Catholic School Identity: Perceptions That Influence Teacher Retention
Author(s)Jakuback, Karen Germany
KeywordsCatholic school identity
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AbstractThe purpose of this qualitative study was to explore teachers’ perceptions of various factors, especially Catholic school identity factors, which are important to them and may influence their job satisfaction and retention in Catholic parochial schools after year five of their teaching career. An additional purpose of this study was to inform Catholic school administrators about factors that may assist them in sustaining a climate, culture, and organizational structure that influences teachers to remain in the Catholic school setting. School climate is often used as a broad term that refers to teachers’ perceptions of their general work environment. The cohesion or collective personality that Wayne Hoy (1990) says makes up climate is also echoed in Richard Ingersoll’s (2001) work on teacher retention (Hoy, 1990; Ingersoll, 2001). Culture, the beliefs and customs of an organization may persist over time, regardless of climate changes. Hoy differentiated culture as types of norms, shared values, and assumptions (Hoy, 1990). The types of practices and symbols that create the culture of the school parallel the practices and symbols in Catholic schools; i.e., the culture or identity. Understanding the teachers’ perceptions of these factors and how the factors are valued or impact job satisfaction and retention decisions are relevant to administrators as they seek to retain qualified teachers. Richard Ingersoll’s (2001) theories on teacher retention and attrition are also important to the conceptual framework for this study. Ingersoll noted that the demand for teachers was not due to teacher shortage, as previously believed, but is caused by the high attrition rate, especially in the first five years of a teacher’s career. He reported that 40%-50% of teachers leave the profession in the first five years, a 4% higher attrition rate than other professions (Ingersoll, 2001). Additionally, almost 10% leave before the end of their first year, and private schools experience a higher rate of attrition than public schools (Ingersoll, 2001). As teachers in Catholic schools are traditionally paid less than their similarly qualified peers in public schools, they are clearly motivated by factors beyond salary. This study examines the teachers’ perceptions of subtle cultural factors and the role they may play in teachers’ retention decisions. The study gathered information from teachers in parochial schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, through a series of semi-structured interview questions which were asked during one-on-one interviews. One teacher from each of 13 of the 16 parochial schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge participated in the study. Teachers in this study evidenced high valuation of several aspects of Catholic schools: faith, interpersonal relationships, collegiality, collaboration, culture and climate, and the administrator as spiritual leader. There is evidence of a strong link between personal beliefs, belief in mission, and job satisfaction and retention. The findings are relevant to administrators, seeking to hire teachers committed to Catholic schools who will be more likely to remain in Catholic school teaching positions. It also serves to inform administrators of valuable ways to continue or enhance culture and climate conducive to teacher retention.