BROOKSVILLE — There were cheers and tears of happiness at Eastside Elementary School on Friday morning after the school received its first results from the final round of FCAT testing from the state Department of Education.
After becoming Hernando County's first F school last year, the school saw significant gains among third-graders this year.
In reading, proficiency jumped 14 points. In math, it went up 11 points.
Fourth-grade writing scores were also up slightly — one of only three of Hernando's elementary and K-8 schools to see gains.
Principal Mary LeDoux was ecstatic.
"Our success today is really huge," she said. "Eastside is coming up."
Beyond those successes, the school saw a large decline in the number of third-graders who earned the lowest score in reading, dropping from 30 to 16.
LeDoux, who was brought in last year after the school received the failing grade, credited the turnaround to the students, all of the hard work by teachers and an extremely supportive community. She said the school has worked hard throughout the year to change its culture, focus on student data and target areas of weakness.
The scores are a good sign for the school's upcoming state school grade.
"We're not going to be an F," LeDoux said. "Even the state has said that in the last couple of weeks. With this improvement, we're definitely not going to be an F."
Eric Williams, the Hernando school district's director of school improvement, agreed.
"When you show that type of growth in one grade level, it would be difficult to not improve a letter grade," Williams said.
The tenth grade writing scores for Fox Chapel Middle, which has earned consecutive D grades, remained stagnant.
The Hernando district generally saw mixed results with Friday's release of data. Across the district, schools saw large fluctuations, up and down.
The overall reading and math results for third-graders remained stagnant. Fourth-grade writing scores largely went down — including several by double digits — while writing scores went up for eighth- and 10th-graders.
Some of Hernando's most at-risk schools saw big gains, including Pine Grove Elementary School.
Pine Grove saw a 40 percentage-point jump in third-grade math. It went up 14 points in reading.
Williams credited a couple of major staffing changes.
"They have the people there to support the teachers and really get them prepared to do well on that assessment," he said.
Fourth-grade writing exams were possibly the biggest disappointment for the district.
Six elementary and K-8 schools dropped more than 15 percentage points. Explorer K-8 dropped 32 percentage points — more than any other school. Principal Barbara Kidder did not return a call seeking comment.
Williams said the district will be analyzing what went wrong and how to do better.
"Obviously, my concern is that curriculum and instruction isn't aligned to the standards, and that we're going to have to look at that," he said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.