Arizona students made small gains in math and reading, while just more than half passed science and writing in standardized tests taken in spring, state officials said Thursday.
In addition, composite scoring showed more than 300 public schools improving at least one letter grade on an A-F scale, Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal said in a statement prepared for a Thursday press conference.
Huppenthal released 2012-13 results of the AIMS test and school grades for all students and all schools in public systems, including traditional district schools and charters.
"The majority of Arizona schools are doing quite well," Huppenthal said in the statement. "Arizona's schools are improving. In fact, we found over 300 schools improved a letter grade over last year."
Four of the state's top 10 school districts are in Southern Arizona. The top three are Benson, Vail and Catalina Foothills. Tanque Verde ranked ninth in the state.
The AIMS exam, which will be replaced after more than a decade at the end of the next school year, is administered each spring to students in Grades 3 through 8 and Grade 10.
The state Department of Education reported that 78 percent of students passed the reading exam, an increase from 77 percent in 2011-12. Sixty-one percent passed math, up one percentage point, 57 percent passed science and 56 percent passed writing.
"Our writing and science test results are a wakeup call," Huppenthal said in a prepared statement. "It is unacceptable that over 40 percent of our students cannot test at a minimum AIMS standard in writing and science."
Tenth graders scored some of the best increases statewide, improving 2 percentage points in math to 62 percent passing and 3 points in reading to 83 percent passing. Seventy percent of 10th graders passed the writing exam, the same as in 2011-12.
In Pima County, more than half of schools scored an A or a B, 24 percent scored Cs and almost 16 percent, or about one in six, received D grades.
All sites in the Vail School District, in a Tucson suburb, received As, a first for the district, while in Tanque Verde and Catalina Foothills districts, also Tucson suburbs, all but one school in each scored As. The lone school not getting an A in each district earned a B.
Most schools in Tucson Unified, the metro area's largest district, were graded B or C. Sunnyside had no A schools, while Flowing Wells and Marana had no D schools.
Arizona public schools are introducing a nationally recognized curriculum called Common Core Standards in the new school year, changing teaching and learning methods and processes. That will lead to abandonment of the AIMS exam and adoption of a new standardized annual proficiency exam, to be administered starting in 2014-15.
Here's a complete list of the state schools' AIMS test results.