Academic journal article High School Journal

Retaining Quality Teachers

Academic journal article High School Journal

Retaining Quality Teachers

Article excerpt

This study investigated teacher attrition and retention in seven Virginia school divisions representing urban, suburban, and rural localities. Focus group interviews of teachers who stay in their school divisions and telephone interviews of teachers who migrated to another school division or who left the teaching profession revealed a hierarchy of organizational influences on teacher attrition and retention. A menu of state, district and building level recommendations are offered for retaining quality teachers.

Introduction and Review of the Literature

At this time, when the need for good teachers and good teaching is unprecedented, America is experiencing a shortage of qualified individuals prepared to take on the challenges of the profession, particularly in critical shortage areas, such as math and science or special education. Moreover, there is continuing concern that professionals are leaving the teaching field much earlier in their careers than are professionals from other fields. The National Center for Education Statistics (1997c) reports that across the nation 9.3% of public school teachers leave before they complete their first year in the classroom and over 1/5 of public school teachers leave their positions within their first three years of teaching. Additionally, nearly 30% of teachers leave the profession within five years of entry and even higher attrition rates exist in more disadvantaged schools (Delgado, 1999; Darling-Hammond, 1999).

Ingersoll (1998) concludes that it is a mistake to assume that hiring difficulties are the result of teacher shortages in the conventional sense of the availability of candidates willing to enter the profession. The demand for new teachers comes about primarily because teachers choose to move from or leave their jobs at far higher rates than do professionals in many other occupations (NCES, 1998). "We're misdiagnosing the problem as `recruitment' when it's really `retention'" (Merrow, 1999, p. 64). In the fifth Phi Delta Kappa poll of teachers' attitudes toward the public schools, findings revealed that more teachers today say their schools have trouble retaining teachers (Langdon, 1999). Most of the studies on teacher attrition and retention focus largely on teachers' personal characteristics. Ingersoll (2001), however, found that school characteristics and organizational conditions, including lack of administrative support, salary, student discipline and motivation, class size, inadequate planning time, and lack of opportunity for advancement, have significant effects on teacher turnover, even after controlling for the characteristics of both teachers and schools.

School districts do exercise influence over several internal factors in the teacher attrition and retention puzzle. For both beginning and veteran teachers, issues in the work environment may provide the impetus for teachers leaving the profession. The large numbers of students assigned to classrooms, limited instructional resources, and the inability to meet students' needs (Billingsley & Cross, 1992) have been associated with teacher attrition. Futrel] (1999) describes the frustration that many teachers feel because of the "rigid, bureaucratic hierarchy in which teachers are treated like tall children rather than like professionals" (p. 31). A lack of authority in making decisions about curriculum, assessment, scheduling, and policy leads both experienced and novice teachers to doubt their professional status. Snider (1999) asserts that many new teachers are demoralized by the lack of autonomy and professional status they find in the schools and "as many as one-half of all new teachers respond by leaving the profession" (p. 64).

Work environment clearly leads to levels of teacher job satisfaction. Researchers have linked a number of aspects of job satisfaction to teacher retention, and there is general agreement that all of these aspects are a part of the teacher retention puzzle. …

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