Lower-income school districts see high turnover and low retention for substitute teachers — Title I schools can see as much as a 50 percent higher turnover rate than other schools.
This inconsistency in classroom leadership can start to affect the quality of education and the level of trust students have for their teachers.
As a former substitute teacher and HR manager, Jasmine Edwards entered one of these classrooms as the third longer-term substitute teacher in one school year. The students, who had seen teachers come and go, had a difficult time respecting her.
“They had no stability in that classroom,” Edwards tells Hypepotamus. “It took a while to gain their trust. I was good at doing it because I showed the students that I was there for them and I was committed to their success.”
The school offered her a full-time position — but with no increase in pay. Edwards had to decline the offer, as she didn’t feel valued and the school offered no additional incentives for her to stay.
She left and completed further schooling to become a certified teacher. Once she re-entered the job force, she then had a hard time picking up substitute roles quickly, as some school took months to get back to her.
She started wondering why it takes so long to onboard substitute teachers and why schools weren’t providing incentives like same-day pay to help with teacher retention. “I still dealt with difficult students, but I wasn’t being paid the same day for the hard work that I was doing. I was a sub, but I wasn’t being paid the salary of a teacher,” says Edwards.
She founded on-demand substitute teacher platform i-Subz to address those pain points and improve the experience for all three customers: the school, the substitute teachers, and of course, the students.
The platform allows Title I schools to recruit substitute teachers on-demand, while providing the incentive of same-day pay and cluster scheduling.
“We really want the students to get to know the sub because that’s what builds respect and the relationship that they need for the sub to be successful,” says Edwards.
Before being on-boarded, the prospective substitute undergoes a one-day in-person training with i-Subz and a screening to review their qualifications and references.
Once they’re accepted, i-Subz matches them with a variety of schools to start accepting open assignments.
Eventually, Edwards hopes to move the in-person training online to scale across the country, and add customizable training modules to cater to schools’ specific needs and requirements.
The teachers can be ready to work within two weeks, as opposed to the current onboarding process of four to six weeks. The platform also provides an availability calendar and last-minute positions.
“Substitute teachers need work now. A lot of them are looking for quick gigs and if you don’t onboard them quickly, they will go elsewhere to look for work,” says Edwards. “Then Title I schools lose out on quality substitute teachers.”
i-Subz is primarily focused on Title I charter schools, o which there are more than 56,000 in the U.S. In these schools, it tends to take even longer than traditional public schools to apply and get accepted as a substitute.
“You have to apply individually to each school through online job boards, but with i-Subz, you can apply one time and get matched with the ones that meet your criteria,” says Edwards. “Then the same-day pay through our platform encourages those teachers to return to those same gigs again as an incentive.”
In the school’s case, they enroll on the platform after filling out an intake form with their teacher requirements.
i-Subz charges an annual subscription fee to the school, plus a transaction fee if the substitute teacher chooses a same-day payment.
Edwards went through DigitalUndivided’s BIG accelerator last year to scale her idea into a viable product. She currently has one paid customer from their 2018 pilots, with three coming onboard shortly and 15 more on the pipeline to onboard later this year. She will be fully launching in Atlanta within the next few months.
Last week, she was selected as a 2019 Camelback Ventures fellow, a program specifically geared toward education innovation, and will be seeking a seed round later this year to scale to five markets and grow her staff.
Edwards says that more than 250 students have already been impacted by iSubz.
“Students deserve great substitute teachers that care about them,” says Edwards.
Featured image by Fred Morris Photography