Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Teachers who are not adequately prepared to teach struggling students often seek employment elsewhere rather than be ineffective with those students. When teachers leave the classroom, this has a vast impact on student learning. For the past 9 years, a high school in the southeast United States for students at risk of not graduating has had an average annual teacher turnover rate of 31.25%, nearly twice the national rate of 15.9%. The purpose of this study was to learn the kinds of training and knowledge teachers believed would help them to succeed in teaching students struggling to graduate. Constructivist theory served as a framework for this qualitative case study design that sought to answer what are the needs of teachers of at risk learners, and learn the kind of support they needed. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 9 core teachers during the 2014-2015 school year and document analysis of professional development yielded data that were analyzed for emergent themes. A key theme was a perceived lack of adequate support from both the school and the district. Participants wanted help from psychologists and mental health counselors, professional development (PD) to develop content-specific strategies and alternative pedagogical strategies, and time for collaboration with colleagues. Based on study findings, 3 days of PD training were developed that will allow time for teachers and administration to work together. Results also provide research-based data that may be applicable to other schools and school districts serving a similar population. Supporting teachers of students at risk of not graduating should improve teachers' job satisfaction and retention, and improve student achievement, resulting in positive social change for society.