Forget Substitute Teachers. “Parachute Teachers” May Be the Future.

Jan 31, 2017 by

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By Megan Gambino –

Sarah Cherry Rice has seen too many substitute teachers sitting in the back whiling away class periods texting on their phones. At best, she says, they distribute worksheets—intentionally easy, “busy” work that the absent teacher selected to not complicate the sub’s job.

While there are some superhuman substitutes, Rice says, the expectation that a sub can arrive 10 minutes before class starts, pick up someone else’s lesson plan and magically make it happen is unreal.

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So when the veteran teacher and education consultant began to pursue her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, her pet project was clear: She wanted to tackle the broken substitute teacher system that too many public schools don’t have the time or means to reform.

In 2015, Rice launched Parachute Teachers, a Boston-based startup that “parachutes” community professionals—chefs, coders, slam poets and others—into classrooms to teach about their areas of expertise.

Let’s start with the problem. What problem are you trying to fix?

There are districts across the country spending an enormous amount of money on substitute teachers. With teacher shortages and with less and less people going into teaching, more and more substitute teachers are being called in. Over the course of a student’s lifetime in public schools, they will spend about six months with substitute teachers. Six months is the average, but it is so much worse when you get into low performing, particularly urban districts.

When substitute teachers are coming in to the classroom, a lot of time there is not a lot of learning going on. They are handing out a worksheet at best, or you might be watching a movie. Sometimes it’s just total chaos. So an enormous amount of time and an enormous amount of money is spent on essentially adult babysitters that are coming into our schools. Right now, I think the number is about $4 billion that’s spent in U.S. public schools.

What Parachute is trying to do is think about how that time that’s wasted and the money that goes with that can be reused to offer high quality learning experiences for students.

So how does Parachute Teachers work, exactly?

We see that there is a teacher shortage, and beyond that there is even a substitute teacher shortage. You might have seen recently that in Michigan [a school staffing company] is putting up these huge billboards saying “Substitute teachers needed,” which basically screams if you are alive and breathing come into our schools. For so long, we see that is the requirement.

Source: Forget Substitute Teachers. “Parachute Teachers” May Be the Future. | Innovation | Smithsonian

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