The Lehighton Area Education Association issued a statement, noting it is eager to share with the community the results of the district's progress on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment for 2009.

Each year school districts across the Commonwealth test students' achievements in math, reading, science, and writing.

LAEA President Bruce Koch said, "The teachers in our association have always faced the challenges to help students succeed. Our members continually strive to find new ways to enhance their teaching strategies to enable our students to be more prepared for success. This past year they did an outstanding job, at all grade levels, preparing students for the state-wide assessments."

All of the schools in the Lehighton School District met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and surpassed the state averages.

The Mahoning Elementary School finished in the top 91 percent in the state. They are also listed in a local newspaper's "Top 50 Schools in the Lehigh Valley".

Their scores surpassed every school in the area including Parkland and other top schools in the Lehigh Valley. The high school did extremely well by increasing their math scores by 24 percent and their reading scores by 31 percent.

In 2009, eighth grade students earned 82.9 percent in math, which was a 17 percent increase over their previous score. Our eighth grade middle school students scored 87.2 percent advanced/proficient in reading. This was an 8.5 percent increase over previous scores. State targets for math were 56 percent and 63 percent for reading.

Lehighton schools across the board ranked with the highest in the state on writing. The 11th grade students scored 96.6 percent advanced/proficient. The state average for 11th grade was 82.7 percent and Lehighton had a 17 percent increase over the state level.

This spring 11th grade students did exceptionally well by scoring 50.9 percnet on the state science exam. It was 28 percent increase over the state average of 39.7 percent and was significantly higher than other schools in Carbon County.

PA Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak, in a recent statement said, "In both reading and math the percentage of students performing at or above grade level increased in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th grades - all those tested."

Overall, 72.4 percent of students scored at or above grade level - up from 71 percent last year and 55 percent in 2002.

Although the Lehighton students surpassed the state averages and made AYP the teachers' salaries fall far below the state average in teacher salaries.

The average state teacher's salary was $54,971 with an average of 15.9 years experience during the 2006-07 school year. During that same time teachers in Lehighton averaged just $49,757 with an average of 17 years experience.

The LAEA contract ended in August of 2009 and the professional staff has been working without a contract since the beginning of the school year.

The last time Lehighton teachers worked without a contract, they did so for almost two years. Back then the teachers worked without a contract, worked beyond contractual hours by attending evening parent/teacher conferences and open houses, and kept everything status quo. Unfortunately by working in good faith for the district, it did not solve the impasse in negotiations and bring a timely resolution.

At this point in the contract talks, LAEA has decided to only work contractual hours until a new settlement can be reached. That was reaffirmed when the LAEA meet this past week and voted to sustain working the rule and to continue to give their negotiations team the ability to call a job action.

Although the negotiations team does not want to begin a job action, it will be used if an impasse or progress is not continually made at the negotiations table.

The LAEA encourages parents and community members who are interested in quality education to attend monthly board meetings at the Lehighton Administration building to show support for the excellent education the students receive.