, Newburyport, MA


October 28, 2013

Tax increase needed to improve schools

To the editor:

Recently you published a letter to the editor claiming that a mailing from one of the Amesbury mayoral candidates was full of falsehoods. I would like to take this opportunity to address just a couple of things mentioned in this letter.

I teach calculus at Amesbury High School. It is asserted that public employees in Amesbury have higher average salaries than surrounding communities. Not so for teachers. According to the Massachusetts DOE, average teacher salaries in Amesbury are virtually identical to the state average for the latest year reported, 2010-11. Personally, I don’t remember getting any big raise since then. If one compares Amesbury to other surrounding districts, Newburyport, Pentucket, Whittier and Triton, the average salary for an Amesbury teacher is second from the bottom. Don’t believe me. Check it out yourself.

The other thing I’d like to address is MCAS scores at AHS. You’d think from the press that AHS has terrible scores. Quite the contrary. In Math AHS had a pass rate of 96 percent with a proficient/advanced score of 88 percent. The state proficient/advanced average is 80 percent. In English AHS’s proficient/advanced rate was 94 percent vs. 91 percent for the state. The pass rate on the English test was 100 percent. Yes, I said 100 percent.

Are these scores higher than Newburyport’s? No, of course not. Newburyport pays its teachers more and, more importantly, has a significantly lower student-to-teacher ratio. This class-size problem has only gotten worse in Amesbury with the latest round of budget cuts.

The Department of Education also groups schools according to similar demographics so parents can see how their school stacks up to similar schools. Amesbury is in a group with 11 other schools in this ranking. Among those similar schools AHS scores third in English and first in math.

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