Pinellas students made slight gains this year on the writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, according to results released Thursday.
Sixty percent of the district's fourth-graders scored at grade level or above, an improvement of 1 percentage point over last year. Half of the district's eighth-graders and 53 percent of 10th-graders were at grade level or above, each showing a 2 percentage-point bump.
Assistant superintendent Catherine Fleeger said the gains, while not huge, demonstrate continued progress. More impressive, Fleeger said, were improved scores at some schools with large numbers of struggling students.
Among the examples: Lealman Intermediate, a dropout prevention school, posted an 8-point gain. At Dixie Hollins and St. Petersburg high schools, scores improved by 2 percentage points.
Close to half of the district's elementary schools raised their scores on the essay portion of the FCAT. Six elementary schools, including Pinellas Central, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Bear Creek, posted scores 10 percentage points or higher over last year.
Middle school children also performed well on the essay portion of the test, with half improving their scores. Dunedin Highland Middle posted a 7-point gain and Osceola Middle improved its score by 6 percentage points.
Statewide, 61 percent of fourth-graders, 50 percent of eighth-graders and 53 percent of 10th-graders were at grade level or above, up 1, 5, and 4 percentage points, respectively.
State Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith said the results are "evidence that the tremendous efforts of our teachers have a direct and positive impact on our children's futures."
It's the 16th year state fourth-, eighth- and 10th-graders have taken the writing portion of the FCAT. It's the second year students have been tested using the current format, which includes a combination of the standard essay section with a multiple-choice section.
Thursday's release of FCAT writing scores marks the start of this year's FCAT rollout. Scores in math, reading and science are expected in coming weeks. School letter grades are not expected until summer.