Today@Sam Article

SHSU Teacher Retention Rates Higher Than State

June 6, 2017
SHSU Media Contact: Lane Fortenberry


According to “Performance Analysis for Colleges of Education,” a report by the Center for Research Evaluation and Advancement of Teacher Education (CREATE), Sam Houston State University’s teacher retention rate from 2012-2016 is 87.7 percent, compared to the state’s 72.5 percent.

SHSU was tracked along with CREATE public universities (79.4 percent), CREATE private universities (76.4 percent), for-profit Alternative Certification Programs (ACPs) (68.3 percent) and non-profit ACPs (63.3 percent).

“I really think that teachers staying in the field indicates quality,” Christina Ellis, director of Accreditation and Accountability Services at SHSU. “We typically don’t see teachers staying in the field that don’t enjoy doing what they’re doing and don’t really have a passion for it.

“Our teachers staying in the field could show they have found a career that they love,” she said. “We definitely want teachers in classrooms that want to be there. At Sam Houston State, we produce teachers who care about kids and love doing what they’re doing.” 

There are multiple factors that play into teachers deciding to stay in the profession or seek out other career options, according to Ellis.

“A lot of it has to do with if they feel called into the profession or they have a dedication to serving these kids and their families,” she said. “It also has to do with the support they get from their principals, administrators and other teachers. Another big factor is how well they feel they’re doing once they get into the classroom, which is connected to how well prepared they are.

“If they get into the classroom and don’t feel prepared, they’re unlikely to stay there,” she said. “But, if they get in and they feel confident in what they’re doing then they’re likely to stay in the profession. I think that’s why you see retention in alternatively prepared teachers lower than teachers from universities. They get into a classroom and sometimes feel underprepared.

Within the first couple of years, they find another career path.”

Having a program that offers diverse experiences helps keep teachers in the profession, according to Ellis.

“We have a great emphasis on making sure our students have diverse experiences,” she said. “They have a range of experiences in the field that start as early as the second semester of their sophomore year in the field.

“When they choose to teach in a high-needs school, they know what that looks like and are prepared when they get there,” she said. “We really focus on making sure our students are prepared for whichever schools they select.”

While Conroe ISD hired 37 SHSU teachers in 2015-2016, Houston ISD, the closest urban district to SHSU, only hired 14. The program is working to get student teachers more experience in Houston earlier in their careers to feel more prepared and connected to the school district.

“Typically, when students have field experiences in a district, including student teaching, they tend to go and work there,” she said. “Houston is very interested in getting more of our student teachers and field experiences so students are excited about teaching there.

“I think a lot of our students don’t know the amazing experiences they can have in urban settings,” she said. “Many of our students come from rural schools, and may have misconceptions about the schools in big cities. We are starting to see more and more students choosing urban schools.”

A higher number of teachers became elementary school teachers (122) and held a higher retention rate (89.3 percent) than high school, 75 teachers with an 82.7 percent retention rate. 

“We have a large and well-recognized elementary program,” she said. “We’re one of the top producers of elementary teachers in the state. The middle school and high school programs are where we see the majority of students getting alternatively certified. There’s a perception in teacher education that in order to teach middle school and high school, all you really have to know is the content area. 

“For example, some might think, ‘if I want to be a math high school teacher, then all I really need to know is math,’” she said. “’But, if I want to teach elementary school, what I really need to know is how to teach.’ I think that’s a false perception. Because of this, we see more people who get their alternative certification after getting their bachelor’s degree from a university at the middle school and high school level.

“I think that hurts them in the long run because they could have majored with us in their teaching area and gotten a minor in secondary education and had a richer experience than getting alternatively certified, but they don’t see it that way. Secondary programs, although we’re recruiting for them, tend to have lower numbers. I think it’s just because of a false perception of how much preparation in teaching they need.”

The number of SHSU African American certified teachers has increased by 86 percent in five years.

“We believe that students need to see teachers that look like them,” she said. “They need to have relationships with teachers in which they can see themselves, so it’s really important to us to have a diverse teacher population. We’ve really worked to recruit students of color and students from economically challenged backgrounds so that we’re preparing teachers that more closely mirror the students they’re serving.” 

The high teacher retention rates are an indication that Sam Houston has a strong program, Ellis said.

“What these numbers don’t show is that we have this 87 percent still teaching over the five years, but a significant portion of those 13 percent have gone on to become other educational professionals like principals, counselors or librarians,” she said. 

“We produce great teachers who love kids,” she said. “We are the premiere teaching program in the state and have a great reputation, and I don’t think that’s by accident. We have students that really love what they’re doing and intend to make a career out of education.”

The Center for Research Evaluation and Advancement of Teacher Education is grant funded and housed at the University of Houston. It’s a multi-system educational research consortium of 58 institutions across Texas and focuses on issues of teacher preparation and teacher quality.

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