MANATEE -- While Manatee County students fell below the statewide average in FCAT writing scores, they equaled the state average in high school reading, according to scores released Friday.
More than 80 percent of Manatee's 10th-graders were declared "proficient" in writing based on FCAT scores released Friday.
The same applies to more than 75 percent of Manatee's fourth-graders, and 69 percent of the county's eighth-graders.
That's compared to 84 percent of 10th-graders, 81 percent of fourth-graders and 77 percent of eighth-graders and statewide.
The "proficient" label is given to students who scored 3.0 or higher on FCAT writing tests, which have been the subject of controversy all week because of concerns over a more rigorous grading process applied to the test this year.
Manatee's top-achieving fourth-graders were at McNeal Elementary, which had 98 percent of its students score a 3.0 or higher, and Anna Maria Elementary and Gullett Elementary, which had 92 percent of its students scoring a 3.0 or higher.
At the eighth-grade level, Buffalo Creek Middle led Manatee with 86 percent of its students earning a proficient score. Nolan Middle had the second-highest percentage of proficient scorers, at 77 percent.
Manatee's top-performing schools at grade 10 were Lakewood Ranch, which had 88 percent of students achieving a 3.0 score, and Manatee High, which had 86 percent of its students declared proficient.
In reading, 52 percent of Manatee's ninth-graders and 50 percent of its 10th-graders earned a score of three or above, whcih is the level that earns a student the label of "proficient." Those percentages are equal to the statewide average.
Manatee's reading performance places it 34th in the state for ninth-graders and 31st in the state for 10th-graders. Both showings are better than the county's overall statewide ranking of 47th based on all of last year's FCAT scores.
"Although we have work to do, we view our reading results as a step in the right direction for our school district," said Schools Supt. Tim McGonegal.
Manatee School for the Arts, a charter school, had some of Manatee's highest reading scores for both ninth- and 10th-graders. The Palmetto school had 72 percent of its ninth-graders, and 60 percent of its 10th-graders, achieve a score of 3 or higher on the FCAT reading test.
Lakewood Ranch was close behind in its ninth-grade reading performance, with 70 percent of its test-takers scoring a 3 or higher. Lakewood Ranch was the county's leader in 10th-grade reading, with 65 percent of its students achieving a proficient score of 3.