Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Taking care of teachers: The experiences of rural educators regarding career longevity
by Mulvihill, Mark, Ed.D., Lewis and Clark College, 2007, 136; 3273194
Abstract (Summary)

Teacher attrition is a significant problem in public education. Attrition has become a major reason the United States is expected to experience a significant teacher shortage in the coming years (Center for American Progress, 2005). Novice teachers are particularly susceptible to leaving the profession. Approximately 50% of teachers today do not reach their sixth year (Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003).

Rural school districts face many unique challenges retaining novice teachers. Factors such as isolation, stress and burnout, and federal legislation appear to influence teachers’ decisions to leave the profession prematurely. The continued high rates of attrition, however, indicate there is much to learn about the problem in rural settings.

This qualitative study was conducted in a rural region in the Pacific Northwest. The study compared the career experiences of rural classroom teachers who left their assignments prematurely with the experiences of those who demonstrated sustained longevity in their districts. A total of 18 teachers were interviewed; 6 teachers each, from three districts of various sizes. Each district grouping consisted of three types of classroom teachers: leavers, movers, and stayers.

Seven categories emerged from the data. The first five categories, Isolation, Administrative Support, Mandates and Regulations, Collegial Support Networks, and Mentoring were identified by the leavers, movers and stayers. The final two categories, Teaching Assignment and Love of Teaching, emerged from the leavers and movers’ responses. Depending on the construct of the experience, the categories may have positively or negatively influenced the teachers’ decisions to remain in their teaching assignment.

The study proved the complexity of teacher attrition. All seven categories could also be found in suburban and urban districts as well as rural districts. A key finding proved to be the impact of the building principal. The principal’s influence over the categories and his ability to empower teachers through relationship building proved to be significant. The study recommends continued research on rural teacher attrition, administrative professional development, formation of collegial support networks, and the implementation of induction programs.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ruhl, Tom
Commitee: Mack, Richard, Sagor, Richard
School: Lewis and Clark College
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: DAI-A 68/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: School administration, Teacher education
Keywords: Career longevity, Rural education, Teacher attrition
Publication Number: 3273194
ISBN: 9780549126287
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