BROOKSVILLE — Owen Andress, a fourth-grader at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, couldn't help but jump up and down when his mom gave him the good news this summer.
For the second straight year, Owen had earned a perfect score on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test math exam.
"I thought it wasn't going to happen," he said.
Turns out, he was in good company — both at Challenger and across the Hernando County School District.
During the past school year, Hernando students earned 214 perfect scores on their FCAT or end-of-course exams, up from 141 the previous year. That's a jump of about 52 percent.
Students who earn perfect scores receive a letter from Gov. Rick Scott and a signed certificate of achievement.
While most of the district's schools had increases in the number of perfect scores, none came close to Challenger.
Of the 214 perfect scores, 96 came from Challenger, which houses the district's gifted program.
Owen, 10, and his mother both credited the strong teachers at the school.
"The teachers, they are very nice and kind," said Owen, who wants to become a baseball player. "They make it very fun. It means that the kids don't have to just learn; they get to have fun learning."
Jennifer Andress said the school's teachers are high quality.
"The bar is set high for these students," she said. "When the bar is set that high for students, they rise to it."
Challenger principal Michael Maine attributed a lot of the school's success in achieving high scores to teachers working with students who are on the cusp of a higher score.
He said teachers try to get those students extra enrichment. The school also bolstered a before-school program designed to help students accelerate in, or get help in, math.
Overall, Maine attributed the success to a lot of hard work.
"I would really attribute it to the fact that my staff rallied and pushed best practices and strategies in everything they did," he said.
After Challenger, Winding Waters K-8 had the second-highest number of perfect scores with 16. Chocachatti Elementary, Powell Middle and Springstead High schools all had 10 or more perfect scores. Every school had at least one.
Contact Danny Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.