MANATEE -- FCAT scores released Friday show that Manatee County schools are performing below state average in both math and reading in most grades.
But Manatee County ninth-graders performed as well as students across the state on reading, with 53 percent passing the test. Manatee County eighth-graders bested the state average, with 55 percent passing the math test compared to 51 percent across the state.
Some of the standout schools include Anna Maria Elementary, which increased scores significantly in both reading and math over last year and did far better than state averages.
Comparing year-over-year results in Manatee County, most students did better on the math test, although
sixth-graders didn't perform as well. On reading, third- and fourth-graders didn't do as well as last year but all other grades did slightly better.
The test scores highlighted a few "bright lights," said Diana Greene, the new deputy superintendent for instruction, but they also shed light on where the district needs to make improvements.
"Next year will be the beginning of the hard work that will need to take place," Greene said. "This is about looking at the process and how we can improve. It will take collaboration and cooperation among the district leadership team, school leadership teams and families. We have to reach out to families to find out areas of strength to move all of our schools forward."
Greene said the district will rely on the three executive directors Mills plans to put in place to work with high schools, middle schools and elementary schools to help improve their performance.
"We will be working with individuals to see the root causes, and then we will develop an action plan," Greene said. "Our teachers work hard in the classroom. Now it's time to look at the way we deliver instruction, what we're using to deliver instruction. We'll delve into this with curriculum folks."
Even the state's result were tepid at best with fewer than 60 percent of students passing either math or reading in most grade levels. In math, 61 percent of fourth-graders passed the test, in reading 60 percent of fourth- and fifth-graders passed the test, down from 62 and 61 percent, respectively, last year.
Manatee County students fared better on the "End of Course Exams" that high school students take for Algebra 1, geometry and Biology 1. In biology, 69 percent of Manatee County students were considered proficient, while 66 percent of students statewide passed the exam. In geometry, 70 percent of Manatee students were considered proficient compared to 63 percent in the state.
In Algebra 1, Manatee County students fell short of state averages with 56 percent of local students passing the test, compared to 58 percent statewide.
Students in fifth and eighth grades take an FCAT science test. In fifth-grade science, 45 percent of Manatee students scored proficient compared to the state average of 53 percent. Last year, the percentage of Manatee District fifth-graders proficient in science was 42 percent. In eighth-grade science, 48 percent of Manatee students scored proficient compared to the state average of 47 percent. Last year, the percentage of Manatee District eighth-graders proficient in science was 41 percent.
One school stood out when it comes to FCAT results. Anna Maria Elementary school, which had the highest scores in the county, saw 86 percent of third-graders, 89 percent of fourth-graders and 86 percent of fifth-graders pass the reading test. In math, 80 percent of third-graders, 87 percent of fourth-graders and 86 percent of fifth-graders were proficient.
David Marshall, principal of Anna Maria Elementary, said his school's scores are a community effort. In addition to a great teaching staff, "dedicated to finding ways to meet the needs of our kids" support for the small school runs deep.
"We are very proud of our test scores," Marshall said. "Teachers stepped up and students performed better than last year."
Family and community support also help keep the students engaged and excited about school.
"We have great families and great students," Marshall said. "We have great volunteers. We are supported so much by community; parents, grandparents and snowbirds. The rotary and businesses. They are all a great support to this school."
Marshall said the 255-student school is unique because it is such a part of the community. When there is a dinner at the school, the entire community comes.
The school also works with businesses on various ventures such as a Master Gardner class with the Beach Bistro. They have Rotarians who read with students and Bird Watchers who come take students on field trips.
"We have great teachers who have been here a long time with families," he said. "We are very proud of our test score. Teachers stepped up and students performed better than last year."
At Gullett Elementary, one student stood out above the rest for scoring perfect scores on both the reading and math portion of the FCAT.
Devin Riggs, 9, said she felt like she did a good job on the test, but was "scared" that she didn't get everything right.
"My dad told me that when you come to a problem that's a little hard, circle the answer that you think is right and then circle the number of the question and then come back to double-check," Devin said.
Her advice to test-takers: "I would say that you try your best, don't just sit around, and keep on going and don't just skip them."
Toni Whitt, education editor, can be reached at 941-745-7087. Follow her on twitter @toniTwhitt.
-- Summer Smith of Bay News 9 contributed to this report.