Licensure for Substitute Teachers: District
of Columbia

2017 General Teacher Prep Programs Policy

Goal

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.

Analysis of District of Columbia's policies

Substitute License(s): The District of Columbia does not appear to have state policy regarding substitute licenses or their requirements.

Length of Assignment: The District of Columbia does not specify the maximum consecutive days a substitute can teach in the same classroom assignment.

Evaluation of Long-Term Substitutes:
The District of Columbia has no requirements for the evaluation of any of its substitute teachers.


Recommendations for District of Columbia

Require substitute teachers to have a substitute license or meet uniform minimal requirements.
The District of Columbia should require all substitute teachers to obtain a substitute teaching license. Licenses issued by the District allow for uniform minimum requirements so that all local school districts have access to a similarly qualified substitute teaching pool. In absence of requiring substitute licenses, the District should establish uniform baseline requirements to help ensure that all substitutes are at least minimally qualified to teach students.

Distinguish requirements for short-term and long-term substitutes.
The District of Columbia 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 District'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.
The District of Columbia 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. The District of Columbia's policy does not limit the number of consecutive days a substitute may teach in the same classroom, and may be detrimental to instructional quality and daily productivity.

Require long-term substitute teachers to be evaluated.
The District of Columbia 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. The District of Columbia 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.

State response to our analysis

The District of Columbia indicated that, at the local school district level, it no longer issues substitute credentials, but its former policy required a bachelor's degree to hold the substitute credential. The hiring districts now issue the substitute credential. With regard to the length of assignment for a substitute teacher, the District stated that it allows its local school districts the autonomy and flexibility to specify the maximum consecutive days a substitute can teach in the same classroom assignment. With regard to the evaluation of long-term substitute teachers, the District stated that it defers to the hiring district.

Research rationale

Research finds that teacher absences negatively affect student achievement and growth.[1] While some of this is attributable to the disruption of regular classroom practices and instruction,[2] 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.[3] However, absences covered by substitutes licensed by the state are not as detrimental to student achievement as those covered by non-licensed substitutes.[4] 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.[5] Parents, teachers, principals, and students have concerns about substitute teachers' quality and qualifications.[6] 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.


[1]Miller, R. T., Murnane, R. J., & Willett, J. B. (2008). Do teacher absences impact student achievement? Longitudinal evidence from one urban school district. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30(2), 181-200.; Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2009). Are teacher absences worth worrying about in the United States? Education Finance and Policy, 4(2), 115-149.; Joseph, N., Waymack, N., & Zielaski, D. (2014). Roll call: The importance of teacher attendance. National Council on Teacher Quality. Retrieved from https://www.nctq.org/dmsView/RollCall_TeacherAttendance; Zubrzycki, J. (2012). Educators take another look at substitutes. Education Week, 31(36), 1-16.
[2] Rundall, R. A. (1986). Continuity in subbing: Problems and solutions. Clearing House, 59(5), 240.; Turbeville, I. F. (1987). The relationship of selected teacher characteristics on teacher absenteeism in selected school districts of South Carolina (Unpublished Dissertation). University of South Carolina.
[3] Miller, R. T., Murnane, R. J., & Willett, J. B. (2008). Do teacher absences impact student achievement? Longitudinal evidence from one urban school district. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30(2), 181-200.; Varlas, L. (2001). Succeeding with substitute teachers. Education Update, 43(7).; Gagne, R. M. (1977). The conditions of learning (3d ed.). New York, NY: Holt Rinehart and Winston.; Capitan, J. H., & et al. (1980). Teacher absenteeism. A study of the Ohio Association of School Personnel Administrators. Seven Hills, OH: American Association of School Personnel Administrators; Herrmann, M. A., & Rockoff, J. E. (2012). Worker absence and productivity: Evidence from teaching. Journal of Labor Economics, 30(4), 749-782.
[4] Note that this study did not define what "licensed" meant in the context of substitutes; see: Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2009). Are teacher absences worth worrying about in the United States? (Working Paper 24). National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.
[5] Miller, R. T., Murnane, R. J., & Willett, J. B. (2008). Do teacher absences impact student achievement? Longitudinal evidence from one urban school district. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 30(2), 181-200.
[6] Abdal-Haqq, I. (1997). Not just a warm body: Changing images of the substitute teacher. ERIC Digest.; Ostapczuk, E. D. (1994). What makes effective secondary education substitute teachers?: Literature review. ERIC Digest.; Weems, L. (2003). Representations of substitute teachers and the paradoxes of professionalism. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(3), 254-265.; Seldner, J. K. (1983). Substitute teaching: Is there a better way? Teacher Education Quarterly, 61-70.