Howard County educators reported an increase in morale, a growing concern with the amount of standardized testing and a continued lack of faith in school system leadership in the annual teachers union survey.
Results of the Howard County Education Association survey, released Monday, show that 66 percent of respondents believe morale at their school was positive, up from 59 percent last year.
Nearly 4,000 school system educators, counselors and support staff personnel participated in the survey, more than 57 percent of the 6,800 eligible employees.
Educators surveyed also reported an increase in the belief that they are paid fairly and that school system professional development experiences are worthwhile.
Howard County Education Association President Paul Lemle credited the increase in employee morale, in part, to the collective bargaining agreement reached last summer.
"Successful negotiations create a positive environment and support happiness and productivity, even in fields like education," Lemle said. "It's imperative that we reach a fair agreement now to build on the progress we made last year."
A one-year contract agreement, reached in July with the help of a state mediator, provided educators with a 3 percent raise as well as a half-step increase retroactive to July 1. A second half-step is to be given in a lump-sum payment on July 1, 2015.
The reported increase in morale coincides with the findings of the school system's Gallup survey late last year, which reported 40 percent of school system staff are engaged, up from 34 percent the previous year.
Engaged employees are those who are enthusiastic about their jobs and speak positively about their employer throughout the community.
In the HCEA survey, 82 percent of educators said they believe too much time is spent on administering standardized assessments, up from 69 percent last year.
"This trend won't change until we stop connecting evaluation with things teachers can't control, like student behavior, prior learning, and attendance," Lemle said.
Only 48 percent of those surveyed say educators have adequate time during the school day to plan, prepare and teach, while 66 percent of educators believe their work is evaluated fairly.
Confidence in Superintendent Renee Foose's leadership continued to drop as only 41.6 percent of respondents expressed support for the school system's top official, down from 46 percent last year and 74 percent two years ago.
Support for the Howard County Board of Education checked in at 39 percent, up from a historic low of 28 percent last year.
"We invite the Superintendent and Board to engage educators in meaningful discussion about our contract, education policy, and the future direction of the school system," Lemle said. "Our educators love their jobs in Howard County, and when they are critical of the school system leadership, it stems from their desire to benefit the entire community."
School system spokesperson Rebecca Amani-Dove released the following statement on the survey results Wednesday afternoon.
"Without full knowledge of the methodology behind the results including how it was administered, how it was communicated and which research group developed the questionnaire, it is hard to comment on it beyond saying that, ultimately, the results demonstrate everything we expect a union sponsored survey to say," she said in an email.
Full results of the survey broken down by school and results from years past are available online at hceanea.org.