A Case Study Examining Why New Teachers Leave the Profession

Introduction

New teachers are vulnerable to abandon the profession during the first five years of their professional life due to various factors (Callahan, 2016). According to Callahan (2016), approximately half of early-career teachers leave the profession within the period mentioned above. The high turnover of novices is persistent in urban settings where residents have to address numerous socioeconomic and cultural issues (Hammonds, 2017). Some of the causes of high turnover of new members of the faculty include organizational, personal, and institutional (Newberry & Allsop, 2017; Nguyen et al., 2020). Although certain interventions, projects, and policies have been introduced to address the problem on different levels, early-career teachers continue leaving the profession (Nguyen et al., 2020).

It is necessary to note that new teachers are seen as professionals who have a formal education (obtained through traditional university-based programs and alternative programs or out-of-state prepared) and a limited working experience (between several months and five years) (Redding & Henry, 2018). Although changing jobs has been common for the educational environment (similarly to any other field), a novel trend involving high attrition rates among this cohort appeared several decades ago (Redding & Henry, 2018). The situation is quite alarming in all U.S. states, which suggests that the problem may have deep institutional roots that need to be examined and addressed accordingly.

Early-career educators choose to quit their jobs and start working in other spheres or obtain another education to commence a novel professional path. It is also important to note that administrators utilize different retention measures to ensure the proper provision of educational services to the students of their schools. For instance, induction programs involving teachers during the first year of their work predicted a decreased degree of attrition and migration among the target population (Ronfeldt& McQueen, 2017). The effectiveness of such projects proved to be high in different contexts and with teachers of various backgrounds, except Black teachers and those working with students who speak English as their second language (Ronfeldt& McQueen, 2017). Numerous initiatives implemented in diverse educational establishments across the country address other aspects as well (Podolsky et al., 2017). Workload, benefits, compensation, and working conditions are re-examined to ensure the effectiveness of retention practices. Nevertheless, the current turnover rate remains rather high irrespective of the taken efforts, so more research on the matter is necessary.

Moreover, some policies and school-based interventions have a negative impact on teachersā€™ professional development. For instance, the existing accountability policies contribute to the current problem (Ryan et al., 2017). Enhanced test-stress, burnout, and high turnover intent are major outcomes of such policies. In addition to institutional aspects, the peculiarities of teaching practice also interfere, making teachers quit and choose another professional path (Ryan et al., 2017). The profession has always been rather demanding and stressful, but the increase in teacher turnover rates has become alarming comparatively recently. Hence, it can be assumed that the new tendency is associated with teachersā€™ personal characteristics and choices.

The exact reasons for this rapid and substantial increase remain unclear, although some studies on the matter have been implemented. Personal factors often serve as mitigating factors under such circumstances, and peer support, mentorship programs, as well as personal traits tend to be the reasons for staying in the profession (Newberry &Allsop, 2017; Nguyen et al., 2020). Redding and Henry (2018) found that the educational background of teachers and the years of working experience play a significant role in the formation of teachersā€™ commitment to leave or stay. Redding and Henry (2018) ad that university-based education is often a predictor of teacher migration, while degrees from alternative programs and out-of-state preparation enhances teachersā€™ desire to leave the profession rather than change the school.

The turnover of early-career educators is becoming a particular concern of administrators and policymakers. Recent research suggests that experienced teachers tend to ā€œproduce higher rates of student achievementā€ (Callahan, 2016, p. 6). At the same time, it takes between three and seven years for a teacher to gain sufficient experience to achieve high results. Turnover among new teachers has a substantial adverse impact on the academic achievement of students of color and learners pertaining to other vulnerable groups (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2019). Further prospects of the youth with a low level of education become obscure. Therefore, the high turnover of novices is likely to have serious long-term implications for the community and the overall country.

The financial aspect of the problem is often placed to the fore. It has been estimated that the annual cost of the recruitment, hiring, and training of new members of the faculty was over two billion US dollars in 2012 (Callahan, 2016). In simple terms, educational costs increase, but the quality of the provided services becomes lower owing to new teachersā€™ unwillingness to remain in the profession. At the same time, the need for a skilled workforce is increasing, so more attention is now paid to the educational sphere these days (Callahan, 2016). The focus is on schoolteachers, where the turnover rate is alarming compared to higher education.

Researchers have examined the problem in terms of three major domains mentioned above, institutional (external policies), organizational (work environment, load, internal policies, and so on), and personal (job satisfaction, working experience, education, and demographics) (Nguyen et al., 2020). Organizational factors have been investigated with specific precision, which led to the creation of certain school-based projects that became mitigating aspects (Lee, 2019). Among organizational factors, teacher burnout has a positive correlation with teacher turnover (Lee, 2019). Early-career teachersā€™ psychological traits have also received certain attention, and the correlation between different traits and teachersā€™ desire to leave has been examined. Kim et al. (2020) found that new teachersā€™ stress mindset was a predictor of attrition, while those who found benefits in stress remained in the profession.

However, the exact influence of each factor, as well as the correlation between different causes of turnover among new teachers, remains obscure and needs further exploration. It is important to gain insights into the perceived factors forcing early-career out of the profession. The understanding of the causes of teachersā€™ behavior can be instrumental in introducing the changes necessary for the development of the educational sector. New teachers should be supported and encouraged to continue working and gaining experience, which will have a positive effect on the quality of the provided educational services.

Statement of the Problem

The problem to be addressed by this study is an alarming rate of new teachers leaving the profession (Mack et al., 2019; Sutcher et al., 2016). It has been estimated that up to 30% of novice teachers leave the profession (Sutcher et al., 2016). More than half of the leaving teachers quit their jobs within five years (Mack et al., 2019). This trend has been persistent since the 2000s and contributed to considerable understaffing in schools (Boe et al., 2008). It has been estimated that unless the current situation is addressed, the turnover rate among novice educators can double by the 2020s (Hussar & Bailey, 2014; Sutcher et al., 2016). Numerous policies and programs have been introduced to decrease early career teachersā€™ attrition by schools and districts (Redding et al., 2019). However, the turnover rate is still alarming and shows the ineffectiveness of the existing projects (Mack et al., 2019; Sutcher et al., 2016). The educational system is facing direct economic and social consequences related to the growing turnover of new teachers (Shakrani, 2008). Increasing costs lead to higher tuition fees and a larger budget burden for federal and state governments (Shakrani, 2008). These young people may be less successful in and committed to gaining higher education and accessing better employment (Albright et al., 2017). New teachers who are supposed to use innovative strategies and methods to facilitate the development of the society through educating younger generations leave the profession (Sutcher et al., 2016). Although diverse reasons may force teachers out of profession, some major causes may prevail (Mack et al., 2019). Individuals invest time to obtain education and degrees, but then quit and leave the profession within a short period of time, so they see exact obstacles to achieving the goals they establish before entering the profession (Shakrani, 2008).

Purpose of the Study

The primary goal of this qualitative case study is to identify concrete reasons why new teachers tend to leave their profession in the United States. The target population will consist of two halves ā€“ teachers who have entered their position from six months to a year before this case study implementation, and teachers who have left their profession. Due to considerable changes and the load associated with COVID-19 teachers experienced, the professionals who quit before April 2020 will be included in the study. Quarantine measures were implemented in spring 2020, depending on state regulations, so spring months have been chosen as the relevant timeframe. At the same time, it can be effective to pay certain attention to restrictive COVID-related steps when interviewing the practitioners who chose to remain in the profession. They will be interviewed via the online platform Zoom. Semi-structured interviews will be utilized to collect as detailed data as possible and encourage the participants to express their views on the matter freely and sincerely. Field notes will be taken, and verbal, as well as non-verbal cues, will be analyzed. The interviews will be digitally recorded and transcribed manually. Urban K-12 public schools in 3 districts in California will be contacted in order to obtain the lists of potential participants and formulate the sampling needed. This case study will involve ten teachers.

Data collection method that will be applied is an interview via the Zoom online platform. In this qualitative research, saturation will be attained when no new themes and codes appear during the data collection process (Saunders et al., 2018). Triangulation is one of the methods to ensure saturation and increase the validity of the obtained findings. For the purpose of this study, interviews and document analysis will be utilized (Fusch& Ness, 2015). The documents regarding the contract termination process, performance reports, and other types of information will be considered to gain more insights into the problem. A modified framework developed and validated by Buchanan et al. (2013) and Buchanan (2009) will be used to design the interview questions. This framework aimed at identifying teachersā€™ intentions to leave and reasons for that encompasses attention to such areas as workload, isolation, support, student behavior and engagement, professional learning, and working conditions. Galea (2020) employed the paradigm crafted by Buchanan and paid specific attention to the aspects related to working conditions. Since the framework has been validated in several studies, it is regarded as appropriate. However, it will be modified to make it more up-to-date as it was created in the 2010s. As mentioned above, some attention can be paid to the restrictions and associated workload linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The interview questions and the overall topics covered are an effective framework that can be instrumental in answering the established research question. The participants will answer ten open-ended questions, while additional questions or clarifications can also be used to elicit more data. The format of a semi-structured interview utilized in this case study enables the researcher to ask additional questions if necessary. As mentioned above, the questions that will be asked have been validated in several studies, so no pilot study will be conducted. Field tests conducted by experts will be employed to ensure that the questions are appropriate and capture the participants attitudes regarding the subject matter.

Introduction to Conceptual Framework

As mentioned above, scholars have explored factors affecting new teacher retention with the focus on three major domains. These aspects have been central to the problems for decades, and researchers have paid substantial attention to these areas with some differences (Mason & Matas, 2015). This study is aimed at examining early-career teachersā€™ perspectives regarding the factors forcing them out of the profession. Importantly, the focus is on perceived issues as this insight can help in designing interventions (involving support, mentoring, or other measures) motivating new teachers to stay.

Factors contributing to new teacher retention
Figure 1. Factors contributing to new teacher retention

Personal aspects include psychological traits, demographics ( age, gender, education, working experience), participantsā€™ skills, job satisfaction, as well as family-related or other issues that are not associated with the profession directly. Organizational causes of new teacher retention refer to school culture, existing standards and guidelines (especially accountability), support and interpersonal relationships, leadership, as well as the participantsā€™ perceived workload and opportunities for professional growth. Institutional factors include salaries, external policies and standards, and overall job prestige.

These three fields are interconnected, and they intersect in diverse ways affecting early-career teachersā€™ choices. For example, due to personal features, some new teachers may find autocratic leadership ineffective and inappropriate, while others may require close supervision and guidance (Deever et al., 2020). Workload and accountability policies tend to have an impact on teachersā€™ job satisfaction and decision to leave the profession (Ryan et al., 2017). Salary and existing regulations influence school-based policies, as well as working atmosphere, and have a considerable effect on early-career teachersā€™ job satisfaction and ability to address their needs. Hence, it is necessary to explore the views of new teachers on these factors and the role they play in their choices regarding leaving the profession.

Introduction to Research Methodology and Design

Research Questions

In order to explore the factors affecting new teachersā€™ decision to leave the profession, several research questions are to be addressed. The focus will be on the participantsā€™ perceptions and attitudes, so the designed questions encompass this kind of focus. It is important to identify the perceived reasons to quit and trace the most influential factor based on the target populationā€™s views. The identification of the most influential reason, as seen by the participants, can help in detecting the major factor contributing to a high turnover rate among early career teachers. Although the focus of this study is on turnover, it is necessary to pay attention to the aspects encouraging the target population to remain in the profession. The analysis of new teachersā€™ perspectives regarding different aspects of their professional experiences will result in gaining insights into the positive and negative features that shape teachersā€™ decisions. The examination of the reasons for remaining in the profession and quitting can be instrumental in understanding the factors affecting new teachersā€™ choices regarding their professional path.

RQ1:Ā What is the primary reason for leaving the profession as reported by new teachers who quit?

RQ2:Ā What factors affect some early career teachersā€™ choices to quit as seen by new teachers who have left the profession?

RQ3:Ā Why do some new teachers remain in the profession while some choose to quit?

Research Method and Design

The qualitative research method will be utilized to address the purpose of the case study and answer the set research questions. Case studies concentrate on a group of people facing an issue or functioning under certain circumstances (Yin, 2017). The current project is concerned with new teachers who quit the profession a few years after the start of their careers. The research aims at identifying the factors affecting these peopleā€™s choices, so the use of a qualitative research approach is the most relevant alternative. Qualitative inquiries enable specific groups to voice their perspectives or the challenges they have to tackle (ā€œQualitative Research,ā€ 2015). Since the proposed study deals with peopleā€™s choices and perspective, regarding their professional life, the qualitative research design is optimal for the exploration of the participantsā€™ accounts and attitudes.

Case studies can be implemented with the use of diverse tools, including but not confined to interviews, observations, action research (Yin, 2017). This research will be based on the analysis of new teacherā€™s accounts collected during in-depth face-to-face interviews. The interviews will encompass asking ten open-ended questions via the digital platform Zoom due to the COVID-19 situation. These will be semi-structured questions that allow the researcher to elicit more data and the participants to be more open and provide detailed answers (Yin, 2017). Researchers conducting qualitative studies try to ensure the credibility and validity of the obtained information in many ways. The implementation of the pilot study to validate questions is a common practice. However, the questions that will be utilized in this study have been validated by several researchers, so the validation process will be confined to field tests. In terms of this type of ensuring validity, experts analyze the question protocols that will be utilized in the research (Yin, 2017). The researcher will take field notes to collect as much information as possible as non-verbal communication can provide valuable insights into the participantsā€™ attitudes.

The sampling process is an important aspect of qualitative research that requires much attention. The convenience sampling strategy is often used by qualitative researchers as this model ensures the involvement of knowledgeable people (Yin, 2017). At that, this method is often associated with a certain degree of bias as people facing some problem and volunteering to take part in research may be biased (Yin, 2017). For instance, new teachers leaving their profession early may want to unveil some institutional issues or some problems they encountered on an interpersonal level. Triangulation is a strategy researchers tend to utilize to minimize any bias (Fusch& Ness, 2015). For the purpose of the present study, interviews will be combined with the analysis of performance reports, teachersā€™ contracts, and other documents. The review of the existing literature on the matter will also help gain insights into possible factors affecting educatorsā€™ choices. The exact sample size is often a considerable issue for qualitative researchers who want to make sure they involve a sufficient number of participants to get comprehensive data. A common approach to saturation in qualitative design will be employed, and the researcher will stop collecting data when no new themes and codes appear (Saunders et al., 2018). As for the data analysis method, coding and the focus on the most recurrent themes will be central to this research.

In conclusion, it is possible to state that qualitative research design is the most appropriate approach to address the posed research questions. Since the focus is on peopleā€™s attitudes, the researcher will elicit their opinions during semi-structured interviews that facilitate the process of sharing ideas and information. The researcher will try to ensure the validity and credibility of the obtained data with the help of instruments common for qualitative research.

Significance of the Study

This study can have multiple implications for practitioners and scholars, as well as contribute to the development of the profession. On the one hand, the present study will shed light on early-career teachersā€™ perspectives regarding their choice to leave, which will fill in the existing gap in research. The primary focus remains on specific aspects and the correlation between different variables (Nguyen et al., 2020). However, new teachersā€™ voices are left aside in many instances, which makes the exact reasons for retention unclear. In terms of this study, the participants will be encouraged to prioritize the factors affecting their decisions, which will help in detecting the most influential causes of high turnover in schools. The present study will also validate the framework developed by Buchanan, making it more up-to-date and applicable in the current situation.

On the other hand, the identification of the causes of new teacher turnover will be instrumental in creating high-quality retention programs for the target population. Early-career teachers will be able to receive support and guidance, as well as meet other needs, which will enhance their motivation to remain in the profession. Notably, programs and incentives can be crafted on different levels, including school-based, state, and federal initiatives. Administrators and educators may develop and introduce effective measures to reduce new teacher turnover. These improvements will have a positive effect on the development of the educational system as the quality of education will be higher while the costs of the provided services may be reduced. The current problems in the field are aggravated by pandemic-related factors, so rapid changes are needed to ensure the ability of the American educational system to address the existing challenges.

Definitions of Key Terms

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Literature Review

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Research Method

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Summary

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Findings

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XXX of the Data

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Results

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Research Question 1/Hypothesis

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Evaluation of the Findings

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Summary

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Research Question 1/Hypothesis

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Recommendations for Practice

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Recommendations for Future Research

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Conclusions

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References

Albright, J. L., Safer, L. A., Sims, P. A., Tagaris, A., Glasgow, D., Sekulich, K. M., & Zaharis, M. C. (2017). What factors impact why novice middle school teachers in a large midwestern urban school district leave after their initial year of teaching. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, 12(1), 1-16.

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ChalkyPapers. 2023. "A Case Study Examining Why New Teachers Leave the Profession." May 5, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/a-case-study-examining-why-new-teachers-leave-the-profession/.

1. ChalkyPapers. "A Case Study Examining Why New Teachers Leave the Profession." May 5, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/a-case-study-examining-why-new-teachers-leave-the-profession/.


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ChalkyPapers. "A Case Study Examining Why New Teachers Leave the Profession." May 5, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/a-case-study-examining-why-new-teachers-leave-the-profession/.