Today I Learned: That Michigan Has a Serious Substitute Teacher Shortage

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If you're looking for a gig as a substitute teacher in the Great Lake State, there are tons of openings. But there is a catch. You have to pass a test that three quarters of all applicants fail. We wish you the best of luck.

According to Michigan Radio, the Professional Readiness Exam for teaching certification is exceedingly hard, and not in a good way. Critics argue that the test isn't necessarily more rigorous so much as poorly written and possibly even confusing.

Nancy Brown, associate dean of the School of Education and Human Services at Oakland University, where fewer than one-third of students passed the test, explains, “We have a bad test. We're not going to know the best and brightest (future teachers) from this test because the test is broken.”

Fortunately for the state of Michigan, there is little risk of a teacher shortage. The state has come up with a few ways to skirt the PRE, including using high ACT scores in their place, or granting passing grades to those who pass two of three sections (with a near-pass performance on the third). Moreover, the number of graduates with aspirations for teaching is substantially greater than the number of openings statewide.

But the same cannot be said for the pool of available substitute teachers throughout the state of Michigan. As the standards for certification have grown stricter, those with aspirations of becoming part-time or fill-in teachers have been most deeply impacted. The result is a host of classrooms without real coverage on any given day. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan schools had a fill rate of 85% in 2016, meaning that if 100 teachers called in sick on a given day, only 85 classes actually had coverage.

By David A. Tomar

That's obviously a problem, especially if you're the principal or guidance counselor called away from your day job to teach trigonometry.

The flawed certification diagnostic may simply be a case of overcompensation. Before 2013 and the arrival of the PRE, aspiring teachers were required to pass a Basic Skills test. And in fairness, there was good reason to seek an upgrade. Michigan Radio points out that the Basic Skills test fostered an 82% pass rate, roughly the same rate as enjoyed by licensed cosmetologists in the state of Michigan. The ease with which applicants could earn a certification (no offense cosmetologists), led to concerns that the state wasn't doing enough to screen aspiring educations for qualifications.

The tightened standards—and the fact that many districts in the state require substitute teachers to carry certification—have been a drag on the business of hiring new subs. So again, if you want a gig as a Michigan substitute, there are jobs to be had, but you'll need to study up!

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