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Considering several incentives in suburban and rural areas including motivated learners, flexibility and favorable working environments, urban schools are facing difficulties in retaining experienced and skilled teachers. According to New Teachers Recruitment Inc. (2002), the US needed to hire approximately 2.2 million educators by the year 2012 to meet the increasing rates of enrollment as well as replacing those teachers who were retiring from the teaching professional. Stone (2000) indicated, “Though the alarm for crisis may not be warranted for all American public schools, the one quarter where call for urgency is philosophical is in urban schools”. Statistically, about 47% of district schools that are serving the largest cities and towns are handling a student population to a tune of 40% of the nation’s low earning population and about 75% of the country’s alternative students (CGCS, 1996). In 1997, the annual state report card reported that the students’ enrollment in both elementary and secondary public schools would increase by 4% by the end of 2010, to hit 48.1 million marks (Olson, 2000). However, urban schools districts have been least favored by the teaching fraternity (Rovell Patrick Solomon, 2007). In his article, Weiner (2000) highlighted that, at it best, being a teacher in the city is exhilarating, exhausting, unfulfilling and frustrating” (p.1).
To highlight the least, “Schools in urban areas normally experience the biggest crunch, offering low pay while work is challenging as compared to suburbs’ schools”. Riley (1999) indicated that the neediest communities in a nation, the poor and, often, the largest minority populaces, suffer the shortages of skilled and experienced teachers. Whereas wealthier outskirts of urban are flooded with applicants for a single job opening, most disadvantaged rural districts and urban schools find it almost impossible to retain or to attract skilled teachers in service. With the introduction of the policy of No Child Left Behind 2002 Act the federal government in the US has highlighted several requirements for local and state education districts. Other than districts development accountability structures, there are efforts to make it sure that all children enrolled in first grade are able to read by the time they are finishing their third grade. Annual testing of students from public schools in reading and arithmetic and school performance report card and the policy demands that a highly skilled and experienced teacher to be in each classroom in public school by the end of 2012. In this context a highly qualified teacher regards to the one with full state licensure and specializes only in the area of qualification.
The existing evidence goes back as early as to the 1940s, documenting the difficulties in retaining teachers in urban schools. This indicates that the current problem is not a new phenomenon. Researchers have focused their studies in defining the factors that attract professionals to teaching. However, these studies seem to end in the documentation without reaching implementation level since educators have recognized that though the amount of turnover among teachers is inevitable. These high rates of turnover of staff in schools are disruptive to planning and program continuity (Theobald, 1999).
This shortage of teachers was expected to be aggravated by the new teachers who are leaving the profession at high rates. The attrition rates of new teachers within their first five years in the teaching profession are as high as 50% (Gursky, 2001). New teachers speak of being unprepared to the challenges from classroom, which result in resolving doors of educators who serve for few years before they leave the teaching field (Peske, 2006). These rates of attrition are high in urban schools, which have most students from low-income families. It should be noted that not all attrition that results from teachers leaving the teaching field entirely. Most skilled and highly qualified teachers leave urban schools in favor of suburbs’ schools to escape the environment of low socioeconomic that makes it difficult for realization of satisfactory performance among students (Peske, 2006).
Schools must not just retain teachers, but they must retain their best-qualified teachers for better performance in students. Best-qualified teachers in urban schools are difficult to retain since they are desirable to other districts. In most cases, qualified teachers move from low performing schools in urban areas to highly performing schools in suburbs schools with high-income students (Lankford, 2002).
Factors Affecting Teachers Retention
Reviewing related researches, the results on gender varies from study to study. From most studies, gender has indicated a positive interaction between teachers’ retention and dedication. The NCSE (1997) survey indicated that male educators recorded lower commitment as compared to their female counterparts. During this study, the NCSE prepared a report focusing on the interaction between types of professionalization of teachers and their commitment to teaching professional.
Chapman (1984), State University at Albany, carried out a research on teachers’ retention testing a model of the factors influencing the teachers’ retention. In his model he applied the social teaching theory that is used specifically in teaching professionals. According to the model to understand the decision made by a teacher, it is crucial to consider teacher’s personal characteristics, training and teacher’s experiences, teacher’s degree of integration to the teaching profession, the utility a teacher derives from teaching and external influences that impinge the teaching (Chapman, 1984). Chapman’s primary discrimination was between qualified teachers, who taught in urban schools continuously and those who were prepared to teach in urban schools but later changed their mind. The personal characteristic was insignificantly different. Group that had higher commitment to a teaching career prior to graduating recorded higher retention rates. According to Chapman’s conclusion, there was a higher retention among men as compared to their female counterparts (Carol Riegelman Rinke, 2007).
Teacher’s ethnicity has been proven statistically as a significant variable affecting the retention of teacher in urban schools. Out of 21 studies that have been conducted, 10 of them have indicated ethnicity as a possible predictor variable for teacher retention in urban schools. According to Adams (1993), Whites were four times likely to leave urban schools as compared to Colors, while Hispanics recorded least leaving rates. In contrary, the NCSE (1999) highlighted that Whites were more committed than blacks and Hispanics.
Grade Level Assignment
The grade level assignment of teachers in urban schools was applied as a predictor variable in about 10 studies. Theobald (1990) concluded that a teaching assignment at the elementary level was statistically significant. Further, the assignment was correlated to decision by female teachers to leave the teaching profession but not with their males’ counterparts. Theobald recorded that public, urban school teachers were influenced by professional and personal traits when deciding to leave or to remain, not only in urban schools but also in teaching professional. Theobald (1990) concluded that years of experience, age, elementary teaching assignment and salary were all statistically significant variables. He further concluded that assessed valuations per pupil and pupil-staff ratio were statistically significant in relation to the teacher’s retention behavior. In a study that included all qualified teachers who were enrolled by school districts in October 1984. Theobald (1990) proved that female teachers older that 45 had a higher retention rates as compared to male teachers at the same age. Therefore, according to Theobald (1990) age is a significant predictor of teachers’ retention in urban schools.
Number of Years of Experience
The NCES (1997) research concluded that experienced teachers were less committed in comparison to those who had few years of experience in the teaching profession. Hawkins (1998) realized a positive correlation between the number of years of experience in teaching and commitment. Hawkins carried out his study with a sample of 396 principals of high schools. The sample comprised of 264 males and 132 female participants, the variables of interest were age, gender and service period. Although Hawkins surveyed a differing population from the one of interest in this case, he focused on commitment of principals in schools created room for generalization of the finding across the school employees (Mel Ainscow, 2006).
Cook, Boe, Weber, Bobbitt and Whitener (1997) carried out a survey to determine the predictors of teachers’ retention, attrition and transfer of general and special education teachers. Regardless that study was not specifically meant for urban schools, it highlights general reasons as to why a teacher may choose to remain in teaching or to leave either the teaching career or one school for another. Cook, Boe, Weber, Bobbitt and Whitener (1997) were interested in determining the predictors of retention, attrition and transfer for both special and general education teachers. From their study, various variables were found effective in teachers’ decision to leave or move in a teaching career: number of dependants, age of a teacher, number of children, marital status, year of the most recent degree, full time and part time employment, salary and teaching level. Giving attention to only those attributes, Cook et el. (1997) found that level of teaching was a determining factor on whether teacher will move or remain. The attrition for secondary school (5.9%) and elementary teachers (6.1%) were comparable, but the outcomes indicated that teachers in elementary transferred from school to school at a higher rates as compared to their counterparts in teachers from secondary schools. In relation to teaching level, the moving and leaving patterns were found to be statistically significant in case of general teachers but not in the case of special education teachers (Andrea J. Stairs, 2010).
From the outcomes of this survey the researchers deduced a combination of teacher’s characteristics that are relevant to the employability, schools variable that are relevant to the hiring process and decision making, and a combination of variable that are applicable to teacher’s employment standards. They further suggested guidelines, which are indispensable, to consider when hiring teacher and improving teacher’s retention: (a) hiring teacher who is experienced, between the age of 35 and 55 and with children over the age of five, (b) assign teacher a full time duty and paying them in reference to their qualification (Cook et el., 1997). However, the practicability of this guideline is not possible to many urban schools.
Boe et el. (1997) in their study among the predictors that determine the retention of teachers, found age as the most reliable determinant of teachers’ retention, attrition and transfer for both the older and younger teachers. The higher attrition rates took effects at the age of 30-49. This predictor seemed to have the same effect for both the special and general school teachers.
According to study by Bowman (1984), a replica of Boe et el. (1997), results were indicated, though the study was delimited to teacher’s assigned to the teaching areas. Bowman’s outcomes indicated that 70% of the employed teachers comprise of female teachers, 80% of the resigned teachers, 40.05 years as the average age of serving teachers, and 31.1 years of resigned teachers. In marital status, 30% of teachers were single.
The level of teachers’ education has also proven to be a significant variable in the determination of teachers’ retention. From NCSE (1997), teachers who are below a graduate degree are found to be much committed to working in both urban and suburbs schools as compared to their counterparts with graduate degrees. The outcome by Bowman (1984) indicated that professional preparedness of resigned teachers and those who are still on duty differed significantly. Three out of five of resigned teachers were found to possess just the first degree, while three out of five of the current teachers on duty possess at least a master’s degree (Epstein, 2006).
Choosing Teaching as a Career
Hanson (1995) concluded that there is a little research that has been done on the reasons for choosing teaching as a career. According to Manos (1997), most teachers attest that they just found themselves in teaching professional, and it was not much of their choice, but an inborn thing. Reid and Caudwell (1997) carried out a survey in UK on why people chose teaching as professional. With a set of 21 reasons as to why one would choose to join teaching, it emerged that ‘enjoy working with students’ and ‘getting utility from teaching’ were two most responded questions. 96% of the respondents gave those to reasons as to why they were teachers. The results were analyzed from gender, the art, science, age and mathematics perspective.
Teachers’ retention in urban schools has been a subject of discussion on numerous researches in the past. The fact on the ground is that teachers have continually moved from urban schools to other schools at a high rate this has been a challenge for learners and education officers in urban schools. As indicated in various results highlighted by the previous researches, there are specified reasons for educators to move from urban schools. However, little has been done to reveal and to explain why few educators chose to remain in urban schools despite all the reasons that have been hailed against teaching in urban schools. The little that has been done on this topic is attributed to Wilson (1993). Wilson concluded that the motivation behind teachers choosing to remain in urban schools were job utility, enjoying working with students, fair salary and good school management. There is a need to enlarge the scope of reasons as to why teachers would prefer working in urban schools.
Sclan (2001) concluded that even though working environment and resources have effect in the final decision of the teacher, the choice by the teacher to remain or to go was determined by the appreciation and support they receive in their duties. Researches have also proved that social classes of students have minimal effect to the final decision of the teacher to move from one school to another or even to leave teaching practice altogether. The management of school has, however, been found predictor of teacher retention.