The Contributing Factors to Teacher Retention and Attrition and the Impact of Principals on Those Decisions



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Teacher retention and attrition in the United States is, and has been, an issue of major concern for policy makers and administrators. Exacerbating this on-going issue is a teacher shortage. High teacher attrition rates hinder schools in their ability to provide quality instruction, impact school culture, and drain schools and districts financially, including occasioning greater costs devoted to human capital investment. Prior research has provided insight into the teacher and organizational factors associated with attrition and the detrimental impact that it has on our schools. Less attention, however, has been placed on administrative influence, and even less, addressing the organizational contexts surrounding teachers who leave the district (Leavers), and move from their school to another school within the district (Movers), in addition to those who persist (Stayers). Attrition is a significant problem facing all schools, but the problem is more severe among high need schools forced to spend much needed financial and other resources on recruitment and training efforts to replace the large percentages of teachers leaving within their first few years. Given the need to retain high-quality teachers, and the significant influence that administration may have on these decisions, research is needed to understand this relationship, and the ways in which principals work to retain their teachers. Employing sequential explanatory design; and using a district level survey of all teachers, logistic regression and follow-up interviews of teachers at each school level this mixed-methods study explored two primary questions. 1. What are the reasons teachers leave or stay in their school, their school district, or profession? 2. In what ways do principals contribute to teacher decisions to leave or stay in their school, district, and profession? Additionally, this study sought a more in depth understanding of the factors contributing to teacher decisions in leaving, moving, or staying in school, district or profession. Lastly, of those contributing factors; identified through district-level survey, what, specifically, was or is the role that the building principal played regarding any of these stated decisions. Through data analysis and triangulation and integration of the qualitative and quantitative findings, the results of this study suggest that school culture/morale; teacher autonomy; student relationships, behavior, and achievement are at the center of teacher decision making with regard to attrition decisions. Through survey and follow up interviews it was determined that a principal’s focus on the aspects outlined above and explored below, can directly and indirectly impact teacher retention and attrition.