Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Chubbuck, Sharon M.

Second Advisor


Third Advisor

Birren, Jill


Retention of urban teachers is important in order for students attending high-poverty schools to achieve significant academic and social gains (Boyd et al., 2008). This quantitative study sought to determine if a relationship existed between teacher retention and original career goals, teachers’ sense of self-efficacy, and self-reported level of empathy. Seven cohorts of Teach for America (TFA) alumni who completed their program between 2011-2017 in the same urban region were surveyed to learn about the TFA experience and specific career decisions after their two-year program ended. Lent, Brown and Hackett’s (2002) Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) was utilized as the theoretical framework to better understand the complexities behind career decision making of TFA alumni. The results of a survey taken by 131 alumni provided answers to four research questions. In the first question, chi-square analysis indicated that original career goals had a relationship with teacher retention. Results of independent samples t-tests indicated that teacher efficacy did not have a relationship with teacher retention, nor did empathy, although all alumni rated themselves high in both the teacher efficacy measure (TSES, Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001) and in the empathy measure (IRI – Davis, 1980). The results of logistic regression in the final question initially showed a significant relationship with an original career goal of being a teacher with retention. However, that significance did not carry over into the full logistic regression model, yet being an alumni of color and entering the TFA program after pursuing other work opportunities were both significant predictors of teacher retention. The findings from this study showed that 73% of the sample remained in the teaching profession after the TFA program concluded. Recommendations for the local TFA region and the national TFA region include making teacher retention a program goal, continue recruiting alumni of color and continue recruiting individuals with prior work experience. Recommendations for further research include conducting more regional TFA studies to examine retention rates and the different reasons for remaining a teacher. Exploring the constructs of teacher efficacy and empathy with both traditionally trained and alternatively certified teachers new to the education profession also warrants research.

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