CARROLL COUNTY -- Scores are in from the 2012 Arkansas Augmented Benchmark Exams, and area students and educators have a lot to be proud of. There are also clear areas leaving room for improvement, however.
The exams, which are administered each spring, are meant to assess the performance of public schools in the state.
Following is an analysis of preliminary results from the three Carroll County school districts. Each district still has an opportunity to appeal individual grades with the Department of Education, however, so scores could improve. Final results won't be released until fall.
Eureka Springs Middle School Principal Cindy Holt said she was very excited by the results of the Benchmark exams.
"We had great results across the board," she said. Among these:
The district scored at least 75 percent proficient in 13 of 18 categories.
The district scored 61 percent proficient on end-of-course biology exams. This is 19 percentage points higher than the state average and a 43-point increase from the district's score last year.
In literacy, the district scored above state averages in every grade and saw gains from last year in all but the 11th, which lost 15 percentage points.
Students also bested state averages in all but one category.
There were also areas for improvement, however. For instance, only 71 percent of sixth graders in the district scored proficient in math. That is 5 percentage points lower than the state average and 7 percentage points lower than the district's score last year. The 7-point drop is the largest the district saw in any category this year.
The district also lost points since last year in fifth grade math and science and end of-course geometry.
Green Forest Students performed well, overall. Third grade math and literacy, fourth grade literacy, and seventh grade math all saw more than 90 percent of students score proficient or advanced.
The district also scored 90 percent proficient in end-of-course geometry, 15 percentage points higher than the state average.
"We're very proud of that number," District Superintendent Matt Summers said.
Overall, the district scored at least 75 percent proficient in all but three categories and bested state averages in all but two.
Only 65 percent of students scored at or above grade level in Algebra I end-of-course exams - 12 percentage points lower than the state average.
Also, only 60 percent of 11th graders scored proficient in literacy. This is an improvement over last year's score, though it is still eight percentage points below the state average.
Summers said he was "very aware" of the 11th grade literacy scores and was working to address the issue. He said that might mean looking at "systematic" changes, though he did not yet know what that would look like.
Scores in third grade literacy and sixth grade math and literacy declined since last year.
Berryville School District Superintendent Randy Byrd said he was pleased with the results of the Benchmark exams.
"I think we did a great job and have come a long way," he said.
Points of pride included third grade math, third and fourth grade math and literacy, and end-of-course Algebra I - all of which scored more than 90 percent proficient.
Overall, Berryville students bested state averages in all but one category.
That category was seventh grade science, in which only 36 percent of students scored proficient or advanced. This score is 5 percentage points lower than the state average and five percentage points lower than the district's score last year.
Scores deteriorated since last year in seven other categories, as well. Of these, sixth grade math scores dropped for the third consecutive year.
Patricia Connor, the testing coordinator for the district, said she was very proud of the growth Berryville students and staff had achieved.
"We've come a long way," she said, "and we're very proud."