Teacher Retention in Catholic Schools

By Przygocki, Walter F. | Catholic Education, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Teacher Retention in Catholic Schools


Przygocki, Walter F., Catholic Education


Teacher attrition is a concern in all educational sectors but is of special importance to Catholic schools because of the salary disparity between public and Catholic schools. This review examines the research on teacher retention in general with a view to understanding how this knowledge might inform teacher recruitment and retention strategies in Catholic schools and dioceses. The relationship between salient teacher characteristics--such as job satisfaction and salary--and teacher retention is discussed.

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The ability to develop successful schools is directly related to the ability to attract and retain quality teachers (Goodlad, 1984). Understanding conditions which promote teacher retention, provides educational administrators with pertinent information for developing successful schools. Catholic schools like public schools should be aware of the need to understand the conditions that surround the practices of hiring and retaining qualified personnel.

The retention of teachers in public schools has been a continuing concern for educators in recent years. Significant numbers of teachers leave the teaching force each year. The need to replace large numbers of the teachers at a school has a negative effect on the educational program. The issue of teacher retention becomes even more critical when added to the condition of teacher shortages (Norton, 1999; Shen, 1998).

Catholic schools also face the challenge of teacher shortages and teacher retention. Cimino, Haney, and Jacobs (2000) observe that superintendents and principals in Catholic schools cite the difficulty of finding and retaining high quality teachers as their most difficult challenge.

The Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the United States constitute the largest independent school system in the world. Over 2.6 million students are currently enrolled in Catholic schools. Problems confronting public school administrators are also found in Catholic schools. Thus, the ability of Catholic schools to retain high quality teachers is an important issue to Catholic school administrators (Groome, 1998; Youniss & Convey, 2000).

THE NEED FOR QUALITY TEACHERS

Teachers and teaching are the most important component in the development of quality schools (Goodlad, 1984; Hawley & Rosenholtz, 1985). Lortie (1975) found that faculty commitment has a favorable influence upon students. The instructional program directly benefits from hiring and retaining superior teachers. This may be the most critical task facing school administrators in their efforts to establish and maintain effective schools (Jensen, 1989). According to Shen (1998), "In addition to the issue of quality, high rates of teacher attrition disrupt program continuity and planning, hinder student learning, and increase school districts' expenditures on recruiting and hiring" (p. 81).

The field of education has become acutely aware of the need to recruit, induct, and retain qualified professionals. The important role of the teacher has been noted in numerous studies aimed at understanding the establishment of excellent schools. According to Chubb and Moe (1990), "An effective school is one characterized by an academic focus, a strong educational leader, a sharing of decision-making, a high level of professionalism and cooperation among teachers, and respect for discipline among students" (pp. 136-137).

Lortie (1975) noted that when students graduate from high school, they have accumulated approximately 13,000 hours with classroom teachers. The ability to influence, challenge, inspire, and alter the thinking of students during this time is the domain of the teacher. Without effective teachers, there are no effective schools. It is possible that we could locate good schools without good educational leaders. However, it is doubtful that there are any good schools without good teachers.

TEACHER ATTRITION: WHY ARE TEACHERS LEAVING THE FIELD? …

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