Retention of music teachers working with high concentrations of at-risk students in metro Atlanta schools: A qualitative case study

Theron Roy Petway III

Abstract

Hiring and retaining teachers in the field continues to be an educational dilemma as 50% of all teachers leave their positions in the first 5 years. The statistics are similar for those specifically in the field of music education. Although teachers at schools with high concentrations of at-risk students face more difficulties in the classroom and are at greater risk of leaving their positions, little research has been conducted in this area. The purpose of this study is to provide a base of data related to music teacher retention in schools with high concentrations of at-risk students through a case study. Three research questions were designed for investigation: (a) When describing teaching experiences, what factors of teacher retention emerge as important for music teachers who work with at-risk students?, (b) What are the common obstacles found in music programs with at-risk student populations that prevent the achievement of higher musical standards as they relate to the Georgia Music Educators Large Group Performance Evaluation?, and (c) What is reported as the most meaningful support given to music educators teaching at-risk students? How does this support affect the teaching longevity for those surveyed? Eight teachers from Metro Atlanta with at least 3 years experience in at-risk schools completed a survey and interview. A cross-case analysis was used to determine themes and draw conclusions. Research concluded that the individuals selected broke the national norm of teachers remaining in the profession and that more research would be needed to determine the factors that cause them to stay in the classroom. All teachers reported facing obstacles unique to the at-risk population when preparing for state standards assessment or Large Group Performance Evaluation (LGPE). The individuals also felt the need for more training, support from administration, and could have benefitted from mentoring. The study stresses the need for more research in the area of preparation and support of music educators of at-risk students.