Kristen Pekarek

Sustainability Ensures Long-Term Success

American Education WeekOver the course of a kindergarten through 12th grade education, the average student will spend an entire school year with a substitute teacher throughout their education—which on average is just 13 days per school year. If a student—over the course of her 13-year formal education—happens to have a 1st grade teacher out on maternity leave for twelve weeks, a 6th grade teacher out caring for an elderly parent for six weeks, and a 10th grade teacher who was in an accident and out for 12 weeks, she will spend more than a year and a half of her learning time with a substitute teacher. Because these statistics are very real, there is a critical need to ensure students are still engaged and learning when school and classroom changes occur (Bowers, 2009 [PDF]).

Sustainability in education is essential to maintain students' long-term success. Substitute teachers play a very important part in helping to ensure education sustainability for students. Today is American Education Week's Substitute Educators Day, a day dedicated to the vital functions these individuals play in helping to maintain and continue students' daily education.

Evidence on student achievement has proven that it is practices, not programs, which have had the greatest influence on student achievement and the highest amount of sustainability over time (Reeves, 2010). Although we all try to minimize the number of changes that occur throughout a child's education, these changes do occur and modifications need to be made. Substitute teachers can use their own proven individual approaches and daily practices put in place by regular classroom teachers to help guide students through these complex and challenging situations.

Schools implementing a whole child approach must use collaboration, coordination, and integration to ensure the approach's sustainable long-term success. The same is true of the work of a substitute teacher. It is their dedication, expertise, and dependability that supports continued student learning and keeps kids on the right path to success.

A whole child approach to education—which ensures that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged—sets the standard for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provides for long-term student success. Through the Whole Child Initiative, ASCD helps educators, families, community members, and policymakers move from a vision about educating the whole child to sustainable, collaborative action. Learn more about the Whole Child Initiative, download the whole child indicators (PDF), and explore our resources and examples on sustainability.

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