One year after substitute teacher crisis, Philly schools see improvement with new contractor
So far this school year, Building 21, an experimental high school in North Philadelphia, has requested substitute teachers to cover three school days.
Much to the school’s delight, substitute teachers have showed up all three times.
“We have been thrilled to get subs every time we’ve had a teacher call out,” said principal Laura Shubilla.
During the first two-and-a-half months of the 2015-16 school year, Building 21 received a sub just 6 percent of the time it requested one. In fact, so far this school year, Building 21 has covered more absent teacher days (three) than it did in the entire run up to winter break last year (two). The school’s struggles were part of a district-wide substitute teacher crisis that drew headlines and criticism.
One year later, Philadelphia schools appear to be in much better shape.
In weeks one (63 percent) and two (68 percent) of the new school year, the District reported higher substitute teacher fill rates. That means a substitute teacher was provided nearly seven out of 10 times a Philadelphia school requested one.
Those are relatively poor numbers compared to surrounding suburban school districts, but they represent a massive improvement for Philadelphia. Last year the District outsourced substitute hiring to a private vendor, Source4Teachers. The partnership flopped almost immediately. Last September, the District’s fill rate was an abysmal 17 percent. Though the numbers improved later in the year, at no point did the rate climb above 49 percent.
"We acknowledge that we had to do a better job from last year, and that’s why we decided to change firms," said District spokesman Kevin Geary. "We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from pricipals so far."