Juvenile justice teachers' job satisfaction: a comparison of teachers in three states.
Disabled students (Surveys)
Disabled students (Physiological aspects)
Job satisfaction (Physiological aspects)
Teachers (Surveys)
Teachers (Physiological aspects)
Prisoners (Surveys)
Prisoners (Physiological aspects)
Child welfare (Physiological aspects)
Work environment (Physiological aspects)
Job stress (Physiological aspects)
Drugs and youth (Physiological aspects)
Houchins, David E.
Shippen, Margaret E.
McKeand, Kim
Viel-Ruma, Kim
Jolivette, Kristine
Guarino, Anthony J.
Pub Date:
Name: Education & Treatment of Children Publisher: West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education; Family and marriage; Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 West Virginia University Press, University of West Virginia ISSN: 0748-8491
Date: Nov, 2010 Source Volume: 33 Source Issue: 4
Product Code: E199650 Prisoners
Government Agency: United States. Department of Justice; Ohio. Department of Education
Geographic Scope: Louisiana; Ohio Geographic Code: 1U7LA Louisiana; 1U3OH Ohio

Accession Number:
Full Text:

The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in the perceptions of juvenile justice teachers in Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio. Juvenile justice teachers (n = 542) completed an extensive attrition and retention survey with a 98% response rate. Comparisons were made between states, type of facility (short or long-term), gender, and teaching areas (general or special education). Significant differences were found across all areas. Results are discussed in relationship to how to retain and support juvenile justice teachers on the job.


A shortage of classroom, teachers is a continuing national concern. Fewer individuals are entering the held and many more are exiting as the number of teachers who are retiring increases (Billingsley, 2003, 2004; Greiner & Smith, 2006). Because of this trend, it is even more important that the field of education retains individuals who are currently teaching. With approximately 10% of first year teachers and over 20% of teachers in their first three years of teaching leaving their professional positions (Rosenow, 2005), policymakers must examine the causes of teacher attrition to stem this growing shortage.

Annually, 17% of all teachers leave their job while 20% leave urban school settings. Economically, each year teacher turnover costs American public schools over $7 billion (NCTAF, 2007). Shortages in specific subcategories of education are even more critical. There is currently a significant shortage of special educators across the nation (Brownell, Hirsch, & Seo, 2004; Olivarez & Arnold, 2006). While the number of students who receive special education services increases each year, the number of professionals choosing to serve as special education teachers decreases (Katsiyannis, Zhang, & Conroy, 2003).

Such a trend ensures that the shortage will only continue to grow and compound existing shortages. One estimate asserts that 98% of all school districts experience shortages in the field of special education (Bergert & Burnette, 2001). Specifically, special educators leave their teaching positions at higher rates than their counterparts in general education, and often when they do leave, those special educators transfer to general education positions (Billingsley, 2003, 2004; Gersten, Keating, Yovanoff, & Harniss, 2001, Plash & Piotrowski, 2007). Based on these data, it appears that special educators may experience more negative aspects of teaching which increases the likelihood that they will leave the field. Negative factors noted by Gersten et al. include poor school climate, role confusion, increased levels of stress, and decreased levels of job satisfaction. Each of these factors can be associated with teachers leaving the field of special education. This forces schools and districts to commit substantial resources to the continuous retraining of new special education personnel and recruitment of qualified individuals (Thornton, Peltier, & Medina, 2007). To limit the rate at which teachers leave special education, those factors that appear to be related to retaining teachers must be identified and addressed (Stempien & Loeb, 2002; Washburn-Moses, 2005).

Factors Contributing to Special Educator Attrition

Several factors have been identified as contributors to special educator attrition including (a) job design, (b) job satisfaction, and (c) teacher efficacy. The design of the special education teachers' job and the resulting role confusion can lead to higher rates of reported burnout and stress (Brownell et al. 2004; Gersten et al. 2001; Wisniewski & Gargiulo, 1997). Such role confusion occurs when the expectations of the job conflict with the actuality of what can be accomplished (Washburn-Moses, 2005). For example, special educators serve many roles, and are often required to teach a variety of subjects in addition to maintaining mandated documentation for the students they serve.

In addition to issues around job design, perceived job satisfaction is also related to teacher retention. Early research with general education teachers showed that when teachers experience job dissatisfaction, student achievement decreases and teachers are less likely to continue to teach (Csikzentmihalyi & McCormack, 1986). Similarly, special educators who report higher levels of job satisfaction are more likely to remain in the field (Gersten et al. 2001; Stempien & Loeb, 2002). On the contrary, when teachers are more dissatisfied with their jobs, they are more likely to report an intention to leave the field of special education (Gersten et al.). Stempien and Loeb (2002) found that teachers who taught students with EBD in more restrictive settings had lower levels of job satisfaction as compared to those in less restrictive settings. This was particularly true for new special education teachers. These findings might be relevant to teachers in a juvenile justice setting considering such a setting is considered one of the most restrictive settings possible for students. Stempien and Loeb's findings also are similar to Houchins, Shippen, and Catrett (2004) who suggested that younger teachers in juvenile justice were less satisfied as compared to more seasoned teachers. Thus less experienced teachers in juvenile justice appear to be at significant risk for attrition.

Finally, self-efficacy expectations indicate whether or not an individual has the belief that he or she can affect desired courses of events (Bandura, 1997). Higher levels of teacher efficacy are related to higher teacher retention rates in general education (Darling-Hammond, 2003). A relationship between empowerment, job satisfaction, and job commitment was found in general education teachers, and teacher self-efficacy was a significant predictor of both job satisfaction and job commitment (Wu & Short, 1996). Researchers also have shown that teacher self-efficacy has a negative relationship with levels of burnout among general educators. Teachers with higher levels of self-efficacy experience lower levels of perceived feelings of burnout (Friedman, 2003).

Teachers in the Juvenile Justice System

Similar to special education teachers, teachers who work in juvenile justice (JJ) settings also may experience poor job design, decreased job satisfaction, and reduced self-efficacy (Houchins et al. 2004; Houchins, Shippen, & Jolivette, 2006). Few studies focusing on the perceptions of teachers in JJ settings have been conducted, but there are similarities in the populations served by both special educators and educators in the JJ system. Teachers in JJ facilities frequently instruct students with disabilities. Youth with learning disabilities (LD) and emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) have higher arrest rates than their peers without disabilities, and are incarcerated at higher rates than their peers without disabilities (Burrell & Warboys, 2000). Approximately 43% of the JJ population is identified as having a disability (Wang, Blomberg, & Li, 2005). Even when a formal diagnosis of a disability is not present, students in JJ facilities generally perform at least two years below grade level (Wang et al.). For a thorough discussion comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between special education and juvenile justice teachers, see Houchins et al. 2004.

Several recent studies have examined the job satisfaction and perceptions of teachers in the JJ system, and how these attitudes and perceptions relate to attrition and retention in the field. Using a survey related to special education teacher job satisfaction, Houchins et al. (2004) reported that the majority of JJ teachers indicated feeling more satisfied than dissatisfied with their jobs. Participants in that study were comprised of all the JJ system teachers in the state of Georgia. Only 15% of the respondents reported that they intended to leave the field as soon as they could. The participants noted administrative support and behavior management skills as having a positive relationship with their desire to stay in the field. Overall, teachers reported positive attitudes toward several factors related to teacher retention. These areas were teacher efficacy, administrative interactions, and intent to remain in the JJ teaching held. However, despite such high levels of satisfaction in these areas, the majority of the same group also reported low rates of student success, frequent stress, poor behavior management, and unsatisfactory parental relationships.

In several areas, Houchins et al. (2004) also found a significant difference in attitudes by gender. Males reported greater satisfaction and less stress, and females stated that they had more positive personal experiences as teachers in the JJ system. Additionally, statistically significant differences were found between teachers based on the number of years of experience. Overall, the greater the number of years experience a teacher had, the higher the level of satisfaction reported. No significant differences were found between general and special education teachers.

In another study that focused on the JJ teachers working in the state of Georgia, teacher levels of job satisfaction were measured following a five-year period of reform in the state (Houchins et al. 2006). Overall, teachers reported somewhat higher levels of job satisfaction after the reform period than before the reforms were implemented. A majority of the teachers reported feeling satisfied with their jobs as a result of the reforms, and that they planned to stay in a JJ teaching position for a long time or until retirement. Teachers also reported that in the post reform era, they recognized improvements in the resources they received for their classrooms, the manageability of their work-loads, levels of job preparedness, student progress, administrative interactions, and behavior management preparation. However, nearly half of the respondents also reported that the reforms had increased their stress levels at work by creating more administrative duties.

More recently, Houchins, Puckett-Patterson, Crosby, Shippen, and Jolivette (2009) identified the factors that served as facilitators or barriers to providing quality instruction in JJ settings. The participants were eighty JJ educators working in the state of Louisiana. Louisiana also is a state that has recently undergone educational reform in JJ settings. Multiple barriers were noted by participants including lack of administrative support, poor morale, lack of staff support, excessive paperwork, inadequate number of security personnel, racism, unrealistic academic expectations, a lack of extracurricular activities, too much heterogeneity in the classrooms, not enough student motivation, a lack of student support services, and limited access to transition services for students. Conversely, the participants noted facilitators such as staff development courses, increased salaries for security staff, providing appropriately challenging materials, providing vocational training activities, reducing class size, and hiring qualified counselors as critical to effective work environments in JJ.

The purpose of this study was to examine JJ teacher attrition and retention factors across three states. The authors sought to determine interactions between facility type (short-term and long-term), gender (male and female), teacher type (general and special education), and state (Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio) across three factors (job satisfaction, role perception, and quality of experiences in the JJ system). Additionally, teacher ratings are discussed relative to one another to further validate the practical aspects of the findings. Specifically, teacher job design, stress level, roles dissonance, and self-efficacy scores are highlighted. This study used Georgia data reported in Houchins et al. (2004), but expanded the data set to include information from two additional states. Additionally, this study asked research questions comparing and contrasting the perceptions of JJ teachers across three states with varying degrees of system reform. Ohio had not been involved in system reform. Louisiana had been involved in a consent decree with the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) while Georgia had been involved in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the federal DOJ. Studying findings from a multi-state perspective provides researchers, administrators, and teachers with a better understanding of how to best meet the challenge of retaining JJ teachers with differing backgrounds, contexts, and experiences.


Participants and Setting

Participants were 542 JJ teachers from three states: Georgia (n = 338), Louisiana (n = 78), and Ohio (n = 126). The participant pool in the three states was comprised of all the JJ teachers in each state. A slight majority of participants were female (56%) as compared to males (44%). Approximately three-fourths of the teachers were general education teachers (68%) and working in a long-term facilities (67%). Eighty-three percent of the teachers were 35 years old or older, with 44% being 51 years of age or older. In all three states the survey was administered to teachers by system-level administrators using the same standardized procedures. Georgia teachers were administered the survey by school administrators during a session at an annual state-wide conference for JJ personnel sponsored by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Louisiana and Ohio teachers were provided the survey by a state level administrator who distributed and collected them at the school level. Teachers were provided approximately one hour to complete the survey. Teachers did not provide their names on the survey. Each survey was assigned a number based on the total number of teachers in each state. The response rate was established by dividing the number of surveys completed by the number of possible teachers in a given state. All responses were anonymous. Data were collected across the three states within a two year timeframe. Table 1 provides details on the gender, age, type of teacher (special education v. general education), and type of facility (long-term v. short-term) for participants across and within states.


An adapted form of the Morivant, Gersten, Gillman, Blake, and Howard (1992) Working in Special Education survey was used in this study. The original survey maintains a high reliability coefficient alpha of .92 and is divided into the following six sections: (1) participant demographics, (2) job satisfaction, (3) role satisfaction, (4) teaching experience, (5) initial teaching experience, and (6) career plans. The original survey was developed based on salient factors that contribute to teacher attrition and retention. For our purposes, an exploratory factor analysis (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001) was conducted using study data. The analysis established the following factors: (1) satisfaction (overall, job, impact, site); (2) role (support, understanding, efficacy, advocacy, communication); and (3) experience (stress, students, others, system).

The survey was piloted with 10 JJ school principals. Principals were chosen because they were most familiar with the experiences of JJ teachers, but would not be completing the survey for the purposes of the final study. Adaptations made to the original survey (Morivant et al.1992) were minor, primarily focusing on replacing typical school setting terminology with JJ wording. For example, the phrase "school" was replaced with "juvenile justice facility." Teachers were able to identify themselves as working in general education or special education. Additionally, teachers were able to identify what type of facility they worked at so facility data could be analyzed regarding student length of stay (long term v. short term).

The Louisiana survey included additional qualitative and quantitative questions at the request of the state administrator. These questions focused on barriers and facilitators to providing incarcerated youth with a system of education and are reported elsewhere (Houchins et al. 2009). Quantitative questions focusing on administrative support were expanded to include site directors, lead teachers, and educational supervisors. Questions about security personnel and their role in the facility also were added. Only the 150 common questions across the three surveys were used in this study. The current study analyzed data across all three states.

Data analysis

Multivariate Analysis of Variance's (MANOVA's) were conducted (Shavelson, 1996) to determine if there was an interaction between facility type (short-term and long-term), gender (female and male), teacher type (general education and special education), and state (Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio) and three factors (job satisfaction, role perception, and quality of job experiences). The basic assumptions of using a MANOVA were met. The samples across the states were independent of one another. The independent variables were categorical and the dependent variables were continuous variables. Additionally, assumptions of normality and homogeneity of variance were addressed. The specific MANOVA technique used to analyze group differences was the Hotelling's [T.sup.2]. Posthoc independent sample t tests were conducted as follow-up tests to the MANOVA. Using the Bon-ferroni method, each t test used alpha <.012. The Bonferroni method is a standard approach used to correct for multiple comparisons (Snijders & Bosker, (1999) and controls for making a Type I error.

Job satisfaction was comprised of four dependent variables (overall satisfaction, job satisfaction, impact satisfaction, and site satisfaction). Role perception incorporated five dependent variables (role support, role understanding, role efficacy, role advocacy, and role communication). Quality of job experiences included four dependent variables (stress, experiences with students, experiences with others, and experiences with the JJ system). Table 2 provides means and standard deviation data.


Significant differences with satisfaction were detected between the facility types, (Wilks' [lambda] = .97, F(4,403) = 2.95, p < .002). Long-term facilities reported statistically significantly higher scores on overall satisfaction and job satisfaction. No statistical significant difference was found on impact or site satisfaction. In regards to facility type and role responsibilities, highly significant differences were detected between the two groups, (Wilks' [lambda] = .94, F(5,445) = 5.78, p < .001). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .06. Long-term facilities reported statistically significantly higher scores on (a) role support (b) role understanding, and (c) role efficacy. No statistically significant differences were found on (a) role advocacy or (b) role communication. Facility type was evaluated in relationship to the quality of the experiences in JJ. Highly significant differences were detected between the two groups, (Wilks' [lambda] = .91, F(4,448) = 11.67, p < .001). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .09. Long-term facilities reported statistically significantly higher scores on (a) stress, (b) experience with students, and (c) overall experiences within the JJ system. No statistically significant difference on "experiences with others" was found.

No significant differences with satisfaction were detected between genders, (Wilks' [lambda] = .01, F(4,403) =.08, p = .99). Highly significant differences with role responsibilities were detected between genders, (Wilks' [lambda] = .95, F(5,438) = 4.63, p < .001). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .05. Females reported statistically significantly higher scores on (a) role support and (b) role understanding. No statistically significant differences on (a) role efficacy, (b) role advocacy, or (c) role communication. Highly significant differences with quality of experiences in JJ were detected between the genders, (Wilks' [lambda] = .96, F(4,441) = 4.02, p = .003). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .04. Males reported statistically significantly higher scores on experiences with students. No statistically significant differences on (a) stress, (b) experience with others, and (c) experience with JJ.

Highly significant differences with satisfaction were detected between teacher types, (Wilks' [lambda] = .96, F(4,403) = 3.78, p < .005). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .36. General educators reported statistically significantly higher scores on overall satisfaction. No statistically significant differences were found on (a) job satisfaction, (b) impact satisfaction, or (c) site satisfaction. In regards to teacher type and role responsibilities, no significant differences with role responsibilities were detected between the teacher types, (Wilks' [lambda] = .98, F(5,428) = 1.14, p = .34). No significant differences between quality of experiences in the JJ system were detected between teacher types, (Wilks' [lambda] = .98, F(4,430) = 1.24, p = .29).

Highly significant differences with satisfaction were detected among the three states, (Wilks' [lambda] = .85, F(8,806) = 8.71, p < .000). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .80. Ohio reported statistically significantly greater scores on (a) overall satisfaction, (b) job satisfaction, and (c) impact satisfaction than either Georgia or Louisiana. There were no significant differences between Georgia and Louisiana on (a) overall satisfaction, (b) job satisfaction, and (c) impact satisfaction. No significant differences were found between site satisfaction and state, (Wilks' [lambda] = .73, F(8,806) = 8.71, p > .66). Highly significant differences with role responsibilities were detected among the three states, (Wilks' [lambda] = .78, F(10,896) = 11.66, p < .001). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .12. Teachers from Georgia reported statistically significantly lower scores on role support than Louisiana, while there were no differences between Louisiana and Ohio. Ohio teachers reported statistically significantly greater scores on role understanding than either Georgia or Louisiana. Teachers from Louisiana scored significantly greater as compared to teachers from Georgia. Teachers from Ohio reported statistically significantly greater scores on (a) role efficacy and (b) role advocacy than either Georgia or Louisiana while there were no differences between Georgia and Louisiana. Teachers from Georgia scored significantly lower on role communication than either Louisiana or Ohio and there were no differences between Louisiana and Ohio. In regards to state and quality of experiences in JJ, highly significant differences were detected among the three groups, (Wilks' [lambda] = .63, F(8,898) = 28.81, p < .001). The multivariate [[epsilon].sup.2] based on Wilks' [lambda] was .20. Teachers from Georgia reported significantly lower scores on stress than teachers in Louisiana or Ohio; there were no differences between the teachers in Louisiana and Ohio. Ohio teachers reported significantly greater scores on their experiences with students than teachers from either Louisiana or Georgia while there were no differences between teachers in of Louisiana and Ohio. Ohio teachers scored greater on experience with others than participants from Georgia. There were no differences between Louisiana participants and Georgia and Ohio participants. Finally, Georgia teachers scored significantly lower on experiences with the JJ system than either Louisiana or Ohio participants while there were no differences between Louisiana or Ohio teachers.


Facility type

Eight significant differences were established between short and long-term facilities. Short-term facilities typically house students anywhere from a day to less than 90 days. Long-term facilities typically have students who are incarcerated for at least 9-10 months, while some students may be incarcerated for several years. Facilities that contained both short and long-term placements were considered long-term facilities. For all significant analyses, long-term facility personnel were less satisfied when compared to short-term facility personnel. Significant differences were found in overall satisfaction, job satisfaction, role support, role understanding, role efficacy, stress, experience with students, and experience with the system. There are several potential reasons for this finding.

One explanation is the nature of the population who are incarcerated in long-term facilities. Typically, long-term facilities are reserved for higher-risk youth (Winokur, Smith, Bontrager, & Blankenship, 2008) who have committed more serious crimes or are repeat offenders as compared to those in short-term facilities. These youth have more pronounced histories of substance abuse, mental health issues, sexual abuse, and developmental problems (Jensen, Potter, & Howard, 2001). Many of these youth have already spent time incarcerated prior to being sent to a long-term facility. They usually have an established record of both misdemeanors (simple assault, disorderly conduct, public intoxication) and felonies (homicide, murder, kidnapping) (Jensen et al.). In contrast, short-term facilities usually house more students who have lower risk levels. This may account for why long-term facility teachers indicated more stress, greater dislike of their experiences with students, less satisfaction with their job, and making less of a difference with their students. Having a positive effect on the educational performance of potentially more dangerous students with a plethora of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems (Drerup, Croysdale, & Hoffman, 2008), academic deficits (Foley, 2001), and mental health issues (Sevecke, Lehmkuhl, & Krischer, 2009) is a momentous challenge that could discourage even the most skilled teacher. These challenges also may account for why long-term facility teachers were less satisfied with their role support, role understanding, self-efficacy, and the JJ system overall. The organizational structure of JJ facilities with higher-risk students is more involved, requiring not only talented teachers, but highly skilled security personnel, mental health professionals (social workers, psychiatrists, counselors), school administrators, correctional facility administrators, and support staff. While much has been written about juvenile justice reform (Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2008), JJ teachers and other JJ professionals continue to be conflicted between security/punishment and rehabilitation (Altschuler, Stangler, Berkley, & Burton, 2009). Such confusion increases the likelihood educators, particularly those who work with high-risk students, will be unsure of their job responsibilities. Future research should be conducted to determine how to provide long-term facility personnel and those who work with high risk students with specific professional development targeted toward their needs.


Three significant differences were found between males and females. Females indicated more dissatisfaction with the support they received on the job and their understanding of their work as compared to males, while males indicated lower satisfaction with their interaction with students. It is not clear why gender differences were found. Researchers have suggested there is a need for gender specific programming for incarcerated youth (Welch, Robert-Lewis, & Parker, 2009) given the intricate and distinct psychiatric profiles of males and females (Karnik et al. 2009). It is not known whether teacher job satisfaction is affected by an interaction between the gender of the teacher and the gender of the student. While 84% of incarcerated students are males (Sickmund, Sladky, & Kang, 2008), there is a growing awareness of the need for better programming for females (Conn & Modecki, 2007; Welch et al.). Additionally it is unclear whether there is a gender interaction between teachers, school administrators, and facility administrators. Future researchers should explore these gender differences and whether these differences are related to student or adult interactions.

Teacher type

In contrast to findings from typical public schools (Katsiyannis, Zhang, & Conroy, 2003), the general education teachers in this study were less satisfied as compared to special education teachers. Specially, they lower overall job satisfaction as compared to special education teachers, putting them slightly at greater risk for leaving their job. Nationally, shortages are greatest among special education teachers and particularly among those who instruct students with EBD, multi-categorical disabilities, severe/profound disabilities, and LD (AAEE, 2008). Much has been written about higher attrition rates among special education teachers as compared to general education teachers (Billingsley, 2003) and their lower job satisfaction (Katsiyannis et al.). This does not appear to be the case for the JJ teachers across the three states in this study. One potential reason may be related to the typical student population that JJ teachers encounter on a daily basis. The JJ student population is comprised of 4-5 times as many students with disabilities as compared to the typical public school (Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirier, 2005). Also, these youth perform academically at a level more typical of students with disabilities (Foley 2001). It may be that special education teachers are generally more satisfied because they have had more interaction, experience, and education associated with students who have behavioral and academic deficits. Additionally, JJ general education teachers may be less satisfied because they are teaching more students who present with emotional, behavioral, and learning problems than found in other educational settings. Juvenile justice general educators, similar to most public school teachers, are trained to provide content instruction using grade level material. The distinctive characteristics of incarcerated students make such instruction less likely.

Despite this one significant difference, minimal distinctions were found between general and special education teachers on other variables. It can be argued that JJ teachers, whether general or special educators, seek employment in a setting where they can work with students who present complex educational and behavioral problems that are less widespread in public schools (Houchins, Guinn, & Schroeder, 2001). From the beginning of employment, the physical environment of a JJ facility explicitly informs teachers that they are working with a distinct population. For instance, when entering a facility, teachers are subject to search as they pass through a metal detector. JJ environments also require that security personnel control entry and exit from a facility. Additionally, movement within the facility from classroom to classroom or other settings is restricted by security personnel in an effort to reduce behavioral problems. Thus, it could be contended that teachers who seek out, gain and maintain employment are attracted to the challenges presented to them by students with considerable behavioral and academic needs. Future research should be conducted to determine the factors that contribute to teachers' decisions to select a JJ as a profession. This information could be used to recruit and retain JJ teachers. It could also be used to determine if the differences in general and special educators require different or similar professional development related to teacher attrition factors.


Numerous significant differences were found among the three states represented in this study. Teachers in Ohio had higher attrition scores on eleven of the thirteen dependent variables as compared to Georgia. Louisiana teachers indicated higher attrition scores on three dependent variables as compared to Georgia. Georgia teachers indicated higher attrition scores on one dependent variable as compared to Louisiana and Georgia. One potential explanation for this finding may be the impact of system reform on teacher attrition and retention. Prior to this study, both Georgia and Louisiana had gone through system-wide reform as a result of federal legal action in accordance with the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA, 42 U.S.C. [section] 1997a et seq.). Georgia finalized their Memorandum of Agree (MOA) with the United States Department of Justice in 2002. Louisiana settled their Consent Decree with the United States Department of Justice in 2003. At the time of this study, Ohio was not under a federal mandate to improve their educational services. Since then, the state entered into an agreement in 2008 with the Civil Rights Department of the Department of Justice to improve the services they provide to incarcerated juveniles.

Taking into consideration the timing of this study, it appears that federal reform measures and the subsequent actions taken by Georgia and Louisiana might have had a positive impact on teacher retention relative to Ohio. While it is not possible to completely account for all aspects of the diverse JJ systems across states, there is a stark contrast between the perception of teachers in federally transformed Georgia and Louisiana systems as compared to the unaltered Ohio system. If this is the case, these findings should be encouraging to tax payers and states that have gone through or are working through a CRIPA federal mandate.

From a monetary perspective, there should be a positive return on the millions of dollars that have been spent by federal and state governments to improve services for institutionalized juveniles. The findings in this study suggest one potential indirect outcome of a CRIPA federal mandate is improved teacher retention. Less JJ teacher attrition means JJ facilities can redirect scarce funds that would have been spent on recruiting and training teachers.

From a state's perspective, the findings of this study suggest that a federal mandate has the potential to positively impact teacher retention. This is not to suggest that states would or should seek out federal legal action against their JJ systems. What it might suggest is that states that have not gone through a CRIPA mandate, but are in need of reform, might learn from states that have. Currently, much of this knowledge is exchanged informally through conferences and meetings sponsored by organizations that focus on the education of incarcerated students such as the Correctional Education Association (CEA) and .the National Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At Risk (NDTAC). The lessons learned from professionals in CRIPA mandated states should be formally studied and shared with personnel from states who want to improve their educational services for incarcerated students without having to endure the burden of federal legal action. Such knowledge could improve teacher retention and save millions of federal tax dollars.

High and Low Mean Scores

Consideration of the high and low mean perception scores of teachers provides valuable insights. The importance of these findings is particularly evident with teachers' lack of understanding their job design (Billingsley, Carlson, & Klein, 2004) and their stress levels. The statistical means related to job design and job stress are relatively high across all facilities, genders, teacher types, and states. Previous research conducted in special education has found a strong correlation between poorly designed jobs and stress (Gersten, Keating, Yovanoff, & Harniss, 2005). The job design of a JJ teacher is multifaceted. Meeting facility safety and security needs often takes precedence over academic requirements (Altschuler, et al. 2009; Shichor, 2000). Disruptive student behavior can cause the facility to be put on "lock down", preventing students from moving to the instructional setting. Once in the classroom, teachers are often required to instruct a difficult transient population of students in accordance with state and federal mandates (NCLB, 2002). Teachers may be torn between the goals of preparing students to get their high school diploma or GED, increasing their basic literacy needs, taking vocational course work, meeting their psychological needs, and addressing their physiological issues. Too often, incarcerated students have serious mental health issues (Desai, Goulet, Robbins, Chapman, Migdole, & Hoge, 2006), limited basic academic skills (Foley, 2001), disabilities (Quinn et al. 2005), and drug addiction problems (Abrantes, Hoffmann, & Anton, 2005) making "typical" instructional delivery difficult. Knowing how to teach a student who is mentally ill, reads several grades levels below norms, and is learning disabled and recovering from a drug addiction, is probably all too common an occurrence for a JJ teacher. Teachers are placed in the precarious position of providing quality academic instruction within a security driven setting where the student population has multifaceted social, emotional, and physical needs. This may create role dissonance for JJ teachers and contribute to increased stress (Gersten et al.). Further research should be conducted to determine if the instructional legal mandates presented in federal (IDEA; NCLB) and state legislation are meeting the comprehensive needs of incarcerated students and how this instruction affects teacher retention.

Stress may be particularly prevalent for teachers who are responsible for instruction that leads to high school graduation credits. Students who earn a high school diploma have greater access to post-secondary educational opportunities, employment, and economic rewards (Mishel, Bernstein, & Allegretto, 2006). Maintaining a JJ school system that increases the chances of incarcerated students obtaining a high school diploma is a worthy goal, but one that is easier said than done. Juvenile justice high school teachers are required to provide their students with course content that leads to state mandated credit hours necessary for a high school diploma and serves as preparation the state high school graduation examinations. These requirements often place JJ teachers and the system in a precarious situation for several reasons. One reason is the amount of time students are incarcerated, which is determined by the length of sentence students receive for the crimes they commit. This can vary from years to just a few days or months. Students with lengthier stays may have the time necessary to obtain full credit for a course or courses. Those with shorter sentences may only be able to earn partial course credit. Once the student transitions back into the community, the acceptance of full and partial course credit is contingent upon agreements that have been established with the facilities and the receiving public schools. Often such agreements have not been instituted. Delivering instruction that is not valued or recognized can be demoralizing and discouraging for teachers, to say nothing for the affect it may have on students.

Another potential reason for role dissonance is that JJ teachers are aware that many of their students do not return to school (Bullis, Yovanoff, & Havel, 2004) and are likely to lack the soft skills (deportment, dependability, interpersonal skills) and career technical abilities (Wonacott, 2002) necessary to successfully transition from the JJ facility to employment in the community. Preparing students for a general diploma that is infrequently obtained and does not contribute to the development of job skills (Moss & Tilly, 2001; Rosenbaum, 2001) places teachers in discomfited position. This is not to say facilities should provide students with a restrictive education founded on inferior standards that does not lead to a recognized high school diploma. Incarcerated students should be given the same access to the general education curriculum and opportunity as other non-incarcerated students based on their needs. What it does suggest is that the current JJ educational system struggles with how to best provide a high quality education while also attending to the vast academic, emotional, and behavioral needs of the students they serve. This conflicting job design contributes to the daily stress of a JJ teacher. Further research should be conducted to determine the degree to which JJ educators are conflicted by their perceived role and how their perceptions are affected by state and federal mandates (IDEA; NCLB).

Mean scores that were relatively low should also be carefully considered. Teacher perceptions of their self-efficacy, experiences with students, level of support received, and interaction with others on the job were relatively lower as compared to other areas. Teachers who believe they can affect student achievement stay on the job longer and have the potential to enhance student performance (Bandura, 1997). Higher levels of teacher self-efficacy have been associated with increased job satisfaction, a willingness to learn new teaching methodologies, persistence when working with more difficult students (Caprara, Barbaranelli, Borgogni, & Steca, 2003), improved teacher retention (Billingsley, 2003; Elain, Lee, & Westat, 2004), and better student achievement (Ross & Bruce, 2007; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Relative to their other responses, JJ teachers indicated liking their work with students and other facility personnel (social workers, other teachers).


This study has several limitations. First, we only measured teachers' perceptions at the time the survey was provided. Had the survey been given at a different time, the results might have been different. More so, these findings cannot be generalized to other facilities in other states, Teachers from three states are represented in this study. While this represents the largest population of JJ teachers to ever be surveyed regarding attrition and retention factors, it is not inclusive of JJ teachers nationally. Nationally, JJ facilities are operated differently from one state to the next. For example, some states contract services out to private consulting agencies. Other states operate as a school district that encompasses all the facilities in the state. The states in this study are more characteristic of the latter. Thus, these findings do not account for the various macro-level JJ management models used nationally. Such administrative systems affect how JJ teachers are hired, paid, and supported. We did not take these factors into consideration. Further research should be conducted to determine how various organizational structures affect JJ teacher perceptions of their jobs and daily practice (Howell & Lipsey, 2004).

Second, this study only examined teachers' perceptions of their job and their circumstances (Gersten et al. 2005). It does not address whether the identified factors directly contributed to them staying or leaving JJ as a profession. For example, it is not known if teachers who were more stressed or dissatisfied left teaching earlier than those who were less stressed or more satisfied. Also, no inferences can be made been regarding the quality of teachers in this study and how they educated students; it is not known whether or not the teachers in this study were effective instructors. Further researcher should be conducted to determine whether there is a connection between attrition and the effectiveness of JJ teachers.

A third limitation is the timeframe in which the data were collected for this study. All data were collected within a two-year timeframe. Ideally, the data would have been collected at the same time, limiting potentially extraneous factors that might have affected the findings. For example, during this timeframe economic downturns could potentially affect how teachers perceive their job satisfaction. Furthermore, the findings of the study would have been timelier had they been analyzed and reported more expeditiously.

A fourth limitation is using previously reported data. While this may be a legitimate concern, it should be noted that the primary purpose of this study was different than Houchins et al. (2004). The intention of this study was to compare and contrast findings across three states instead of just one. The authors deliberately pooled the data across three states, instead of examining the Louisiana and Ohio data independently, for the purposes of providing readers with a richer and more in-depth understanding of factors that contribute to teacher attrition and retention across three different states. Considering the paucity of data available on JJ teachers, the present approach appeared to be an appropriate option.

A fifth limitation is that all data in this study are correlational (Thompson, Diamond, McWilliam, Snyder, & Snyder, 2005). As such, the findings do not indicate causation. There are numerous potential extraneous variables that could interact either positively or negatively with the dependent and independent variables in this study. The lack of control as a function of correlational data greatly increases the potential for Type I error. Furthermore, the discussion provided in this paper about the potential reasons for the findings should be viewed cautiously. The prospective relationships suggested between variables might lead to spurious conclusions. The findings in this paper should serve as the foundation for future experimental research questions that will either confirm or reject our assumptions (Gersten, Fuchs, Compton, Coyne, Greenwood, & Innocenti, 2005; Houchins, Jolivette, Shippen, & Lambert, in press).


Despite the limitations of this study, the findings are significant and germane to special education and JJ. Juvenile justice teachers are a neglected population of teachers who educate a disproportionate number of students who have disabilities, come from poverty, are minorities, have mental illness, and have pronounced academic and behavioral deficits. Significant findings were found across facility types, teacher category, gender, and state. These findings can be used by researchers, policy makers, and administrators to inform the field regarding potential practices and future areas of research that might assist in retaining JJ teachers. Ultimately, the retention of quality JJ teachers could improve the educational outcomes of one of the most disadvantaged and neglected student populations.


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David E. Houchins

Georgia State University

Margaret E. Shippen

Auburn University

Kim McKeand

Ohio Department of Education

Kim Viel-Ruma

Kristine Jolivette

Georgia State University

Anthony J. Guarino

Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions

Correspondence to David E. Houchins, Dept. of Educational Psychology & Special Education, Georgia State University, P.O. Box 3979, Atlanta, GA 30302-3979; e-mail: epedeh@langate.gsu.edu.
Table 1
Participant Characteristics

Variable     Georgia    n   Louisiana  n     Ohio      n      N

Gender      (n = 338)       (n = 78)       (n = 126)       (n = 542)

Male           43%     146    36%      28     50       63     44%

Female         57%     181    64%      50     50       63     56%

Age         (n = 310)       (n = 68)       (n = 117)       (n =495)

21-34          19%      59     4%       3     17%      20     17%

35-50          38%     118    41%      28     40%      47     39%

51 and up      43%     133    55%      37     43%      50     44%

Teacher     (n = 319)       (n = 79)       (n = 132)       (n = 530)

General        68%     217    67%      53     78%      93     69%

Special        32%     102    33%      23     22%      29     31%

Facility    (n = 334)       (n = 78)       (n = 132)       (n = 544)

Long-term      51%     169    85%      66    100%     132     67%

Short-term     49%     165    15%      12      0%       0     33%

Note: Percent is computed based on the number of participants who
completed a given item.

Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations

                Facility Type          Gender         Teacher Type

               Short     Long     Male       Female  General  Special


Overall         2.57    2.81       2.72       2.73    2.79     2.59

               (.68)   (.70) (1)  (.63)      (.75)   (.71)    (.67)

Job             2.64    2.82       2.71       2.80    2.77     2.81

               (.56)   (.58) (1)  (.57)      (.58)   (.58)    (.56)

Impact          2.54    2.87       2.75       2.78    2.80     2.66

               (.66)   (.68)      (.68)      (.68)   (.70)    (.67)

Site            3.10    2.95       2.94       3.10    2.95     3.12

               (1.08)  (.88)      (.87)      (.96)   (.93)    (.95)


Support         2.21    2.44       2.23       2.48    2.34     2.48

               (.82)   (.88) (1)  (.79)      (.90)   (.87)    (.89)

Understanding   3.16    3.54       3.32       3.52    3.41     3.47

               (.76)   (.79) (1)  (.80)      (.78)   (.82)    (.77)

Efficacy        2.05    2.28       2.25       2.15    2.23     2.16

               (.52)   (.66) (1)  (.65)      (.61)   (.64)    (.59)

Advocacy        2.78    2.89       2.79       2.90    2.85     2.89

               (.76)   (.79)      (.78)      (.78)   (.77)    (.79)

Communication   2.84    2.99       2.91       2.98    2.93     2.95

               (.70)   (.65)      (.62)      (.72)   (.65)    (.72)


Stress          3.22    3.41       3.31       3.38    3.37     3.32

               (.57)   (.63) (1)  (.61)      (.62)   (.61)    (.62)

Students        2.07    2.27       2.30       2.12    2.22     2.15

               (.56)   (.69) (1)  (.72) (1)  (.58)   (.68)    (.57)

Others          2.33    2.50       2.46       2.42    2.43     2.48

               (.80)   (.72)      (.77)      (.75)   (.75)    (.77)

System          2.31    2.99       2.73       2.83    2.81     2.70

               (1.1)   (1.1) (1)  (1.0)      (1.2)   (1.2)    (1.1)


                 Georgia      Louisiana         Ohio
Overall        2.65 (.70)    2.62 (.72)    3.03 (.62) (2)

Job            2.68 (.57)    2.74 (.54)    2.97 (.59) (2)

Impact         2.64 (.67)    2.76 (.62)    3.06 (.70) (2)

Site              3.22       2.89 (.74)      2.47 (.41)
Support        2.29 (.85)  2.56 (.93) (3)    2.45 (.85)

Understanding  3.25 (.79)  3.48 (.78) (3)  3.83 (.68) (2)

Efficacy       2.11 (.57)    2.06 (.65)    2.54 (.66) (2)

Advocacy       2.77 (.76)    2.84 (.86)    3.10 (.71) (2)

Communication  2.81 (.67)  3.27 (.63) (3)  3.11 .(59) (3)

Stress         3.22 (.60)  3.47 (.64) (3)  3.58 (.57) (3)

Students       2.11 (.56)    2.19 (.72)    2.45 (.78) (2)

Others         2.38 (.82)    2.43 (.82)    2.60 (.71) (3)

System         2.25 (.92)    3.46 (.92)    3.71 (.91) (2)

(1)= statistically significant based on a comparison of two variables
(2)= statistically significant as compared to Georgia and Louisiana
(3)= statistically significant as compared to Georgia
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