Thursday, August 15, 2019

Elizabeth Moje discusses troubling and inequitable trend to staff Michigan classrooms with long-term substitutes


A rising number of Michigan public schools are staffing classrooms with long-term substitutes with as little as 60 college credits and no formal education training. Journalists Ron French and Mike Wilkinson of Bridge Magazine interviewed Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje as they examined the implications of this practice for the state’s already-struggling schools.

Bridge Magazine uncovered that more than 2,500 Michigan classrooms were led by long-term substitutes who weren’t certified teachers in the 2018-19 school year. This represents a tenfold increase in just five years.

Michigan legislators lowered state standards for substitute permits in 2018, from requiring 90 hours of college credit to requiring 60 hours. The policy is viewed as a “necessity” by the Michigan Department of Education to staff Michigan classrooms. School and state leaders hope the use of long-term substitutes to staff classrooms is a temporary fix until the state addresses its teacher shortage.

French and Wilkinson demonstrated the uneven distribution of long-term substitutes in the state leading to high concentrations of substitutes in low-income urban and rural school districts. They also found that charter school students were four times more likely to have a long-term substitute than students in traditional public schools.

In addition to the article “Michigan leans on long-term substitutes as its schools struggle,” Bridge Magazine also published an interview with Moje about the troubling trend. Moje said, “The increase in long-term substitutes should concern all of us because it means that our children and youth are not accessing full opportunity to learn.”

Moje underscored the importance of having a skilled certified teacher in every classroom: “Having an effective teacher throughout one’s learning life is the single most important factor in a child’s academic success. When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factors, including services, facilities, and even leadership.”

Moje also discussed potential policy solutions and stressed that “only when all school districts can give teachers the respect, compensation and support they deserve will all school districts be able to recruit and retain teachers successfully.”

Elizabeth Birr Moje is George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; Dean of the School of Education

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