Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Music (MM)


School of Music


School districts across the United States face increasing numbers of socioeconomically disadvantaged students. Urban school systems, in which these students often reside, experience the highest levels of teacher attrition. The majority of literature in the area of teacher retention and attrition in urban, high-poverty schools has focused on general education while fewer studies specific to music education in urban, high-poverty schools exist. Little research has examined the experiences of elementary music teachers teaching in urban, high-poverty settings. Therefore, the investigator perceived a need to investigate elementary music teachers’ reasons for continuing in their positions in urban, high-poverty schools. The purpose of this study was to describe the personal and professional experiences of elementary music teachers who remain in their positions in urban, high-poverty schools and identify possible factors for their remaining in those positions. Elementary music teachers who participated in this study (n = 5) completed an online questionnaire and an optional follow-up telephone interview that included questions related to their personal background, undergraduate experiences, teaching experiences, reasons for taking their current position, challenges and rewards, professional and social supports, and reasons for remaining in their current position. Data from the questionnaire were analyzed and descriptive statistics presented. Interview data were transcribed and classified into categories of response. Results of this study indicate that establishing and maintaining relationships with students, parents, other music teachers, and family and friends, appears to be the most important factor in an elementary music teacher’s decision to remain in their current position. The majority of participants (80%) reported significant support from their district’s mentor program, other music teachers, and family. Other factors that emerged included background and teacher characteristics. Participants expressed the need for a strong foundation in their subject area (music) and practicum and student teaching experiences in urban, high-poverty settings for continued satisfaction and retention. The participants also shared common characteristics that included being hard-working and persistent while being firm, fair, and “fun” in the classroom. The final factor in the participants’ decision to remain in their position is related to consistency. Some aspects of consistency, such as students home lives (which are beyond the schools’ control) may make other aspects of consistency such as teacher turnover rates and consistent student discipline procedures with schools even more important.

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