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
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;
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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David E. Houchins
Georgia State University
Margaret E. Shippen
Ohio Department of Education
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: email@example.com.
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.
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