LAND O'LAKES — Pasco schools, like those across Florida, received reams of FCAT data before the sun rose Thursday.
Administrators immediately began sifting through the reading, math and science results for the fourth through 11th grades in search of trends to brag about and problems to cope with.
"I'll be talking about the positives," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said. "That's what I like to talk about. I work on the others."
That work has already begun.
Tenth grade reading scores remain poor, for instance, with just one-third of sophomores passing the exam. Only Land O'Lakes High had half of its 10th-graders testing at grade level in reading.
Fiorentino said the district has rewritten the job description for high school literacy coaches, so they can help students improve their reading and also help teachers in all subjects better assist their students with reading skills.
The School Board also has approved a new high school reading textbook that focuses on informational rather than literary materials, more closely aligned to the FCAT, assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said.
"That's an area of need," Reilly said.
Teachers will be getting additional training over the summer, as well, in science instruction as the district continues to press for better results on the science FCAT, which is taken in the fifth, eighth and 11th grades.
Three-quarters of the county's schools showed some improvement on the science test, led by Oakstead Elementary (19 percentage point increase), Pine View Middle (18 point increase) and West Zephyrhills and Trinity Oaks elementary schools (17 point increases).
Curriculum director Kathy Steiner said several of the most successful schools focused on science during the past year, with lots of hands-on activities.
Other good news?
• Sand Pine and Seven Springs elementary schools showed 20-point increases in the percentages of fourth-graders reading on grade level. Moon Lake Elementary had a 20-point gain in the percentage of fifth-graders at grade level in reading.
• Hudson, Pine View, River Ridge and Seven Springs middle schools, and Academy at the Farm charter school, scored above the state average in sixth-grade reading.
• Land O'Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools saw improved percentages of students at grade level in math at all grade levels.
Cox, Hudson improve
The district's two schools that have been restructuring under federal guidelines — Cox and Hudson elementary schools — had mixed results.
Cox showed strong improvement in fourth-grade reading, but slipped significantly in fifth-grade math. Just 11 percent of fifth-graders scored at grade level or above in science.
"When you look at it, you don't see a pretty picture. The percentage of students scoring at 3 or above is low," assistant principal LaToya Jordan said. "But when you take into account the percentage of kids who made learning gains, our learning gains don't look so bad."
Nearly three-quarters of students improved in reading, for instance.
"Our kids are making a year's gains, but for us that is not enough, because we continue to play catch-up," Jordan said, adding that several teachers plan to visit a Polk County school with similar demographics but much better results for ideas on how to improve.
Hudson made strides in both fourth- and fifth-grade math, with a 13 percentage point gain in fourth-graders at or above grade level. But its science performance dipped.
Principal Linda McCarthy said she was pleased to see the growth, and that she looked forward to delving into the results further to see how to make the school even better.
"Getting this information now is very valuable because we can look at it now and teachers can use it … in laying out the plans for next year," McCarthy said.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.