The education system in America has over the years been faced with a recurrent and never ending problem that has compromised the quality of education and subsequently impact ted negatively on the future of the young generation. Teacher turnover is a problem that has remained persistent yet too little has been done to curb the ever rising rates of attrition. Teacher attrition or turnover is the tendency to resign from all duties within the education sector and pursue other sectors of the economy due to reasons other than retirement or health issues (Wushishi, 2013). The elementary education forms the foundation upon which the future of a generation is based. It forms the basis upon which the young generation can kick start their destiny. This makes the elementary education a critical part of the education systems as well as the nation in general. This implies that with a poor elementary system, we should expect a dull generation as a result of poor foundation early on in their educational life. The teacher forms the core component of the education systems as they are in direct contact with the student (Kersaint et al., 2007). Similarly, it is their output and quality of delivery that determines the strength of the foundation they offer to the students. In elementary education, the student is at a stage where they have to be taught every bit of basic information critical the education system.
As mentioned above, teachers form a critical component of t education system. Their dedication to the system means a lot to the quality of service they offer. Teaching experience is gained with continued association with the students, and it is this gained experience that subsequently determines that quality of education. Quality of education is measured in terms of students’ improvement gap. When students’ improvement stagnates, it means that the quality of education is not achieving its core objective. Teacher retention has become a stinging issue to the federal and state authorities in a matter of education. Currently, statistics indicates that forty six percent of the teachers hired, will leave the profession within a period of five years. In urban areas, the rates go up to fifty percent. Further statistics indicates that ninety percent of the teachers hired are meant to cater for the teachers who leave the profession. These statistics are alarming, and their economic costs are neither impressing. Currently, an approximated $7.3 billion is lost as a result of teachers’ attrition annually (Wushishi, 2013). This paper seeks to focus on the issue of teacher turnover or attrition in elementary school as a daring problem to the quality of education, as well as the exponential impact on the economy.
1. What are the core reasons that have led to the high rates of teacher attrition currently witnessed within the elementary education sector?
2. How has the issue of teacher attrition impacted on students’ performance and the education sector in general?
3. Are their specific solutions that can be formulated to curb this trend and its overall impacts on education if any?
Elementary education is deemed as the pillar of the education system. Without a teacher, the education system is null and ineffective. Teacher satisfaction is like in any other profession an important factor that holds a great level of significance to the output. Teacher retention, over the last fifteen years, has turned from a problem to a crisis (Kersaint et al., 2007). The reality has hit federal government, state authorities, and education stakeholders that more needs to be done to sustain the current staff levels, as well as hire new staff. The major problem has not been the cost of hiring, but rather, the problem of retaining hired teachers at a time when most teachers are leaving the profession for other sectors of the job market. This has depleted the education sector and in particular the elementary education sector of experienced professional who have so much to offer. On the other hand, the education sector has been forced to hire new teachers as a replacement for the outgoing groups. The pressure has been on the cost incurred in training these teachers to a profession level while recouping less from the same them. The strain on educational budget has been quite evident. More so, the trend has become more of a spreading epidemic, and the education stakeholders have been left reeling with measures to retain the newly hired teachers to avert the trend (Kersaint et al., 2007). This is without considering the daring truth that staffing levels in some of the elementary schools within the nation are still way below the set standards. At a time when the federal government in collaboration with state governments and education stakeholders has been formulating measures to ensure equity in education especially in poverty-stricken regions, there has been so much left to do to accomplish the intended objectives of the education system even at these early age levels of schooling. A more intriguing fact is that these regions, mostly referred to as “in-risk” regions have witnessed poor student performance due to staffing issues as well as poverty related problems (Boyer, 2008). With the continued trend of teacher attrition, it means that the focus on core issues of poverty that have continually led to poor results will take a long time to be solved. The major problem is how the concerned authorities can account to the parents of the young children in elementary schools of the evident lack of teacher consistently in class. Teacher consistency is a core determiner of how students gain and acquire knowledge. At a young age, students tend to develop a special bond with the teacher and this influences their academic performance. Frequent change of teachers as a result of attrition does not augur well with some students especially considering the diversity of students in terms of ability to adapt to new teaching methods or environments as would be the case when new teachers are brought into the fold.
The goals and importance of the study
This study seeks to address a host of issues associated with teacher attrition. The following are the key goals of the study;
1. To unearth the reasons as to why teacher attrition rates have been on a continuum rise in the past fifteen years
This goal seeks to bring to the fore the conditions that could have contributed to the high rate of teacher attrition in the nation. In particular, the goal is to establish the current working conditions of the elementary school teacher and determine whether these conditions have been a barrier to their passion for continuing to serve in their respective capacities.
2. To determine the impact of teacher attrition on student performance and the education sector in general.
This goal seeks to establish among other things, the impact of teacher attrition on student performance as the direct recipient of the teacher’s service. The student is one of the key stakeholders off the education sector. Elementary school students are young children who need a close association both on and off class work. These students are in their developmental stage, and any small change in their learning environment tends to impact on their performance in class. The goal seeks to establish the level of impact that frequent teacher attritions witnessed in elementary schools nationwide could have on the student performance and the education sector in general. It is important to note that the elementary school learning process forms the basis or foundation of the education sector in general. Thus, any form of incompetence or compromise in the quality of education offered at this level could have a long term impact on the higher levels of education such as secondary school, and higher education. This is because, most of the students in those levels will have poor basic learning skills attributed to the inconsistencies they experienced in their early learning. This in the very end could signal poor performance in secondary schools and higher education sector as a result of the poor background offered in early learning stage. On the other hand, the education sector is burdened with a strained budget as a result of the need to hire and retain new teachers, not to supplement the current group but to fill the vacant positions left as a result of attrition. The hiring process is costly and impacts negatively on the budgetary planning of the education sector.
3. To formulate practical recommendations backed up by empirical evidence that will seek to address the ever growing trend of teacher attrition in our elementary schools.
This goal is critical in that it will seek to address the problems identified as well as formulate an action plan that will ensure that the education sector can retain its professional in the long term. This will go along way into providing a solution to the declining education standards nationwide, problem that has been associated with the lack of consistent within the elementary schools.
The roles of the researcher and the participants
The researcher in this case will plan the whole research process as well as draw up a budget that will cater for all expenses that are projected. The researcher will be tasked with determining the most suitable data collection methods as well as the variables that address the research questions stated earlier. Similarly, it will be the role of the researcher to determine the participants of the research study. In this case, the participants will be picked from the education sector to those who have earlier served in the same. In particular, the study will involve a total of 125 participants. Among them will be 60 teachers currently serving as elementary school teachers. Forty participants will be picked from a host of teachers who have previously served in elementary education. This group will involve retired teachers as well as those who have been forced to take up other professions after a short stint in the elementary education. The last group of participants will be picked from the state and federal authorities as well as community agencies concerned with education.
Explain the methods of data collection and corresponding instruments for data collection
This study will incorporate different methods of research. This implies that both qualitative and quantitative methods research will be employed along with survey research to supplement the collected data. The researcher seeks to use questionnaires as the main instrument for data collection. There will be a set of three different questionnaires for each group of participants as outlined above, but will all be focusing on unearthing the causes of teacher attrition, their impacts on education and the possible solutions. The researcher will also use tape recording in cases where the researcher will be filling in the participant responses in the questionnaire. A tape recorder will be used to supplement the participant responses so that all relevant data is utilized upon review of the questionnaires and the tapes.
Discuss the types of data to be collected
The range of data to be collected will vary from statistical data to qualitative data.
The data to be collected here will involve a host of figures. The researcher will seek for data such as the number of teachers who have left the profession so early in their careers within some selected states. On the other hand, the researcher will analyze a set of selected information sources to compare the collected data with what has been recorded by these other sources. The study will use this to develop the frequency of teacher attrition within the selected states. Factors such as age and the years of service in the elementary schools will be recorded so as to determine the relations between attrition trends with age and years of service. The researcher will also seek to establish the minimum wages, as well as the hours of service on a daily basis expected for an elementary teacher.
The researcher will seek to discover from the participants the job satisfaction levels of the current serving teachers. The researcher will also seek to know the motivation factors put in place for these teachers in elementary education. On the other hand, gender will be considered a variable for the study so as to establish relationships between gender and attrition rates so that the searcher can develop specific measures to address the situation. This is in consideration that gender could determine the levels of job satisfaction, favorable to one gender and unfavorable to the other.
In a study that was conducted by The School Board of Miami-Dade County –Florida (2006)it was found out that attrition rates among elementary school teachers was highest compared to other education levels in the County. The overall effect of this tendency is a compromised start for young learners in Miami and the United States at large. Staff cohesion and consistency is a key requirement for successful delivery of education to young learners. Young learners as compared to learners in higher levels experience adaptation problems especially when teachers keep on changing. In a bid to explain the root of the apparent low turnover rates for elementary school teachers, the study conducted a similar research which was backed a thorough literature review from other reputable sources. Various studies and researches that were done converged at a central point that the main problem and hence the cause of attrition is the work environment. Many teachers shy away from elementary teaching due to low salaries and unfavorable working conditions. Moreover, teachers in this domain lack professional prestige since elementary teaching carries less prestige. According to many teachers who leave elementary schools have cited that the amount of work done by teachers does not commensurate the amount of salary received. According to this article, it is undeniable that if action is not taken to understand the source of this problem, then the future generation of US is set to fail in terms of competing with other students across the globe.
The article “Teacher Shortage in America: Pressing Concerns” by Morton and Flynt discusses on the main factors that have contributed to the decline in the number of teachers, in elementary education, in the United States in the recent years. According to the article, a great percentage of the teachers in elementary schools quit the profession few years after entering the profession. The rates at which teachers leave the profession have raised concern among various stakeholders in the education sector. The turnover rate of elementary teachers affects the education budget due to constant replacements and preparation of the newly hired teachers through awareness programs. The replacement of teachers is an exercise that involves the advertisement for teachers to fill the vacancies, interviewing of the teachers and preparing them with the relevant information required for effective performance. These exercises are costly and affect the budgetary allocations of other segments in the sector such as procurement. Thus, the quality of education is significantly affected since the money budgeted to improve the quality of education such as purchasing of stationery ends up being spent in the replacement exercise. According to the author the newly employed teachers are not aware of the individual needs and learning abilities of the students, and this affects the performance of the pupils.
The article “High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools” by Erik Kain focuses on the problems that face public schools due to the high turnover rate in the elementary teachers in public schools. According to the author about forty five percent of the teachers in public elementary schools leave the profession to venture into other job fields barely five years after entering the profession. According to the article, the turnover of teachers of teachers affects the government’s budget in that the government spends about seven billion dollars annually in recruiting and training of new teachers. The main reasons for the rise in the teacher turnover rates cited in the article include; huge workloads, job dissatisfaction and “lack of influence over school policy” due to the autonomy of the administrators. The rise in the attrition rates of the elementary teachers negatively affected the performance of the pupils in public schools due to the constant change of the teachers. For instance, the performance of students declined with constant change of teachers due to difference mode in content delivery.
The article “Teacher Turnover, Teacher Shortages, and the Organization of Schools” by Richard M. Ingersoll focuses on the shortage of elementary teachers due the rise in turnover rates among the teachers. According to the article, public schools in urban centers have higher turnover rates of the teachers as compared to the rural elementary school. According to the author, the shortage of teachers is mainly because teachers leave the profession due to other factors apart from retirement. The retention level of teachers has significantly decreased in the recent years especially among the young teachers who leave the profession to pursue different careers. In addition, the deficit of the elementary teachers negatively affects the performance of pupils in the elementary schools.
High turnover rates in elementary schools has become a major challenge in the United States education system (Guin 2004).According to Guin, the problem can be attributed to a myriad of factors including low salaries and low levels of intrinsic motivation. Public schools especially in poverty-stricken areas in the US bear the greatest risk of low teacher turnover rates. Money is the central source of motivation and teachers in public schools prefer moving to private schools that offer better salaries. On the other hand, the thirst for furthering education among elementary school teachers has gone high, and subsequently these teachers are furthering the education and subsequently transferring to higher professional levels. According to Guin (2004), the overall effect of the high turnover rates among elementary school teachers is the lack of organizational productivity and poor quality of service delivery. Guin also does not fail to point out that there needs to be a paradigm shift within the elementary schools in the United States in terms of methods used to retain elementary school teachers. Improved remuneration and professional prestige are the two prime methods of dealing with this problem (Guin 2004)
Research scenario recommendations
The research would take a mixed approach that will encompass, qualitative, quantitative and survey research methods. The research will seek to acquire both qualitative and quantitative data from school administrators, teachers (both in service and out of service) and educational administrators. Survey research will also be plausible in this research since primary data is crucial. It is believed that factors such as gender, age, and levels of motivation/job satisfaction have a huge impact on turnover rates among elementary school teachers. Therefore, qualitative data will cater for the qualitative aspects of the research. On the other hand, quantitative will cater for the quantitative aspects of the research such as age and salary levels. Institutional research is multi-faceted and thus a mixed approach is the most plausible.
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Forbes Magazine (2011, August 3). High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools - Forbes. Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/03/08/high-teacher-turnover-rates-are-a-big-problem-for-americas-public-schools/