According to a poll conducted by Bridge, Michigan residents want certified classroom teachers rather than the increasing glut of substitute teachers that they believe has impacted the state’s school systems for the worse.
“We need to go back to having those (certification) requirements for anybody entering a classroom and working with children,” Dr. Elizabeth Birr Moje, dean of the University of Michigan School of Education, told Bridge in an interview.
According to the Bridge report, state schools have increasingly relied on non-certified, substitute teachers in recent years particularly in areas of the state that are low-income, rural or urban.
In a poll of more than 1,800 residents conducted by Bridge, a majority of responders said they wanted a relevant education or professional background as a prerequisite for substitutes who teach classroom for long periods.
They also want to be notified if their child’s teacher lacks a certificate.
Education experts have said teachers need to be paid more to attract qualified professionals and to end the state’s growing substitute crisis, caused by a shortage of certified teachers.
Currently the state requires 60 college credits, the equivalent of two years of college, in any subject for a person to qualify for a long-term substitute position. A certified teacher on the other hand must finish a four-year bachelor’s degree in a subject and complete teacher’s preparation and student teaching experience programs.
Nearly nine out of 10 residents polled said they wanted the state to require formal teacher training before a substitute teacher steps into a classroom and eight of 10 said a bachelor’s degree and/or work experience in the subject to be taught should be required.
More than 45 percent said certified teachers provide a good education while only 17 percent said substitute teachers could do so.
Approximately 87 percent questioned said they would be “very concerned” about their child having a substitute teacher for a full year. A similar majority said they wished to be notified by schools if their child is being taught by a long-term sub for more than a week.
Proposed solutions include expansion of the state’s Interim Teaching Certificate Program to allow older mid-career professionals who already have a bachelor’s degree to get a certificate to teach. Approximately 97 percent of those polled expressed support for such an expansion.
Other ideas included encouraging undergraduates to enroll in education programs, providing financial incentives for teachers to work in understaffed schools, and allowing retirees to substitute teach without losing retirement benefits.
Moje said a combination of all the proposals would probably work best.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, nine secondary education programs issued 1,019 interim teaching certifications between 2012 and 2019, the Bridge report said.