The Carroll delegation of the Maryland State Teachers Association, citing a lack of teacher input in state educational reforms, unanimously supported a "vote of no confidence and censure" concerning the state school board.
"There are a number of things that we are upset with about the state Board of Education," said Ralph Blevins, one of 20 Carroll teachers who attended the annual MSTA convention in Ocean City last weekend. "Basically, there's been a lack of teacher input in state reform."
Approved by MSTA's 700-member delegation, the censure measure will now be sent to Maryland's 1,201 public schools for ratification by the state's teachers.
"Instead of funding staffing formulas to give students the personal attention they need at school, the state board is trying to foist more student testing and a longer school year on the electorate," MSTA president Jane R. Stern said in announcing the "no confidence" measure last week.
The test-driven curriculum reflects the business backgrounds of state board members who are used to getting a return for their investment, said Maureen A. Dincher, president of the Carroll County Education Association, which represents about 1,250 teachers.
"They want hard and fast figures," Dincher said. "To demand that additional testing be done will not really solve anything."
Educators, in Carroll and elsewhere, also are concerned about the state board's proposal to ease the requirements to become a teacher and the exclusion of classroom size and other traditional issues from local contract talks.
"We can't bargain anything but money," said Blevins, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at North Carroll Middle School.
Carroll delegate Alice Carichner, a Liberty High School social studies teacher, said limiting contract talks to salary and benefits issues sends the wrong message to the public.
"A lot of teachers feel that when parents look at negotiations, they're going to think all we care about is money," Carichner said. "We've been limited to money. We care about other things like classroom size and working conditions.
"Sometimes parents and taxpayers don't realize how much local changes are dictated by the state," she added.
Blevins said the concerns expressed by the Carroll delegation are shared by teachers at all levels. He said teachers and administrators should be more involved in the state board initiatives, which range from extending the school calendar 20 days to mandatory kindergarten.
Dincher said teachers are particularly concerned about the state board's Maryland School Performance Program, which sets measures students must achieve in writing, reading and other subjects in order for a school district to be rated "satisfactory" or "excellent."
"The measures have been set unrealistically high by state board members who are not educators," Dincher said. "They purposely set them above the achievement level of any system currently in the state.
"We're not adverse to improvement," Dincher added. "We certainly know that some of those areas can be improved. Carroll County does an excellent job in all areas, but we still do not meet the requirements."
Although the two-day convention served as a forum for a lot of debate on the censure measure, as well as reform initiatives, Carichner said the atmosphere was not all negative.
"I really thought the overall atmosphere was positive, despite the censure," she said. "Teachers feel people are really interested in education. We see a lot of good things happening, and we want to push them forward."