RUSKIN — State officials gave Lennard High School higher marks this week, a year after it received Hillsborough's first failing high school grade.
Lennard, which received a D, still ranks near the bottom of district high schools when it comes to students' Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores.
But school leaders said the better grade is a sign that the school is on the right track.
"They did just an incredible job this year. We couldn't be happier," said David Steele, general director of secondary education for Hillsborough Schools.
Based on students' FCAT scores, the school received 457 points — enough for a C. But the reading scores of the school's lowest-performing students caused state education officials to give it a D, said John Hilderbrand, the school district's director of assessment accountability.
Many students may have made significant strides in reading, Hilderbrand said, but not enough to move into a higher performance category.
Of the students who took the test, 79 percent made learning gains in math.
After last year's failing grade, the school received a math coach.
"That made a big difference," Steele said.
Next school year, he said, Lennard will focus even more on improving reading scores.
And plans are in the works to introduce more programs, including a partnership with a new neighboring Hillsborough Community College campus.
Lennard High School opened with 586 students in 2006.
Of the 1,119 students who attended the school last year, nearly 10 percent were classified as English language learners.
And of the students who took the FCAT, 70 percent came from low-income families and qualified for discounted or free lunches.
"That means we just have to work a little harder," said Earl Lennard, the school's namesake and a former county schools superintendent.
This year, the first group of students graduated from the school. Lennard spoke at the ceremony.
"It was extraordinarily upbeat. There were a lot of youngsters there that were the first ones to graduate in their family," he said.
"I told them how proud I was of them."
Staff writer Letitia Stein contributed to this report. Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661-2454.