- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2050440, 2050559
- First Name Dayna
- Last Name DeFeo
- Discipline Other: Education policy - teacher workforce development
Matthew Berman, University of Alaska Anchorage; Sarah Gerken, University of Alaska Anchorage; Douglas Cost, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Dayna DeFeo, Matthew Berman, Sarah Gerken, and Douglas Cost (University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks)
When it comes to teaching jobs and preferences, teachers vote with their feet – moving to jobs that they perceive as “better” in dimensions that matter to them. Unfortunately, the result of this self-sorting is severely inequitable: across the nation, high-need schools are more likely to employ new (less experienced) and lower-credentialed teachers. There is a growing policy interest in providing fiscal incentives that might interrupt these patterns. In the US, 36% of districts offer wage premiums for teachers who work in high-need schools. Improved awareness of the relationship between compensation and retention would improve the ability of such financial incentives to achieve their goal. SCORE focuses on the relationship between compensation and working conditions for teachers in high-need schools, and how these can be leveraged to retain STEM educators.
(1) What working and living conditions influence STEM teacher retention in high-need schools? (2) How important is compensation relative to other factors in encouraging STEM teachers to stay in high-need schools?
SCORE applies Bandura’s theory of reciprocal determinism to a mixed-methods research design exploring two overarching research questions: (1) what influences STEM teacher retention in high-need schools, and (2) how does compensation encourage STEM teachers to stay in high-need schools? SCORE will use statistical models of teacher choices regarding job retention and job changes to describe the extent to which measurable characteristics of teachers, school assignments, students, districts and communities affect job tenure of STEM teachers, and how much compensation might be required to offset adverse effects of any or all of these characteristics. The modeling will estimate tradeoffs between salary and working conditions as factors in retention and identify schools with higher-than-predicted STEM teacher retention. Individual and comparative qualitative case studies across divergent schools will identify the key determinants of teacher decisions to stay in high-retention schools, and explain how high-need schools can retain quality STEM educators in novel ways instead of or in addition to offering increased compensation.
SCORE research will directly address known gaps in the literature around (1) the relative contribution of working conditions and compensation as factors in STEM teacher retention, (2) the degree to which options for STEM educators to move between classrooms and private industry affects retention, and (3) how high-need schools that are successful in retaining STEM educators are able to achieve their success. Additionally, the statistical analysis will incorporate factors such as non-wage benefits and lack of labor-market clearing that are typically omitted in studies of teacher compensation and retention to measure more accurate tradeoffs of salary and working conditions to achieve STEM teacher equity. To date, we have a forthcoming manuscript which we hope will be fully published and available for distribution at the poster session.
The SCORE research will produce broadly generalizable analyses that have the potential to influence policy in structuring teacher compensation to advance teacher retention objectives. It will also provide practical recommendations to schools and districts. To date, we have drawn from the work that informed our proposal and preliminary findings to give invited testimony to the Alaska Senate Education Committee and to present an overview of key education issues in Alaska to new legislators and staffers (approximately 60 attendees) in a forum organized by the Alaska Council for School Administrators.