A study similarities and differences in selected human resource practices and their relation to teacher retention in a sample of four school districts, two with high and two with low rates of retention
Phelan, Patrick M.
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This is a study of the practices utilized by four school districts, two with high and two with low retention rates of teachers, to examine how similarities and differences in selected human resources practices relate to the successful retention of teachers in these districts. The factors studied that may impact teacher retention included screening and selection processes, criteria used to select individuals for employment as teachers, the orientation/indoctrination programs, mentoring initiatives, professional development activities, teacher evaluation/performance assessments, and factors unique to each school district such as a sense of belonging to the organization. Teacher retention rates were calculated from among 27 school districts using data from the Personnel Master File (PMF) contained within the Basic Education Data System (BEDS) maintained by the New York State Department of Education. Two school districts with high retention rates and two districts with low retention rates were selected for the study. Using a case study methodology the researcher reviewed documents used in the screening and selection process and interviewed individuals who participate and/or have a role in the pre-employment screening process in each district. The following similarities were found in the process used to screen and select the candidates for employment as a teacher in all four districts: (1) Utilization of an electronic application;(2) The initial screening interviews are conducted at the “building level”; (3) Candidates are required to conduct a sample lesson; (4) References are checked although cautious weight is given to references. In the two districts with high retention rate of teachers, trustees of the Board of Education are involved in the initial building level interviews and throughout the screening and selection process. In one of the high retention rate districts, the final selection is made by the majority of trustees. A difference among all four districts was how the final selection was made. Each district had a different decision maker in selecting the successful candidate. These decision makers were as follows: (1) The Superintendent; (2) The Trustees of the Board of Education; (3) A collaborative decision between the Superintendent and Building Principal; (4) The Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources with notification to the Superintendent. Three of the four districts had a formal induction/orientation for new teachers while one of the high retention districts does not have a formal program although new teachers participate in a one day orientation meeting. All four districts have adopted a formal mentoring program; however, the two districts with the higher retention rates adopted their mentoring program in 2004 when required to do so by the Commissioner of Education. The two districts with a lower retention rate have had a mentoring program in place for over 20 years. All four districts have professional development initiatives but there were differences in the focus and content of these programs. Similar to professional development each school district has a process in place to annually evaluate the performance of new teachers, but the process is different in each district. In terms of factors unique to each district these case studies found that a sense of belongingness, which impacts motivation, may have been a contributor to the districts’ retention rates. In the two districts with high retention rates there was a strong sense of belongingness and the organization fostered a collegial working environment to motivated teachers to stay. In the districts with low retention, factors were identified that may have contributed to alienating some new teachers thus contributed to a lower retention rate. Given the fact that the study was drawn from a small sample of suburban school districts, within the same geographic area, generalizations cannot be drawn from this study.