BROOKSVILLE — Many of Hernando's schools slipped a bit in the face of tougher academic standards this year.
The district's overall grade fell from an A to a B, according to school grades released Thursday by the Florida Department of Education.
No school slipped very far, though, and Cs were the lowest grades on the report card.
Of the district's 17 elementary, middle and K-8 schools, eight dropped one letter grade. Three of those — Fox Chapel Middle School and Deltona and Moton Elementary schools -- dropped to a C.
Eight schools maintained their grades, all As and Bs except for one C, Eastside Elementary in Brooksville.
Powell Middle School was the only school to improve, rising one notch to an A.
Grades for high schools will be released in November because the formula to calculate the grades includes variables that are not yet known, such as graduation rates.
The grades weren't a big surprise because the state had already released school level data, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said Thursday. The results reflect the tougher standards on the new version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, called FCAT 2.0, Blavatt said.
"This is a transitional year with the new tests," he said. "We're still in the ball game even if we're shooting at a different basket."
Fourth-grade math scores dipped in eight of 12 elementary and K-8 schools — five of them by double digits. Sixth-grade math scores dropped in seven of the eight middle, K-8 and 6-12 schools.
But the district is showing signs of progress in other areas, with modest increases in reading scores in all but fourth and sixth grades.
Overall, 69 percent of Hernando's students performed at or above grade level in reading; 72 percent in math; 50 percent in science; and 80 percent in writing.
Schools started using new software this past school year to target students who fall in the lowest performing quartile, and those efforts should start bearing fruit in the next couple of years, Blavatt said.
"We're identifying youngsters who are missing skills and we're working to improve it, but there are a lot of factors involved," he said.
After a little more than a year on the job, Blavatt is becoming more familiar with those factors and how they play into what he called the state's imperfect method of grading schools' progress. Moton and Eastside, for example, have poorer, more ethnically diverse and more transitive student populations than other schools, he noted.
Statewide, grades remained relatively stable.
More than three-quarters of schools received an A or B, with the number of A-rated elementary schools growing by 82 and the number of F-schools dropping from 44 to 31.
There is another encouraging sign for Hernando, Blavatt said. The district's two struggling high schools, Central and Hernando, appear to be maintaining the progress that helped them improve their grades last year.
"The predictors seem positive," Blavatt said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.