An Examination of the Relationship between Teacher Characteristics and Student Outcomes in Southeastern Urban High Schools
Type of DegreeDissertation
Leadership and Technology
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The social and economic penalties of not graduating from high school are numerous, such as limited access to high-paying work and concomitant poverty. However, across the nation, the graduation rate is only about 70% and even lower among minorities and students of low socioeconomic status (Orfield, Losen, Wald, & Swanson, 2004). The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of the characteristics of teachers in Atlanta, Georgia’s urban high schools to student outcomes, that is, graduation and dropout rates. The study also examined persistence, i.e., the number of freshmen as compared to the number seniors or graduates four years later, as an alternative to graduation rate. The data was obtained from Georgia’s School Report Cards for school years 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. Correlations, t-tests, and regressions were mainly used to examine the data. Graduation rate increased significantly between 2004 and 2005. Dropout rate did not change. Persistence has increased as compared with calculations in 2001 (Orfield et al., 2004). Teachers are vital to the increase in graduation rate and persistence. Together, all the predictor variables explained over 70% of graduation rate, over 50% of dropout rate, and over 50% of persistence. Few teacher characteristics showed unique contributions, meaning that the impact of teachers cannot be narrowed down to one or two variables. In multiple regressions, the strongest unique contributor for all outcome variables was the enrollment of students in poverty, negatively for graduation rate and persistence and positively for dropout rate. The most surprising result was the impact of school size on graduation rate. Simple statistics suggested a positive relationship: larger schools have higher graduation rates, but multiple regressions showed school size had a unique negative effect. When the factors concomitant with larger schools were removed, i.e., better facilities, more teachers, more course offerings, the impact of larger schools on graduation rates was negative.