Teacher Survey Provides Insight to Charles County Educator's Concerns

LA PLATA, Md. (March 08, 2010)—Results released last week from the statewide Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) Maryland survey show Charles County teachers generally feel satisfied with their working conditions, but would like to play a larger role in the decision-making processes.

Released by Gov. Martin O’Malley recently, the results are from a survey taken by nearly 43,000 educators statewide and by 93.21 percent of certificated staff in Charles County. The survey asked teachers to rate everything from technology and school environment to training and leadership in the school. In May, individual school results were made available to principals and staff to provide time for review and development of plans based on the results. Survey data for the state, county and individual schools are posted at www.tellmaryland.org.

Charles County’s results show that more than 90 percent of teachers feel they have access to sufficient resources, including technology, and that they work in school environments that are clean and well maintained. The majority of teachers said they are working in a safe environment where the administration supports teachers’ efforts to maintain classroom discipline and policies.

“The results affirmed for us many of the things we already knew and pointed out areas where we need to do more work. Principals have had the results since May, and many implemented immediate actions based on the data and some items are being incorporated into the schools’ improvement plans,” said Ronald Cunningham, deputy superintendent of schools.

Survey results prompted Westlake High School Principal Chrystal Benson to look at ways to better involve her staff in school decisions. Benson said the survey showed that teachers at her school felt they did not have enough input into school-level decisions. Since many of these decisions are made during the summer when teachers are away, Benson did a year-end survey in June asking if staff members were willing to come in during the summer and work with the administration. She said at least 20 staff members volunteered to come in to summer meetings to help plan ninth-grade orientation, open house, the staff handbook, the student handbook and staff development topics and sessions. “It turned out great and we plan to continue this each summer,” Benson said.

Mary B. Neal Elementary School Principal Carol Leveillee said one of the lower areas on Neal’s survey was the parent involvement piece. “Since we are in our second year, we have added some day and night events for families to come and participate with their children,” Leveillee said. Additionally, she said they are providing additional mentoring for first and second year teachers and publishing an information sheet that solicits staff feedback or comments that can be used in decision-making.

State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said Maryland sets a standard for continued improvement. “We look at this in a diagnostic way. We are good, but we can always be better,” she said.

In announcing the results, O’Malley said the TELL survey shows where opportunities lie for improvement in public education. “Maryland is number one in America not in spite of our teachers, but because of our teachers. We have the best teachers in the United States.”

The governor said the survey shows a strong connection between teaching conditions and student achievement and the connection between teacher retention and the leadership at schools through the principal. O’Malley added that teachers said they want more time to plan and collaborate and more voice in management decisions. Additionally, he said it shows teachers believe mentoring makes a difference.

Highlights from Charles County Public Schools survey include:

-- Teachers gave positive marks to the availability of reliable technology and working in school environments that are clean and well maintained. In both areas, at least 90 percent of teachers strongly or somewhat agreed.

-- Most teachers supported the statement that the physical environment of classrooms in their schools support teaching and learning, that they have access to appropriate instructional materials and resources and that they are generally happy teaching at their current school.

-- Countywide, teachers ranked their role in decision making – both at the classroom and school level – as areas needing improvement. Teachers also indicated they would like more input into staff development opportunities. New teacher support through mentors shows a need for improvement.

Cunningham said principals are already implementing many of the actions indicated as needed by the survey. Additionally, he said, that although the school system has a limited formal mentoring program, Charles County Public Schools does provide strong support for all teachers, especially new hires, through Instructional Leadership Team members, department chairs and vice principals. Additionally, most schools have a buddy system for new teachers. “These people are all in the schools to mentor and assist teachers,” Cunningham said.

Source: Charles County Public School System

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