Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Eric Freeman - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna Breault

Third Advisor

Dr. Joel Meyers

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Susan Talburt


ABSTRACT THE QUEST TO RETAIN TEACHERS: ONE URBAN-SUBURBAN SCHOOL SYSTEM’S STORY OF TEACHER MOVEMENT by Karen Smits Recent data on teacher attrition indicate that approximately 15 percent of teachers either leave the profession or move from one school to another each year. The attrition rate is highest for teachers new to the profession with 30-50 percent leaving within five years. High rates of attrition are a contributing cause of various educational problems including reduced student achievement, teacher shortages, declining teacher morale, and organizational discontinuity. The purpose of this study was to examine the reasons why teachers choose to leave the profession or move to another school from one year to the next. A qualitative case study was conducted to explore the reasons teachers from one urban-suburban school system voluntarily resigned at the end of one school year and what changes could have been made to keep them from leaving. The study answers three questions: Why do teachers leave? Why do some move to other schools while other teachers leave the profession? What could keep teachers from leaving? Data were collected using exit questionnaires, exit interviews, and semi-structured interviews of teachers leaving after the 2006-2007 school year. Data were analyzed using both deductive and inductive methods. Teachers who participated in this study made the decisions to move or leave for two primary reasons: administrative support and new opportunities. Administrative support took many forms and was described in a variety of ways including the following: administrative visibility, communication, use of time, support with student behavior, workload, implementation of new initiatives, and school climate. Teachers who left for new prospects were seeking different teaching opportunities or a better chance of moving into administration. The greatest difference between the teachers who moved and those who left the profession was hope. Teachers who moved to another school system believed the situation would be better elsewhere. Teachers who left the profession saw the struggles they endured as likely to occur in any teaching situation. Teachers indicated that they may have considered staying if they had received more administrative support, experienced better working conditions, had more supportive mentors, or had a teacher advocate who could have intervened on their behalf.