By andrew Katz
ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley joined state and local education officials Thursday in unveiling the results of last year’s TELL Maryland survey, which found that educators are generally satisfied with teacher conditions but would prefer more non-instructional time.
The first-ever statewide Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning Maryland assessment, an anonymous Web-based evaluation of public educators’ perception of their school environment, gauged issues affecting student learning and teacher satisfaction like empowerment, community support and mentoring.
“You spoke and we have listened,” said O’Malley to the teachers and principals who participated in the survey. He said the “collaborative process” found a direct correlation between teaching conditions and the levels of student achievement.
“Sometimes coordination and collaboration are things we don’t naturally do because we’re all too busy, but I think this survey can be an important framework for helping us to make better connections,” said O’Malley.
According to the results, 73 percent of educators said their schools were good environments to work and learn in. Sixty-four percent also reported that school leadership promotes a supportive academic atmosphere and 80 percent intended to remain at their current school in the short term.
“We’re very happy with the turnout and the number of teachers who responded,” said Debra Garner, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Education Association.
The survey drew feedback from nearly 43,000 respondents and collected data on more than 1,000 schools.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and nearly two dozen other education officials joined O’Malley in formally announcing the findings, which were distributed to school districts last May.
Brown praised the teachers and educators on the “front lines” for their involvement and said the survey provided “extraordinary insight, great information (and) a launching pad to make the No. 1 school system in the country even that much better.”
Education Week magazine ranked Maryland’s public schools first in January for the second straight year.
“We became the No. 1 public school system in America, not in spite of our teachers, but because of our teachers,” said O’Malley. “We want to build on those strengths and foster and forge better lines of communication.”
Grasmick said the relationship between principals and teachers was also critical and that the results present opportunities for continuous improvement.
“We look at this in a diagnostic way and say, ‘OK, we are good, but we can be better,'” she said. “So that’s our goal in terms of what we can do as a result of this important survey and the feedback that we’re getting.”
One fourth of teachers said they received fewer than three hours per week of non-instructional time, and 79 percent reported they played a small or no role in selecting new colleagues.
Eric Hirsch, director of special projects for the New Teacher Center, said one third of new teachers were not assigned a mentor at their schools.
The New Teacher Center, a nonpartisan group that supports the development of effective, inspired teachers, took part in conducting the survey.
“We found that new teachers who are most at risk of leaving the profession really needed additional support,” said Hirsch of teachers with three years of experience or less. Alternately, he said, those who were paired with a mentor were much more likely to continue teaching.
O’Malley said a second survey would be conducted next year.