular teacher is replaced by a substitute teacher is significant. However, absences covered by substitutes licensed by the state are not as detrimental to student achievement as those covered by non-licensed substitutes. Some research hypothesizes that the low-skill level and mobility of substitute teachers may contribute to the reduction in instructional focus and quality and that even when substitute teachers are good instructors, they may be unable to effectively implement a teacher of record's long-term instructional strategies. Parents, teachers, principals, and students have concerns about substitute teachers' quality and qualifications. States should maintain rigorous standards for substitute teacher quality and accountability for all substitutes, but especially for long-term substitutes who are expected to stand in for teachers for long stretches of time.