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Teacher recruitment and retention in a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Tonya R Beckett
Abstract:
This research study investigated why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. It is a descriptive case study that used mixed methodology to ascertain why the district is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. The criteria used to select the school district for this research study were the high percentages of (a) rural minority students, (b) families living below the poverty line, (c) rural students eligible for subsidized meals, (d) teachers with emergency or provisional certificates, (e) teacher vacancies existing for more than nine weeks, (f) classes taught by unqualified teachers, (g) low student achievement on standardized tests, and (h) low graduation rates that were based on the district's annual Education Accountability Act of 1998 report cards from 2003 to 2008. The qualitative data consisted of face-to-face interviews that were conducted with district and school level administrators to collect information to analyze the district's current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. Other qualitative data consisted of telephone interviews with one Director of Personnel from each of the three regions of South Carolina in addition to the district's Director of Personnel to collect data to use in suggesting possible improvements in the district's current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. Quantitative data was gathered from teachers with less than three years of service within the district to (a) collect information on how they became aware of vacancies within the district, (b) identify factors that influenced them to accept employment in the district, (c) identify factors that influenced them to remain employed in the district, and (d) ascertain the most beneficial financial and nonfinancial incentives.

Table of Contents Acknowledgments.................................................................................................. iv List of Tables .......................................................................................................... x List of Figures ........................................................................................................ xi CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ....................................................................................... 1

Introduction to the Problem .................................................................................... 1 Background of the Study ........................................................................................ 1 Statement of the Problem ........................................................................................ 8 Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................... 8 Rationale ............................................................................................................... 10 Research Questions ............................................................................................... 11 Significance of the Study ...................................................................................... 11 Definition of Terms............................................................................................... 12 Assumptions .......................................................................................................... 13 Limitations ............................................................................................................ 14 Nature of the Study ............................................................................................... 14 Organization of the Remainder of the Study ........................................................ 20 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW .......................................................................... 21

Introduction ........................................................................................................... 21 Causes of the Problem .......................................................................................... 21 District and School Climates ................................................................................ 44 State Initiatives...................................................................................................... 56 Summary ............................................................................................................... 59

viii

CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY .................................................................................... 60

Introduction ........................................................................................................... 60 Statement of the Problem ...................................................................................... 61 Research Questions ............................................................................................... 61 Research Methodology ......................................................................................... 62 Research Design.................................................................................................... 63 Population and Sampling Procedure ..................................................................... 64 Sources of Data ..................................................................................................... 65 Validity ................................................................................................................. 66 Reliability .............................................................................................................. 67 Data Collection Procedures ................................................................................... 67 Data Analysis Procedures ..................................................................................... 69 Ethical Considerations .......................................................................................... 69 Summary ............................................................................................................... 71 CHAPTER 4. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS ................................................ 72

Introduction ........................................................................................................... 72 Descriptive Data.................................................................................................... 73 Data Analysis ...................................................................................................... 103 Results ................................................................................................................. 119 Summary ............................................................................................................. 132 CHAPTER 5. RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS .............. 133

Introduction ......................................................................................................... 133 Summary of the Study ........................................................................................ 134

ix

Summary of Findings and Conclusion ................................................................ 135 Recommendations ............................................................................................... 140 Implications......................................................................................................... 146 REFERENCES ............................................................................................................... 147

Appendix A ..................................................................................................................... 154 Appendix B ..................................................................................................................... 156 Appendix C ..................................................................................................................... 158

x

List of Tables Table 1. Quality Teacher Statistics for the School District Under Study ............................4

Table 2. The District’s Annual Average Teacher Salaries ..................................................6

Table 3. South Carolina Rural Student Population and Poverty Statistics ..........................7

Table 4. Teacher Retention Rates of District in Comparison to State and Similar Districts ...........................................................................................10

Table 5. District Standardized Assessment Results ...........................................................17

Table 6. Graduation Rates of District in Comparison to Other Districts with Similar Students ................................................................................................................18

Table 7. Types of Financial and Nonfinancial Incentives .................................................40

Table 8. Frequency of Responses to Factors Influencing Teacher Recruitment ...............82

Table 9. Frequency of Responses to Factors Influencing Teacher Retention ....................88

Table 10. Types of Financial Incentives ............................................................................96

Table 11. Types of Nonfinancial Incentives ......................................................................98

Table 12. Teacher Demographics ....................................................................................106

Table 13. Frequency and Percentage of Years in Teaching .............................................109

Table 14. Grade Levels Taught and Degrees Attained ....................................................110

Table 15. High School Alma Mater and Teacher Education Training ............................113

Table 16. Career Intentions ..............................................................................................119

xi

List of Figures Figure 1. Venues for teacher vacancy announcements ....................................................118

Figure 2. Factors of significant influence for teacher recruitment ...................................122

Figure 3. Factors of no influence for teacher recruitment ...............................................123

Figure 4. Factors of significant influence for teacher retention .......................................125

Figure 5. Factors of no influence for teacher retention ....................................................126

Figure 6. Most beneficial financial incentives .................................................................127

Figure 7. Least beneficial financial incentives ................................................................128

Figure 8. Most beneficial nonfinancial incentives ...........................................................129

Figure 9. Least beneficial nonfinancial incentives ..........................................................130

1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Introduction to the Problem This research study investigated why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. It is a descriptive case study that used mixed methodology to ascertain why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. Wilkins (1998) conducted “a case study of how one rural school division in Virginia used continuous process improvement to change the way it recruited teachers” (Abstract ¶1) using the framework of the Westinghouse Technology to Improve Processes model. Portions of Wilkins’s case study were replicated in this descriptive case study of a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty.

Background of the Study The Rural School and Community Trust (2005) contends “poverty is the single strongest and most persistent threat to high student achievement” (p. 5). Similarly, the National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools (2005) purports that many people assume achievement gaps are the inevitable result of poverty, poor family structure, and social problems. However, research suggests that if our poorest children are given a

2 succession of motivated, well-prepared, and experienced teachers, achievement gaps can be narrowed and perhaps eliminated (National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005). As a result, quality teachers are an equalizer among students regardless of their families’ socioeconomic status. Section 1112 in Title I Part A of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) of 2001 requires local educational agencies to ensure that inexperienced, uncertified, or out-of- field teachers do not disproportionately teach low-income students and minority students at higher rates than other students (National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005; Rowland & Coble, 2005). Despite the federal mandate, hard-to-staff, at-risk school districts, particularly those in rural areas, are far more likely to have challenges recruiting quality teachers than school districts in more urban areas due to significant differences in salary, benefits, and resources (Ingersoll, 2004). Consequently, hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school districts employ larger numbers of inexperienced, poorly prepared, and under qualified teachers than more successful school districts as shown in Table 1 (Berry & King, 2005; Ingersoll, 2004; James B. Hunt, Jr. Institute for Educational Leadership and Policy, 2004; National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005; Rowland & Coble, 2005; Rural SC School Districts, 2004). In fact, first year teachers usually begin their careers in rural school districts. However, research suggests that they usually leave school districts with low achievement, high poverty, and high percentages of racial minorities at the first opportunity (Berry & King, 2005; National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005; Rowland & Coble, 2005). Moreover, a system that gives teachers with the least experience the hardest teaching assignments is not serving the needs of its students or the school district that employs them especially when teachers

3 are inadequately prepared through preservice education and in-service training to be successful in that type of environment (National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005). Even so, when teachers in high-poverty schools have experience and credentials, they are generally inadequately prepared and supported to handle the enormous instructional challenges they face in hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school districts (National Partnership for Teaching in At-Risk Schools, 2005). These factors strongly correlate not only with South Carolina having the lowest paid teachers in the nation as depicted in Table 2, but also with Berry and King’s (2005) assertion that teachers’ salaries remain too low to attract and retain a sufficient supply of talented and well- prepared teachers to fill the nation’s most challenging classrooms (Rural SC School Districts, 2004). Table 1 presents the quality teacher statistics for the school district under study from 2003 to 2008. In 2003, South Carolina’s Education Accountability Act (EAA) of 1998 district report cards did not contain data related to the (a) number of teachers with emergency or provisional certificates, (b) number of teacher vacancies that existed for more than nine weeks, and (c) percentage of classes taught by unqualified teachers (South Carolina Department of Education, 2003a). However, in 2004, the annual EAA report card for the hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in this research study profiled over 19% of teachers with emergency or provisional certificates and 4% of teacher vacancies that existed for more than nine weeks (South Carolina Department of Education, 2004a). These percentages increased in 2005 to over 23% and 5%, respectively and worsened in 2006 (South Carolina Department of Education, 2005a). The percentage of teachers with emergency or provisional certificates increased for the second consecutive year to

4 approximately 25%. As a result, the percentage of classes taught by unqualified teachers registered almost 9%, which resulted in the district’s failure to meet South Carolina’s objective of 0% for the number of unqualified teachers teaching classes. However, the percentage of teacher vacancies existing for more than nine weeks decreased to 3% (South Carolina Department of Education, 2006a). Like 2006, the 2007 annual district report card was also bittersweet. The percentage of teachers with emergency or provisional certificates decreased by 9.7% to 15% and the percentage of teacher vacancies that existed for more than nine weeks fell 2% to 1%. However, the percentage of classes taught by unqualified teachers rose to 15.4%, an increase that exceeded 6% from 2006 and resulted in the second consecutive year the district failed to meet South Carolina’s objective of no more than 9% of unqualified teachers teaching classes (South Carolina Department of Education, 2007a). Data from the 2008 district report card was still bittersweet. The percentage of teachers with emergency or provisional certificates increased approximately 4% to almost 19% while the percentage of teacher vacancies that existed for more than nine weeks increased by 3.3% to 4.3%. The percentage of classes taught by unqualified teachers fell significantly to 5.3%, but still did not meet South Carolina’s objective of 0% (South Carolina Department of Education, 2008b).

Table 1

Quality Teacher Statistics for the School District Under Study

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Teachers with emergency or provisional certificate s

19.3%

23.2%

24.7%

15.0%

18.6%

5 Table 1

continued

Quality Teacher Statistics for the School District Under Study

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Teacher vacancies existing for more than nine weeks

4.0%

5.1%

3.0%

1.0%

4.3%

Percentage of classes taught by unqualified teachers

-

-

8.7%

15.4%

5.3%

Note . A hyphen ( - ) indicates that data was not reported.

As shown in Table 2, differences in the district’s annual average teacher salary increased each year from 2003 to 2007 by varying amounts, but significantly decreased in 2008. From 2003 to 2004, the average teacher salary increased by $727 (South Carolina Department of Education, 2003a; South Carolina Department of Education, 2004a). From 2004 to 2005, average teacher salaries rose by $2,705 (South Carolina Department of Education, 2004a; South Carolina Department of Education, 2005a). From 2005 to 2006, salaries rose by a meager $89 and from 2006 to 2007, salaries increased by $3,691(South Carolina Department of Education, 2005a; South Carolina Department of Education, 2006a; South Carolina Department of Education, 2007a). In 2008, the average teacher salary decreased significantly by $3,195 to $41,371 (South Carolina Department of Education, 2008b).

6

Table 2

The Dis trict’s Annual Average Teacher Salaries

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Average teacher salary

$37,354

$38,081

$40,786

$40,875

$44,566

$41,371

Many rural school districts are in regions of the nation that are chronically economically depressed and have high percentages of students from families in poverty (Butera & Dunn, 2005). Table 3 depicts South Carolina’s minority rural population and its poverty level from 2003, 2005, and 2007. In 2003, the rural student population in South Carolina was composed primarily of minority students and was among the highest in the United States at approximately 42%. In addition, South Carolina ranked in the top quartile in the percentage, 18%, of rural families with children living below the poverty line. Based on federal poverty guidelines, over 50% of all students in rural South Carolina school districts were eligible to receive subsidized meals, which are free or reduced price breakfasts and lunches. In 2003, South Carolina ranked as the ninth rural education priority state in the nation (Rural School and Community Trust, 2003). By 2005, the rural student population in South Carolina was still composed primarily of minority students and was again among the highest in the United States at 42.1%–a .4% increase from 2003. In addition, South Carolina ranked in the top quartile for the second year in the percentage, 15.3%, of rural families with children living below the poverty line; yet another increase from 2003 of 2.7%. Based on federal poverty guidelines, over 55% of all students in rural South Carolina school districts were eligible

7 to receive subsidized meals. In comparison to 2003, this was a 4.4% increase. Furthermore, in 2005, South Carolina ranked in the critical quartile on the poverty gauge and ranked as the seventh rural education priority state in the nation–up two slots from 2003 (The Rural School and Community Trust, 2005). By 2007, there was an increase in these statistics. More specifically, the percentage of rural minority students in South Carolina rose to over 42%. In addition, South Carolina remained in the top quartile for the third year in the percentage, 17.7%, of rural families living in poverty and also ranked in the top quartile on the socioeconomic challenges gauge. Based on federal poverty guidelines, over 55% of all students in rural South Carolina school districts were eligible to receive subsidized meals. Furthermore, in 2007, South Carolina ranked as the sixth rural education priority state in the nation–up one slot from 2005 (Rural School and Community Trust, 2007).

Table 3

South Carolina Rural Student Population and Poverty Statistic s

2003

2005

2007

Percentage of rural minority students

41.7%

42.1%

42.8%

Percentage of rural families living below the poverty line

18.0%

15.3%

17.7%

Percentage of rural students eligible for subsidized meals

50.7%

55.1%

55.6%

Ingersoll (2004) purports that 40% to 50% of recruited teachers leave the profession within five years. Data suggest that recruitment strategies alone will not solve

8 staffing inadequacies if those strategies do not improve teacher retention by minimizing the revolving door effect (Ingersoll, 2004). The former governor of Virginia, Mark Warner, as cited in Berry and King (2005), asserts “I believe a nation that has planted its flag on the moon and sent robotic scouts to Mars can figure out how to get good teachers into the schools that need them the most” (p. 9). Truer words may have never been spoken.

Statement of the Problem It was not known why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. Annual district EAA report cards from 2003 to 2008 depicted three trends associated with the number of teachers returning from previous school years: (a) changes from year to year, (b) minimal discrepancies in comparison to districts with similar students, and (c) significant discrepancies in comparison to median districts in the state of South Carolina.

Purpose of the Study The purpose of this research study was to ascertain why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. Table 4 depicts the percentage of teachers who returned to the district in this research study from 2003 to 2008. During the 2002–2003 school year, 80.8% of the district’s teachers returned from the previous school year, which was a decrease of 8.7% based on the state’s median of

9 89.5% (South Carolina Department of Education, 2003a). During the 2003–2004 school year, the number of teachers returning from the previous school year, increased to 83.7%, but was still below the state’s median of 89.9% by 6.2% (South Carolina Department of Education, 2004a). However, during the 2004–2005 school year, the number of teachers returning from the previous school year, decreased to 81% and was not only 9% below the state’s median of 90%, but also 4.5% below other school districts that served similar students (South Carolina Department of Education, 2005a). In 2006, the district increased the number of teachers returning from the previous school year to 84.2%, but remained below the state’s median of 90% for the second consecutive year by 5.8% and below other school districts that served similar students also for the second consecutive year by 2.5% (South Carolina Department of Education, 2006a). The 2006–2007 school year was similar to the 2004–2005 school year in that the number of teachers returning from the previous school year decreased to 83.3% and was 5% below the state’s median of 89.2% and 1.7% below other school districts that served similar students (South Carolina Department of Education, 2007a). During the 2007–2008 school year, there was a decrease of 3.3% in the number of teachers returning from the previous year as well as a decrease of 2.8% compared to other school districts that served similar students. There was also a .4% decreased compared to South Carolina’s median retention rate (South Carolina Department of Education, 2008b).

10 Table 4

Teacher Retention Rates of District in Comparison to State and Similar Districts

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

Distr ict’s retention rate

80.8%

83.7%

81.0%

84.2%

83.3%

80.0%

Retention rate of other district’s with similar students

-

-

85.5%

86.7%

85.0%

83.8%

South Carolina’s median retention rate

89.5%

89.9%

90.0%

90.0%

89.2%

88.8%

Note . A hyph en ( - ) indicates that data was not reported.

Rationale Many school districts throughout the United States experience difficulty with recruiting teachers. However, the brunt of this phenomenon is worse in rural school districts and it is worsened when those school districts are hard to staff, at risk, and serve high populations of children of poverty. Since growing teacher shortages, decreasing numbers of minority teachers, and current teachers leaving the profession has converged with the reality of frugal budgets, hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school districts (especially those that serve high populations of children of poverty) are having much more difficulty than ever before competing for quality teachers let alone qualified teachers. Ingersoll (2004) asserts that school district staffing problems are to a large extent rooted in the organization of schools and the way the teaching profession is regarded, and that enduring improvements in the quality and quantity of the teaching workforce will require

11 improvements in the quality of the teaching profession. In order to fully understand the causes of and determine plausible recommendations for the teacher recruitment and retention challenges this particular district faces, it is essential to examine the current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives using a proven framework that not only increases effectiveness, but also efficiency.

Research Questions This study answered the following research questions: R 1 –What is the teacher recruitment process? R 2 –What are the major areas of concern with the recruitment process? R 3 –What factors have an influence on the recruitment of teachers? R 4 –What factors have an influence on the retention of teachers? R 5 –What financial incentives are most beneficial for teachers? R 6 –What nonfinancial incentives are most beneficial for teachers? R 7 –What types of changes are required to improve the recruitment and retention process?

Significance of the Study Very little research has been conducted on teacher recruitment processes, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives in hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school districts. To date, no other research study remotely similar to Wilkins’s (1998) study has been recorded in ProQuest Dissertations & Theses or the Networked Library of Digital Dissertations. This research study, therefore, contributes to and extends the body of

12 knowledge on teacher recruitment processes, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives in the educational arena, thereby eliminating gaps in research literature. The results of this study will be shared with the participating school district and the recommendations for improving the current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives within the district could very well have a significant impact on teacher quality for years to come, which would undoubtedly lead to improved student achievement as well.

Definition of Terms The terminology listed below is used operationally in this research study. At - risk school districts .

At - risk school districts

are those that (a) serve large percentages of minority students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who have poor academic achievement and low graduation rates ,

and (b) employ high percentages of t eachers with temporary or emergency certification who may teach out - of - field and/or are in their first or second year of their teaching career (Rowland & Coble, 2005; National Partnership for Teaching in At - Risk Schools, 2005; Rural School and Community Tr ust, 2005).

Hard - to - staff

school districts .

Hard - to - staff school districts

are usually in rural geographic locations that experience severe challenges in recruiting and retaining quality teachers that consequently lead to high teacher attrition rates (Gle nnie, Coble, & Allen, 2004; Rowland & Coble, 2005).

Minority students . Minority students

are those of African American, Asian/Pacific

13 Islander, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native ethnicities (Rural School and Community Trust, 2005).

Poverty .

P overty

exists when more than 75% of elementary and secondary school students are eligible to receive free or reduced price breakfast and lunch (Rural School and Community Trust, 2005; Rural School and Community Trust, 2007).

Quality teachers .

Quality teac hers

are those who continuously increase student achievement by (a) having a command of their content area ,

(b) understanding how students learn ,

and (c) having a vast array of teaching techniques to meet the diverse needs of students (National Partnership

for Teaching in At - Risk Schools, 2005).

Rural school districts .

Rural school districts

are “more than 25 miles from an urbanized area and are also more than 10 miles from an urban cluster” (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.).

Assumptions The following assumptions were present in this study: 1. The superintendent of the participating school district would grant approval to conduct this research study. 2. One hundred percent of identified administrators at the district and school levels would participate in the face-to-face interviews. 3. One hundred percent of the identified Directors of Personnel from the three regions in South Carolina would participate in the telephone interviews. 4. At least 85% of teachers with less than three years of service in the district would respond to the survey.

14 5. The Superintendent will receive a copy of the study upon completion.

Limitations The following limitations were present in this study: 1. This study is limited to only one hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty. 2. This case study cannot be generalized for all school districts. 3. The qualitative portion of this study was limited to the district’s Director of Personnel, the elementary school’s principal, the middle school’s principal, the high school’s principal, and a Director of Personnel from the Upstate region, the Midlands region, and the Lowcountry region. 4. The telephone interviews were not limited to hard-to-staff, at-risk, or rural school districts. 5. The quantitative portion of this study was limited to 47 teachers with less than three years of service in the district.

Nature of the Study This is a descriptive case study that used mixed methodology to ascertain why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. South Carolina is divided into three regions: the Upstate, the Midlands, and the Lowcountry. The school district in this research study is located in the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. The district has one school at each span (i.e., elementary,

Full document contains 176 pages
Abstract: This research study investigated why a hard-to-staff, at-risk, rural school district in Southeast South Carolina that serves high populations of children of poverty is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. It is a descriptive case study that used mixed methodology to ascertain why the district is having severe challenges recruiting quality teachers. The criteria used to select the school district for this research study were the high percentages of (a) rural minority students, (b) families living below the poverty line, (c) rural students eligible for subsidized meals, (d) teachers with emergency or provisional certificates, (e) teacher vacancies existing for more than nine weeks, (f) classes taught by unqualified teachers, (g) low student achievement on standardized tests, and (h) low graduation rates that were based on the district's annual Education Accountability Act of 1998 report cards from 2003 to 2008. The qualitative data consisted of face-to-face interviews that were conducted with district and school level administrators to collect information to analyze the district's current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. Other qualitative data consisted of telephone interviews with one Director of Personnel from each of the three regions of South Carolina in addition to the district's Director of Personnel to collect data to use in suggesting possible improvements in the district's current teacher recruitment process, and teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. Quantitative data was gathered from teachers with less than three years of service within the district to (a) collect information on how they became aware of vacancies within the district, (b) identify factors that influenced them to accept employment in the district, (c) identify factors that influenced them to remain employed in the district, and (d) ascertain the most beneficial financial and nonfinancial incentives.