Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

Second Reader

Katie Lewis, PhD


For many years, the teacher shortage has been a topic in educational news. This shortage is caused in part by high rates of teacher turnover, and most greatly impacts urban and rural schools serving low income students of color. This turnover leaves students with long term substitutes, uncredentialed teachers, or first year teachers and leads to lowered social and academic outcomes for impacted students.

Operating on a theory that a sense of belonging would improve teacher retention rates, and thus student outcomes, this research used a qualitative approach to examine relationships and a sense of belonging in traditionally high turnover elementary schools. Culturally Responsive Teaching emerged as a central focus of this project due to the heavy emphasis on relationships in this style of instruction. Teacher and student participants were interviewed to find out what barriers exist to creating meaningful relationships and community in these settings. The findings from this research indicate that a shift in school values to prioritize relationships, belonging and collaboration can significantly improve job satisfaction and teacher desire to remain connected to school communities. By implementing these key changes, schools and districts can improve teacher retention rates, and ultimately lower the effects of the opportunity gap.

IRB Number