Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Learning, Leadership and Change

First Advisor

Rod Githens

First Committee Member

Robert Brodnick

Second Committee Member

Larry Boese

Third Committee Member

Robert Calvert


California is experiencing a massive teacher shortage, and urban schools are disproportionately affected by it negatively. Retention efforts to date have not included strategies to address Compassion Fatigue (burnout and secondary trauma) teachers experience when working with traumatized students at urban schools. This dissertation explores whether Compassion Fatigue is an unaddressed reason for teacher attrition at urban schools. A mixed method practical action research approach using the Professional Quality of Life Scale Version Five (ProQOL 5) and qualitative interviews, portions of which were turned into illustrative vignettes drove the exploration. Approximately 114 teachers completed the ProQOL 5. Statistical analysis of the ProQOL 5 results showed that female teachers experience more compassion fatigue than male teachers; compassion fatigue is more acute with beginning teachers than with veteran teachers; and that teachers working at high-poverty schools experience statistically significant differences in compassion satisfaction and fatigue than teachers at low poverty schools. Correlation tests revealed statistically significant relationships between compassion fatigue and the school’s racial demographics even when controlling for the socioeconomically disadvantaged status of the school and teacher ethnicity. Linear regression models showed that the percentage of African American students in the school is a statistically significant predictor of compassion fatigue. Qualitative interview analysis showed that secondary trauma from students is not the only trauma teachers are experiencing, and that school climate and conditions matter when attempting to retain teachers. In the final phase of the action research, a policy brief was developed through a collaborative and iterative process, based both on the findings and engagement with stakeholders. If California is serious about producing and retaining high-quality teachers at all urban schools,’ efforts to mitigate compassion fatigue should be undertaken immediately.





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