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Careers in Motion: A Longitudinal Retention Study of Role Changing Among Early-Career Urban Educators


by Karen Hunter Quartz, Andrew Thomas, Lauren Anderson, Katherine Masyn, Kimberly Barraza Lyons & Brad Olsen — 2008

Background/Context:Teacher retention, especially of qualified teachers within high-poverty schools, is an issue of local, national, and international concern. School staffing research has typically examined two groups: those who remain in full-time classroom teaching versus those who quit teaching altogether. This article complicates the teacher staffing picture and adds a third category of attrition: role changing, which is the phenomenon of teachers shifting into nonteaching professional roles in the field of education.

Purpose: We asked what proportion of teacher career movement within our sample was attributable to leaving teaching versus role changing. Further, we wanted to know the influence of race/ethnicity, gender, credential type, and age on role-changing patterns.

Research Design: To deepen our understanding of teacher career patterns, we conducted a 6-year longitudinal study that involved collecting survey data on teacher career movement, school experiences, and attitudes from 838 well-prepared urban educators in their first through eighth career year. These educators had all completed master’s degrees in the teacher education program of a high-status urban public university and all began their careers as teachers. After collecting the data, we documented and diagrammed career patterns. In addition, we analyzed the influence of select time invariant covariates on the hazard probabilities of both role changing and leaving education.

Findings/Results: The study found that not only did teachers move into a variety of nonteaching roles within the field of education, but they also followed diverse career “pathways” along the way. Survival analysis substantiated prior research showing that Latino teachers have lower attrition rates from the field of education compared with White teachers, but this effect disappeared for role changing with the field. In terms of gender, the men in our population were less likely to leave education entirely than women but more likely to leave teaching for a role change in career years 3–8. Teachers with single-subject (secondary) credentials were more likely than their colleagues who held multiple-subject (elementary) credentials to leave teaching for a role change in education.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Set within the framework of teacher professionalism, we argue that role changing is a form of sanctioned attrition and that understanding movement among roles within the educational workforce is essential for crafting policies and incentives to keep well-prepared teachers rooted in careers that serve the nation’s most underserved students.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 1, 2008, p. 218-250
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14598, Date Accessed: 10/22/2014 6:23:24 PM

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About the Author
  • Karen Quartz
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    KAREN HUNTER QUARTZ is director of research at UCLA's Center X, where she conducts research on the career development of urban educators and the creation of small democratic schools. She is coauthor, with the TEP Research Group, of "Too Angry to Leave: Supporting New Teachers' Commitment to Transform Urban Schools" in Journal of Teacher Education, 2003: a recipient of the AACTE Outstanding Writing Award
  • Andrew Thomas
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    ANDREW THOMAS is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. His interests include instructional technology in K-12 and higher education, social aspects of technology, social network analysis, and urban teacher policy. Recent publications include, with K.H. Quartz and K. B. Lyons, "Retaining Teachers in High-Poverty Schools: A Policy Framework" in International Handbook of Educational Policy, edited by N. Bascia, A. Cumming, A. Datnow, K. Leithwood, and D. Livingstone (Kluwer, 2005).
  • Lauren Anderson
    University of California, Los Angeles
    E-mail Author
    LAUREN ANDERSON is a doctoral candidate at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Her research interests include teacher preparation and development, teacher inquiry and action research, and the application of social network and qualitative methods to the study of equity-minded educators' work and careers. She is coauthor, with B. Olsen, of "Investigating Early Career Urban Teachers' Perspectives on and Experiences in Professional Development," Journal of Teacher Education, in press.
  • Katherine Masyn
    University of California, Davis
    KATHERINE MASYN is assistant professor in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include discrete-time survival analysis; latent variable growth models; and finite mixture (latent class) models for cross-sectional and longitudinal data. She is co author, with B. Muthen, of "Discrete-Time Survival Mixture Analysis," Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 2005.
  • Kimberly Lyons
    University of California, Los Angeles
    KIMBERLY BARRAZA LYONS is a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. She also co-directs UC Irvine's Project COACH, a professional development program for foreign language teachers. Her current research interests include urban teacher retention, educational equity and reform, and the social and organizational contexts of teaching. She is coauthor, with K. H. Quartz and A. Thomas, of "Retaining Teachers in High-Poverty Schools: A Policy Framework," in International Handbook of Educational Policy, edited by N. Bascia, A. Cumming, A. Datnow, K. Leithwood, and D. Livingstone (Kluwer, 2005).
  • Brad Olsen
    University of California, Santa Cruz
    BRAD OLSEN is assistant professor of education at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research focuses on teacher development (with emphases on knowledge and identity), English education, critical pedagogy, and sociolinguistics.
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