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Students and parents can check to see if a teacher has a teaching certificate or if they hold a substitute’s permit. The state's online search tool also shows what areas they are approved to teach by using the state's online search tool. It can be found here.
Students returning to school on Tuesday in Detroit Public Schools Community District will see more certified teachers and fewer less-qualified long-term substitutes, according to a social media post by Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
On Sunday, Vitti took to Twitter to announcer that, when he came to Detroit three years ago, “zero schools were fully staffed. On Tuesday (the first day of school in Detroit), 60 percent will. We have reduced teacher vacancies from 275 (in his first year as superintendent) to 75. This despite adding 100s of more teacher positions for art, music, PE and master teachers.”
Vitti blasted the growing use of long-term substitute teachers to fill Michigan classrooms, saying “a long-term sub is a vacancy.”
In August, Bridge published a series of articles that exposed the explosion in long-term substitutes leading Michigan classrooms. During the most recently completed school year, about 2,500 Michigan classrooms were led by long-term substitutes, who generally do not have a teaching certificate and are not required to have completed a college degree.
Vitti told Bridge in August that he is working to reduce long-term substitutes, who can lead a classroom for up to a year. Long-term substitutes do not need any education background and are required only to have 60 college credits in any subject.
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The growth of long-term substitutes is at least partly the result of a decrease in the number of students in teaching programs in Michigan colleges. With fewer and fewer applicants for teaching positions, some districts and charter schools have turned to long-term substitutes.
That trend could hobble reform efforts attempting to improve Michigan’s struggling schools. Studies have found that students learn more in classrooms led by highly qualified teachers.
“We need to stop accepting teacher vacancies as normal in Detroit,” Vitti tweeted Sunday. “It’s unacceptable. A long-term sub is a vacancy. Parents expect more.”
Vitti went on to encourage parents to put pressure on schools to place certified teachers in all classrooms.
“Ask your principal what adults are long-term subs,” Vitti tweeted. “Shameful that schools in the city had nearly all classrooms managed by subs last year.”
Vitti appeared to be referring to Bridge’s analysis of state data that showed Detroit charter schools overall had enough long-term substitute teaching permits to staff 37 percent of their classrooms during the 2018-19 school year. Several charters appeared to be completely staffed by long-term subs.
We are not there yet but when we started this work a few years ago zero schools were fully staffed...on Tuesday 60% will. We have reduced teacher vacancies from 275 to 75. This despite adding 100s of more teacher positions for art, music, PE and master teachers.— Nikolai Vitti (@Dr_Vitti) Sept. 1, 2019
That compares to 2.6 percent of the roughly 3,500 teachers in Detroit’s public school district, a figure that Vitti’s tweet suggests will be even lower this school year.
Schools are not required to inform parents when their children are being taught by a long-term substitute rather than a certified teacher.
To reduce reliance on long-term subs, Detroit lured more certified teachers by bumping up pay (top salaries jumped from $65,000 to $71,000) and offering $3,000 signing bonuses.
We need to stop accepting teacher vacancies as normal in Detroit. It’s unacceptable. A long-term sub is a vacancy. Parents expect more. Ask your principal what adults are long-term subs. Shameful that schools in the city had nearly all classrooms managed by subs last year.— Nikolai Vitti (@Dr_Vitti) Sept. 1, 2019
Boosting pay is not a strategy to reduce long-term subs that will work everywhere – some cash-strapped Michigan districts struggle to pay their current teachers and keep up on building maintenance.
And Detroit public schools’ gain may be Detroit charter schools’ loss. Vitti told Bridge in August that some of the districts’ new teachers jumped ship from Detroit charters that offer lower pay, which likely will increase the need for more long-term subs in those buildings.
“Given the scarcity of certified teachers statewide, this is an issue of supply and demand, with many teachers going to the highest bidder,” Paula Simmons, president of human resources for the management company, Elite School Management, that hires teachers for some Detroit charters, told Bridge in August. “The push by DPS to fill all outstanding teaching positions puts further pressure on (charter schools) with smaller budgets.”
Vitti’s social media announcement that there will be fewer long-term subs in the Detroit district came on the heels of news last week that district students were showing solid improvement in standardized tests. Most schools in the district showed improvement in M-STEP scores from tests given in the spring, in Vitti’s second year of a district-wide reform effort.