Students in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties performed worse than their peers statewide in nearly all grade levels on the reading, math and science FCAT.
Of grades released Tuesday, only two were on par with the state average — Hillsborough's fourth-grade reading and seventh-grade math.
"We're not where we need to be, but this is sort of a weird transition year," said Stephen Hegarty, spokesman for Hillsborough County Schools.
The state debuted a tougher reading and math FCAT last year, then raised the bar to pass this year. Students also took a new, tougher science exam this year. As a result of the changes, fewer students statewide scored on grade level on the exams.
Results released Tuesday were the final batch following three weeks of scores coming out of the state Department of Education. Tuesday's scores included reading and math for grades four to eight and science for grades five and eight.
Students must earn a Level 3 on a five-point scale to be considered on grade level.
State education officials praised the results Tuesday, saying students did better than expected against tougher standards.
As with other reading and math results, the state also released 2011 "retrofitted" scores to show how students last year would have fared against this year's standards. The scores are for comparison only; they don't have any effect on students or school grades.
In Pinellas, scores were down across the board compared to state averages.
Bill Lawrence, an associate superintendent, said the district's reading scores typically hover around state averages, while math scores have been below the state for a few years.
"That's of great concern to us," he said of math scores.
Some schools in both counties turned out strong performances, despite the new standards and scoring.
At Curtis Fundamental Elementary in Pinellas, 90 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading, while 77 percent were in math. Of the school's fifth-graders, 85 percent scored on grade level in reading, while 75 percent did in math.
The school also earned a high science score, with 77 percent of fifth-graders proficient — 28 percentage points higher than the district average of 49 percent.
Lawrence said district officials will try to replicate the instruction of schools with solid science scores.
"That's where we need to go observe," he said.
At Bevis Elementary in Hillsborough, 90 percent of fourth-graders were proficient in reading and 93 percent were in math. Fifth-graders at the school did well, too — 91 percent earned grade-level scores in reading, while 93 percent did in math and 90 percent in science.
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (727) 893-8846 or on Twitter @Fitz_ly.