This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
After outsourcing its substitute teaching services to a private firm, the School District of Philadelphia appears to have left its schools in a worse position – stressing an already fragile system plagued by deep needs.
School-by-school data obtained by Newsworks reveal that some schools have been forced to deal with staggeringly low fill-in rates.
More than 50 of the District’s 200-plus schools posted percentage fill rates in the single digits – meaning that substitutes were only provided to teach uncovered classes less than 10 percent of the time.
In a few cases, fill rates were effectively zero. In one very troubling example, Luis Munoz-Marin Elementary in Fairhill saw 244 teacher absences and only one substitute.
A slew of other schools posted similarly distressing rates, calling into question the wisdom of the District’s decision to outsource the service.
You can see the fill-in rates for all District schools in the interactive graph below.
Source4Teachers – a Cherry Hill, NJ-based firm that lacked experience staffing a large, urban district – was awarded a $34 million contract in June 2015.
In 2014-15, the year before the district engaged Source4Teachers, when teachers called out, the spots were filled by substitutes 64 percent of the time.
This year, Source4Teachers pledged to deliver a 75 percent fill-rate on the first day of school, and a 90 percent rate by January 1.
The firm fell well short of those promises. Rates were in the teens system-wide in the first weeks of classes. In the days before Christmas, it peaked at 37 percent.