Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Educational Leadership PhD

First Advisor

James A. Tucker

Second Advisor

Shirley A. Freed

Third Advisor

Gary Gifford

Abstract

Problem. Teacher migration and attrition are costly to educational institutions and negatively impact students' education. Teachers migrate to other positions and/or leave the profession for different reasons. Research of literature indicated that one influence on the teacher's decision to migrate to another position or to leave the profession is lack of principal support. This sequential mixed-methodology study explores elementary teachers' perception of the relationship between principal support and teacher retention and migration in the rural elementary schools of north-central Pennsylvania.

Method. To explore the role of the principal, this sequentially mixed-methodological study used a focus group to identify elementary teachers' perception of principal support, a survey to apply elementary teachers' perception of principal support to a larger group, and, finally, interviews to clarify elementary teachers' perception of principal support. A focus group was used as the primary means of collecting elementary teachers' perceptions of principal support. The focus group data were combined with principal support data from the literature review. To apply the elementary teachers' perceptions of principal support to a larger group, a 16-question survey was conducted with elementary teachers in rural north-central Pennsylvania. For clarification of elementary teachers' perception of principalsupport, the five survey questions with the greatest means were used to generate questions for interviews. Four teachers, 2 male and 2 female, were interviewed.

Results. The data from the focus group and literature review generated 88 phrases of principal support. The 88 statements were grouped according into 16 common themes. The 16 themes were used to develop questions for the survey.

The results of the survey indicated that the survey actually measured two different constructs. The means of the negative-posed questions were consistently lower than themeans of the positive-posed questions, indicating that it takes greater activation energy to leave a position because of lack of principal support than it takes to stay in a teaching position because of such support. The survey question with the top five means were:

1. The principal assigns me to an area that ensures my success.
2. The principal builds trust with the teachers at the school.
3. The principal is fair to me.
4. The principal supports me when dealing with student discipline.
5. The principal clearly communicates expectations from me.

These were used as a basis to conduct the interviews.

Interviews. The differences between the positive means and the negative means of thesurvey and four of the five interview questions indicated that the principal is a component of the teacher's position but the principal is not the determining factor in deciding whether to stay in or leave the position. The interviews appeared to support the survey: Leaving appeared to require greater activation energy.

The responses in the interviews indicated that the principal actions were connected and that the individual actions affected each other. For example, fairness was connected to trust. Trust was connected to accepting where the principal assigned the teacher.

The interviews also indicated that teachers were willing to endure some lack of support; however, there could be a tipping point where they were no longer willing to stay because oflack of support. The differences of the positive means and the negative means of thesurvey indicated that a greater amount of activation energy was needed to leave theposition because of lack of support than to stay in a teaching position because of such support. Hence, teachers might be willing to endure some lack of principal support without leaving.

Conclusions. The role of the principal in teacher migration and retention is limited. While the principal is a component of the teaching position, the principal is not the determining factor in deciding to stay in the teaching position or the decision to leave the teaching profession. To make the decision of migrating requires greater activation energy than staying in the position. Principal actions are interrelated; one affects another. Teachers are willing to endure some lack of principal support; however, discussion revealed that there is a tipping point that can lead to migration or attrition.

Subject Area

Teacher-principal relationships, Teacher mobility, Teacher transfer, Teacher turnover, Teachers--Philadelphia, School principals--Philadelphia