As the remaining standardized test scores are released Tuesday, Florida education officials say the results on this year's more rigorous Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test are better than expected.
Officials had warned scores would be lower with the new test and scoring scheme, and that was true among the writing tests released earlier this spring.
Statewide, only 57 percent of students scored on or above grade level in reading in grades three through 10. The figure also was 57 percent for math in grades three through eight.
But in each case, that was a 1 percentage point improvement compared to revised 2011 grades based on this year's tougher scoring standards.
"Right now, Florida has the most rigorous requirements in the country to be considered proficient or at grade-level or whatever states use to describe that," Duval County School Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals said. "Florida has set that bar really high."
Among students in Jacksonville, reading scores improved in five of the eight grades tested and math scores were up in all but two grades. While Duval County scores improved more than the state in several areas, the district still lags behind the state average in every category except fourth-grade math and 10th grade writing.
"We made greater improvement overall than the state -- that's the good news," Pratt-Dannals said. "We still have a long ways to go. And particularly with these new cut scores, it shows that everybody in this state needs to make significant improvement."
Pratt-Dannals says initial results look very positive for several Duval County, including some of the most challenged in the district: John Love, Highlands, Fishweir and North Shore elementaries, Mayport, Landon and Kernan middle schools and Raines, Ribault, Jackson, First Coast and Englewood high schools.
St. Johns County, which consistently has the best FCAT scores of all Florida counties, continues to excel, with 70 percent or more scoring at or above grade level in both reading and math.
St. Johns County Superintendent Joe Joyner said their success is a result of the dedication of parents, teachers and students.
"We focus a lot more on children's improvement than just proficiency only," Joyner said. "Not every child is achieving at their maximum level, so our mission's not done."
FCAT scores are a major factor in school grades expected to be released later this month. The A-to-F grades are used to reward and sanction schools.
Due to the new test, the Department of Education was limiting changes from 2011 to 2012 to one letter grade as a safeguard.
While critics continue to worry that too much classroom time and energy is spend on high-stakes standardized testing, Gov. Rick Scott is a strong proponent.
"Whatever you measure gets improved, so we’ve got come up with measurement systems to constantly improve everything we want to do," Scott said.