Preparing and Retaining Quality Teachers: What Public Education Leaders Should Know



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The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the preparation and needs of first-year teachers in order to better develop and retain a high quality teaching force for public schools. The study placed a focus on the effectiveness of traditional educator preparation programs for first-year teachers. Traditional educator preparation program practices were investigated through literature reviews and through the lenses of the participants of this study via guided interviews. A guided interview process was used for this study to collect views of k-12 teachers who had one, two, three, or four years’ experience in the classroom and who had graduated from a traditional educator preparation program. The interview questions were designed to include probing questions that allowed exploration of teacher attitudes about their own preparation, needs, and experiences of their first year of teaching. In addition to teacher input, the views of a focus group comprised of four campus principals were documented via the same guided interview process used for teacher participants. The purpose for interviewing campus principals was to identify possible gaps that may exist in teacher needs and principals’ perceived teacher needs.

Overall, this study found that participating teachers stepped into their first year of teaching with mixed emotions, including excitement, hope, anxiety, and frustration. They entered the classroom generally excited about teaching, but quickly became frustrated and stressed when the realities of teaching set in. Participants reported feeling unprepared for many of the day-to-day realities of teaching. Three themes emerged regarding new teacher preparation and first-year teacher needs: 1) the lack of preparation for the realities of everyday teaching; 2) the significance of clinical experiences; and, 3) the importance of new-teacher support systems.

The overall goal of this study was two-fold. The first goal was to gather considerable information that would be pertinent to school districts in their efforts to develop and retain high-quality teachers for their classrooms. The second goal was to gather valuable data that would benefit universities seeking to improve their educator preparation programs.



Teacher preparation, Mentorship, First-year teacher, High quality teacher, Teacher shortage, Teacher drop-out, Student teaching, Field experience