CAREER MOVES OF URBAN SCIENCE TEACHERS: NEGOTIATING CONSTANCY, CHANGE, AND CONFIRMATION
Rinke, Carol R.
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This dissertation addresses the issue of teacher retention in urban science classrooms, in which a revolving door of new teachers leads to an inexperienced teaching force and reduced academic attainment for students. Urban science teachers are particularly susceptible to attrition due to extensive professional opportunities outside the classroom. This study follows eight case study teachers in an urban school district in order to better understand how today's urban science teachers think about their careers and career moves. Based on traditional research on teacher retention and existing literature on teachers' professional lives, this study focuses in particular on urban science teachers' professional priorities, community participation, and process of career decision making in order to determine the ways in which these factors may be consequential for their career paths. The study uses a qualitative case study methodology. Data collection methods include a survey of all first, second, and third year science teachers in one urban district followed by the selection of eight case study teachers using a variety of demographic, certification, and workplace characteristics. In-depth case studies included monthly interviews and professional observations over parts of two school years. The experiences and perspectives of the eight case study teachers revealed three patterns. First, the eight case study teachers followed two distinct paths through the profession, those who aimed to integrate and were oriented toward the educational system and those who wanted to participate and oriented themselves away from the educational system. These professional trajectories were influential in shaping case study teachers' experiences in schools as well as their career directions. Second, the eight case study teachers continually considered their professional alternatives, either within or outside of the educational system. Finally, the case study teachers aimed to get past the challenges inherent in urban teaching and reach professional confirmation before moving on to new roles and responsibilities. These themes indicate the centrality of urban science teachers' professional orientations for recruitment, preparation, and retention, demonstrate the need for in-depth and longitudinal research on teacher retention, and suggest the pivotal nature of professional growth in career mobility.