Entering, Staying, Shifting, Leaving, and Sometimes Returning: A Descriptive Analysis of the Career Trajectories of Two Cohorts of Alternatively Certified Mathematics Teachers
by Andrew Brantlinger - 2021
Background: Many U.S. school districts face shortages of teachers in core subjects such as mathematics. By attracting high-achieving college graduates and professional career changers, selective alternative certification programs, such as the New York City Teaching Fellows (NYCTF), promise to address these shortages while also improving outcomes in hard-to-staff schools. Although in the short term, teachers from such programs help to stabilize school staffs, their long-term effects on such schools and the people in them is less clear.
Purpose: This article examines the career trajectories of recent college graduates and career changers who became mathematics teachers in hard-to-staff schools through NYCTF. The goal is to understand the main patterns in their careers before, during, and after teaching.
Participants: The study provides a portrait of the career trajectories and decision-making of more than 600 NYCTF mathematics teachers over a nine-year period. Research Design: The study incorporates survey and retention data collected as part of a longitudinal research project on NYCTF mathematics teachers. The analysis of the teachers’ career trajectories is illuminated by descriptive statistics and qualitative analyses of teachers’ open-ended survey responses.
Results: The article deepens our understanding of teachers’ career decision-making as it unfolds over time. For example, it documents that the leavers emphasized different reasons for leaving NYC public schools, depending on when they left. The study also challenges conventional understandings of teacher turnover by finding consequential amounts of midyear and involuntary turnover and by demonstrating the stochastic nature of some teachers’ trajectories. It further shows that, although in many ways similar, the career trajectories of the career changers and recent college graduates differed in key regards; for example, although the career changers seem to have had greater trouble adjusting to teaching, they were more likely to remain in the district a decade after entry than the recent graduates.
Recommendations: The discussion focuses on the implications of the study for recruitment and retention strategies that can ameliorate pressing teacher turnover and shortage issues. It posits that, given the high rates of turnover among NYCTF mathematics teachers, recruitment strategies focused on recruiting high-achieving recent graduates and professional career changers will not solve long-standing teacher turnover issues in districts such as NYC public schools. As such, districts need to focus on retention strategies. These would include, for example, training and induction tailored to meet the different needs and career goals of career changers and recent graduates.
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