TAMPA — Hillsborough County fourth- and eighth-graders outperformed many of their peers in big-city school systems, according to results released Wednesday of a test often called the nation's report card.
For the first time this year, Hillsborough participated in the urban version of the highly respected National Assessment of Educational Progress test.
In the study of 21 districts, the reading scores of Hillsborough's fourth- and eighth-graders landed the district in the top tier. It posted the highest overall average score in fourth-grade reading.
Results were mixed, but largely positive, in math. For example, fourth-graders scored higher (86 percent) than the national average (82 percent) and did better than the average for other urban districts (74 percent).
"I think it's definitely a reflection of the hard work that goes on in our classroom," said superintendent MaryEllen Elia.
At the same time, the report makes clear that demographics need to be considered along with the results. The test was given to representative samples of fourth- and eighth-graders in districts that have a population of 250,000 or more, and where most students are either black, Hispanic, or eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch.
"Even though they all are considered urban, there still is variance," said Stephaan Harris, a spokesman for the governing board.
For example, 57 percent of Hillsborough's fourth-graders were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. That rate is far below the 73 percent average for the urban districts and second-lowest to Charlotte, N.C., at 52 percent.
Still, it was cause for celebration for the school district, which posted a detailed analysis of the report on its Web page.
Elia said she was especially proud of the district's high rankings when disabled students, low-income students and English language learners were isolated.
She credited a host of staff development efforts, including the Gates-funded teacher evaluation project. "It is not a single thing," Elia said. "But clearly I stand by the work that is being done by our teachers, and the leadership at our schools."
Hillsborough was one of three districts added to the urban NAEP for the first time this year. Miami-Dade, already in the mix, also did fairly well by comparison. No other Florida districts participated.
Times staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this article. Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.