An Examination of High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teachers’, CTE Program Directors’ and Campus Administrators’ Perceptions of CTE Teacher Recruitment, Development, and Retention Efforts in a Large Urban School District
Davis, Tabitha S.
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The purpose of this case study was to examine high school career and technology education (CTE) teachers’, CTE program directors’, and campus administrators’ perceptions of recruitment, development, and retention efforts in a large urban school district in southeast Texas. Specifically, this study examined CTE teachers’, CTE program directors’, and principals’ perceptions of effective recruitment strategies to attract CTE teachers to an urban school district, district structures of support and professional development most beneficial to CTE teachers, perceived factors influencing CTE teachers’ decision to leave or stay in an urban school district, and challenges faced in recruiting, developing and retaining high school CTE teachers. Participants selected for this study included 57 CTE teachers (including department chairpersons) from eighteen centrally located high schools in a large urban school district in southeast Texas, five campus principals and two CTE program directors who work to support these eighteen campuses. This study utilized three methods for data collection including an electronic teacher survey administered via Survey Monkey, two CTE teacher focus groups, and individual semi-structured interviews with five campus principals and two CTE program directors. The teacher survey containing open-ended and close-ended questions was coded inductively using an open coding technique in order to identify emerging themes (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and descriptive statistics of close-ended responses are reported within this dissertation. Additionally, CTE teacher focus groups and semi-structured interviews with principals and CTE program directors were audio recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using a general inductive approach with open coding to identify themes. Findings revealed that among all participant groups, personal referrals were perceived to be the most effective way to recruit new CTE teachers to an urban school district. Participants also suggested that it is helpful for urban school districts to staff recruiters who work to locate and secure qualified candidates specifically for CTE vacancies and to partner with professional organizations in order to obtain reliable referrals for CTE teacher candidates. Research suggests that CTE teacher candidates, particularly career changers, are attracted to teaching positions within urban school districts largely due to an inward desire to work with youth and to contribute to society and to one’s community, and that personal connections are helpful in the recruitment process (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 1999; Wilkin & Nwoke, 2011; Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 2008 & 2010). With regard to the support and development of CTE teachers in an urban school district, participants reported that job-alike (teacher cohort) trainings, mentor teachers, and campus administration are most beneficial to CTE teachers. Research suggests that campus administration support and ongoing support and development programs that begin early in a teacher’s career and continue throughout the life of their career are most beneficial (ACTE-NASD, 2009; NCTAF, 2011; Wong, 2004). On the topic of teacher turnover, campus administration support was noted by all participant groups and by various researchers as a primary factor that influences CTE teachers’ decisions to leave or stay in an urban school district and in the profession (WWF, 2010). Other factors influencing CTE teachers to leave are infrequent and inauthentic professional development opportunities and burnout due to extensive responsibilities beyond the classroom with little or no additional compensation (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 1999; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000; NCTAF, 2004; Wong, 2004; WWF, 2010). Additional factors that influence CTE teachers to stay in an urban school district are the students they work with every day and annual compensation, especially in light of the number of days worked each year (Cuddapah, et al., 2011; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000, Ingersoll & Smith, 2004; NCTAF, 2007; Shakrani, 2008; WWF, 2010, Wong, 2004). Perceived challenges expressed by study participants and in research regarding the recruitment, development, and retention of CTE teachers in an urban school district were closely aligned. These challenges included locating and attracting qualified candidates, the ability to offer compensation commensurate with industry standards for career changers, lengthy hiring processes, and limited professional development programming availability and funding (Darling-Hammond & Berry, 1999; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003; Darling-Hammond, Wise & Klein, 1999; WWF, 2010). While teacher turnover has huge budgetary implications for school districts throughout the U.S. (NCTAF, 2007; Shakrani, 2008), it was consistently perceived by all participants in this study that CTE teacher turnover is considerably lower than turnover in other content areas and has much less impact on the district budget than other subject areas. In light of the findings of this study, with regard to CTE teacher recruitment, urban school district and campus administrators should consider utilizing employee referral programs that encourage employees to recommend qualified friends or acquaintances for posted vacancies and reward them if the referred individual is hired. Additionally, relationships with external organizations should be developed and supported as they are perceived as a reliable and trustworthy source of CTE teacher candidate referrals. In terms of support and professional development for CTE teachers, school and district leaders should consider increasing their investments of time, materials, and financial resources in the area of professional development to ensure that CTE teachers are provided with meaningful, relevant, and impactful PD on a consistent basis throughout each school year. Lastly, urban school and district administrators should acknowledge that they make considerable contributions to the working conditions, employee morale, and overall job satisfaction of teachers (NCTAF, 2007; Shakrani, 2008).