A Two-Dimensional Model of Teacher Retention and Mobility: Classroom Teachers and Their University Partners Take a Closer Look at a Vexing Problem

Mar. 27, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2009. p. 168-183
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This mixed-methods study is a teacher-initiated, collaborative inquiry involving a professional development school (PDS) and a university. The PDS is a form of collaborative partnership between an institution of higher education and a K-12 school whose function is school improvement through a transformative learning community of educators (Darling-Hammond, 2005; Teitel, 2003). Central to this partnership is the practice of collaborative inquiry, which seeks to strengthen schools and support the growth and development of teachers by studying and assessing teaching-learning processes (Pajak, 1999; Teitel, 2003).

The examination focused on teachers’ perceptions of teacher retention and mobility at their PDS. The research questions are as follows:
1. What are teachers’ perceptions of factors contributing to teacher retention at a PDS?
2. What are teachers’ perceptions of factors contributing to teacher mobility at a PDS?

Participants and Setting

Participants were 134 teachers at a large, suburban elementary school in the southeastern United States. To address teachers’ concerns around anonymity and confidentiality, the specific demographic background of the participants was not requested during data collection. Published data on this school indicated teachers’ years of teaching experience as follows: 43% with 5 years or less, 27% with 6 to 10 years, and 30% with more than 10 years. Regarding the educational background of the teachers, 52% had at least a master’s degree.
Highland is a Title I school with 88% of students eligible for free or reduced lunch at the time of this study. The student population was highly diverse, with 59% Hispanic, 23% African American, 11% Asian, and 4% Caucasian students. Seventy-two percent of the students
were nonnative English speakers, and 47% of the student population was served by the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Highland had a 50% student mobility rate per year, with only 15% of fifth-grade students attending since first grade. In 2002, this school
was removed from the state’s failing-schools list and had achieved adequate yearly progress (AYP) goals for the subsequent 3 years.

In August 2005, Highland entered into a PDS relationship with our university. This formal partnership was established in the context of the university’s receiving a large federal grant to support the development of PDS relationships with high-needs schools.

Data sources included surveys, interviews, and open-ended questionnaires.
The findings clustered around two primary dimensions: (a) congruency of teachers’ beliefs and practices with organizational norms and (b) teachers’ relational needs and administrators’ willingness and ability to meet such needs.
Although this study affirmed many of the findings in the extant literature, it also challenged others—namely, the links between teacher turnover and workplace conditions, student body characteristics, and student achievement. The recursive research design enabled the researchers to make accommodations in methodology in response to teachers’ and administrators’ concerns. The researchers documented these modifications and make recommendations for conducting inquiry in a PDS.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Sclan, E. (1996). Who teaches and why: Building a profession for 21st century schools. In J. Sikula, T. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.), The handbook of research on teacher education (pp. 67-101). New York: Macmillan.

Pajak, E. (1999). Inquiry in professional development school contexts: Overview and framework. In D. M. Byrd & D. J. McIntyre (Eds.), Research on professional development schools (pp. 199- 204). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Teitel, L. (2003). The professional development schools handbook: Starting, sustaining, and assessing partnerships that improve school learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Updated: Mar. 26, 2009