- Recent federal data show that the US is experiencing difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified teachers (Goldhaber, Krieg, Theobald, & Brown, 2014; U.S Department of Education, 2017).
- Discontinuity in school systems destabilizes professional communities and negatively impacts student outcomes (Velickovic, 2013).
- Researchers have found that teacher turnover is more prevalent in economically disadvantaged schools and those who serve students of color where teachers stay fewer years and have fewer years of teaching experience (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017).
- Little work has been conducted to investigate the differential outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, burnout, retention) of teachers who serve in economically disadvantaged and ethnically diverse communities.
To understand the experience of first year educators who serve in economically-disadvantaged and ethnically-diverse schools.
Data were obtained from early career teachers in Nevada during the 2023 Spring semester
86 early career teachers
- 80.5% served in Title I designations
- 61.6% identified as non-white
Surveys were completed two times during the semester, separated by an 8-week interval. Engagement, teaching, academic success, school environment, job satisfaction, burnout, intentions to remain were assessed
Quantitative and qualitative analyses examined the early career experiences of educators. A concurrent parallel mixed methods design was conducted. Phase one and Phase two quantitative analyses consisted of one-way ANOVAs and linear regressions.
Teachers serving in economically-disadvantaged and ethnically-diverse schools reported an increase in positive student engagement across the semester, while teachers serving in less disadvantaged and diverse schools reported a decrease in positive engagement with colleagues. Across the semester, teachers who reported positive perceptions of their ability to attend to students academically and behaviorally were more likely to be cognitively and emotionally engaged in teaching, engage in empathy and caring toward colleagues and students, experience higher levels of job satisfaction, and lower levels of burnout. Additionally, teachers who reported higher school academic expectations reported higher job satisfaction and lower burnout. Results of the analyses are below:
- Teaching Style had a statistically significant positive relationship with Internal Engagement (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.38), External Engagement (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.18), Job Satisfaction (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.44), Burnout-Recoded (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.22), and Intentions to Remain (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.24).
- Teaching Confidence had a statistically significant positive relationship with Internal Engagement (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.39), and External Engagement (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.36).
- Teaching Confidence had a statistically significant negative relationship with Intentions to Remain (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.16).
- Teaching Style had a statistically significant positive relationship with Job Satisfaction (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.02) and Burnout-Recoded (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.08).
- Academic Expectations had a statistically significant negative relationship with Burnout (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.08) and Intentions to Remain (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.16).
Qualitative analyses identified four themes present across the two phases. In the start of the semester, concerns about school culture and climate were prominent but was replaced with growth in confidence as the semester ended. Perceptions of lack of support by administrators and colleagues increased across the two timepoints, while feelings about students remained consistent.
Positive: “[O]nce everyone is inside it is a community and together we face challenges, but we always strive to achieve success.”
Negative: “I work in a ‘joyless’ atmosphere where staff and students are micromanaged by admin and veteran teachers feel burned out from years of teaching”
Positive: “I have gained a lot of confidence and I feel like every day I am learning something new.”
Negative: “I should not have been allowed to be a teacher with basically zero experience and no diploma.”
Positive: “I feel supported and appreciated by Admin and staff. I wish things don’t change.”
Negative: “I would love to have more supportive admin who thinks about all grade levels and the different needs of all the grades instead of just a couple or having some expectations for ALL grades when it is not feasible.”
Positive: “I love working as a teacher. I love my students and they love me. I am having a better experience than I even imagined I would have.”
Negative: “The student behavior aspect has also changed drastically. A lot of students are more disrespectful now and a lot of them don’t care…”
Early career teacher’s confidence in their ability to meet the needs of students and their perceptions and experiences as a teacher impact their job satisfaction, level of burnout, and intentions to remain within the teaching profession. The level of engagement with students and colleagues was statistically different in economically-disadvantaged and ethnically-diverse schools.
There are several limitations to this study. The survey sample was insufficient and therefore the results are not generalizable to the community of early career educators in Nevada. Additionally, not all participants were serving in a classroom and thus found some survey questions to not be applicable.
Consistent state data points to the impact school demographics have on recruitment and retention. Our findings highlight that administrative leadership and expectations for academic success serve to impact feelings of satisfaction, burnout, and attrition.
Further investigation needs to be conducted to explore the degree to which administrative leadership and school level expectations may directly impact teacher satisfaction, burnout, and attrition for early career educators.
NITEP Research Fellow
NIEPRR Research Fellow
PPP 2.0 Research Fellow
Monica Cordova Medina
This research was made possible thanks to generous funding from the Nevada Department of Education to support the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation (NITEP), the Nevada Institute on Educator Preparation, Retention, & Research (NIEPRR), and the Nevada Educator Preparation Institute & Collective (NV-EPIC).