“In It for the Long Haul” - How Teacher Education Can Contribute to Teacher Retention in High-Poverty, Urban Schools

Jun. 03, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 60 No. 3, 323-337 (May/June 2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors examine a group of beginning secondary English teachers who form a cohort in an MA/credential program organized to teach them how to teach in high-poverty, urban settings. They define high-poverty, urban schools as those with approximately 50% or more of the students on free or reduced lunch, located within a greater urban metropolitan area. The question they address in this research is, “What factors help teachers stay in urban teaching?”

The Study

The authors have chosen a longitudinal (5-year) qualitative study. The data come from the Multicultural Urban Secondary English (MUSE) Credential and MA Program at the University of California, Berkeley. The authors follow a single cohort, the one that received credentials and began teaching in 2002 and received their MAs in 2003. They follow this group from their 1st through their 5th year of teaching.


The cohort consisted of 22 females and 4 males. Six of the 26 (23%) were students of color. Approximately 70% of the cohort entered with experience in urban settings or schools, generally as tutors, teachers’ aids, or other kinds of assistants in the schools or as youth workers in varied urban out-of-school programs.

Data Collection

Data from the first year come from the group of 26 and consist of background information from their application materials, including their academic preparation and their previous experiences in urban education as well as more general program data on retention that were a part of an earlier program evaluation study (Paule & Ryan, 2003). In their 2nd through 5th years, the authors also gathered information on what all of the 26 were doing so that they could assess whether the participants were stayers, movers, or leavers according to the NCES categories and whether they stayed in urban education or left urban education.

The authors reconsider the categories traditionally used to determine whether teachers stay or leave and offer ways to track those who stay or leave high-poverty, urban schools, including the use of a category of “movers” to describe teachers who leave urban classroom teaching yet remain active in urban education.


When compared to national statistics, this MUSE cohort has a remarkable rate of staying in teaching. Nationally, after just 1 year, 76% of those hired are still teaching. For this cohort, 96% were still teaching after their first year, with 92% at their same school and 4% moving to another school. All were in urban, high-poverty settings.

The authors conclude with a discussion of factors that seem to contribute to teachers staying in high-poverty, urban schools and educational settings. Besides a state scholarship program, these include (a) a sense of mission, which was reinforced and developed by the teacher education program; (b) a disposition for hard work and persistence, which was reinforced and developed by the teacher education program; (c) substantive preparation that included both the practical and the academic and harmony between the two; (d) training in assuming the reflective stance of a teacher researcher; (e) the opportunity, given the high demand for teachers in high-poverty schools, to be able to change schools or districts yet still remain in their chosen profession; and (f( ongoing support from members of the cohort as well as other supportive professional networks across the years.

Paule, L., & Ryan, C. (2003). MUSE graduate follow-up final report: 2002 graduates. Berkeley: University of California, School of Education.


Updated: Oct. 01, 2009