Can Good Principals Keep Teachers in Disadvantaged Schools? Linking Principal Effectiveness to Teacher Satisfaction and Turnover in Hard-to-Staff Environments
by Jason A. Grissom — 2011
Background: High rates of teacher turnover likely mean greater school instability, disruption of curricular cohesiveness, and a continual need to hire inexperienced teachers, who typically are less effective, as replacements for teachers who leave. Unfortunately, research consistently finds that teachers who work in schools with large numbers of poor students and students of color feel less satisfied and are more likely to turn over, meaning that turnover is concentrated in the very schools that would benefit most from a stable staff of experienced teachers. Despite the potential challenge that this turnover disparity poses for equity of educational opportunity and student performance gaps across schools, little research has examined the reasons for elevated teacher turnover in schools with large numbers of traditionally disadvantaged students.
Purpose: This study hypothesizes that school working conditions help explain both teacher satisfaction and turnover. In particular, it focuses on the role of effective principals in retaining teachers, particularly in disadvantaged schools with the greatest staffing challenges.
Research Design: The study conducts quantitative analyses of national data from the 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey and the 2004-05 Teacher Follow-up Survey. Regression analyses combat the potential for bias from omitted variables by utilizing an extensive set of control variables and employing a school district fixed effects approach that implicitly makes comparisons among principals and teachers within the same local context.
Conclusions: Descriptive analyses confirm that observable measures of teachers’ work environments, including ratings of the effectiveness of the principal, are generally less positive in schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students. Regression results show that principal effectiveness is associated with greater teacher satisfaction and a lower probability that the teacher leaves the school within a year. Moreover, the positive impacts of principal effectiveness on these teacher outcomes are even greater in disadvantaged schools. These findings suggest that policies focused on getting the best principals into the most challenging school environments may be effective strategies for lowering perpetually high teacher turnover rates in those schools.
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