This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Black Teachers in Urban Schools: Why do they Stay?




Wright, Debra

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Academic achievement for students, specifically students of color, is negatively affected when teacher turnover in urban schools continue to rise (Ng & Peter, 2010; Ronfeldt, Lowb, & Wyckoff, 2013). Therefore, the goal of this research was to investigate the lived experiences of Black teachers in predominantly Black population, urban schools who remain in the profession beyond five years.  Research initiatives have shown that high-quality teachers in hard to staff schools have the most significant impact on student achievement (Amrein-Beardsley, 2012; Clotfelter et al., 2010). These schools are often revolving door institution for novice teachers who lack the experience and professional development to make the needed difference in the lives of children of poverty, many of whom identify as students of color (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vidgor, 2005; Sass, Hannaway, Xu, Figlio, & Feng, 2012). However, there is a group of individuals who remain committed to high-poverty, students of color in urban schools. This research revealed insight into the experiences of Black teachers using critical race theory as a framework and using narrative inquiry as the methodology. Current research for the retention of teachers reflect that more Black teachers are choosing teaching as a profession. However, these teachers have not remained in the profession (Ahmad & Boser, 2014). Based on the findings of this study, more than half of the teachers who participated determined, prior to the study, to transition from the classroom and had made preparations by actively seeking other employment opportunities. None of the participants shared whether they had received or accepted offers for other employment. They noted their intention to transition from the classroom was to pursue opportunities for advancement or enter private business in other education related areas where they can make a difference in administrative and policy decisions that impact students of color. All of the participants, at the time of this study, remained as classroom teachers. In response to the overarching question of why they remain, the findings indicated that despite institutional barriers found in organizational structures that devalue their contributions, social alienation and marginalization in policy/curricular discussions and decisions, they remained for their students; to make a difference. The participants’ responses from interviews identified themes that did support their decisions to remain in teaching. Among these themes are building relationships through connectedness with students and parents, personally identifying with the struggles as well as the cultural nuances of their students, and the opportunity to advocate for increased awareness of subtle and overt racist practices that undergird belief systems of low expectations for students of color which have all created gaps in academic achievement. The implications of this study revealed the growing concerns for educational administrators to address issues supporting social justice practices and culturally responsive pedagogy. In addition, school systems should focus in creating safe spaces for discussions of race and race-related issues that address hostile working environments as reflected in the findings of this study to support retaining teachers of color in urban, high poverty schools.