In a test taken around the country, Hall County scores showed improvement over last year, especially on the math portion of the test.
Gainesville third-grade students earned slightly lower scores this year compared to last on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, but math scores held steady.
Gainesville sixth-graders did not take the Iowa Test last year.
The Iowa Test of Basic Skills places scores on a comparative distribution scale. Students' scores then are compared to those of students across the nation who took the test this past fall.
Composite scores comprising reading, math, language arts, science and social studies place Hall County third-graders in the 65th percentile nationally this school year, up from the 60th percentile the previous school year.
Hall County sixth-graders' composite scores rose four percentage points to the 54th percentile for this school year.
Gainesville third-graders dropped to the 57th percentile this school year from the 61st percentile in the previous year. Gainesville sixth-graders ranked in the 47th percentile nationwide.
The state pays for two grade levels to take the test. Both local districts elected third- and sixth-graders as this year's Iowa test takers.
Hall County schools administered the Iowa test to all students in grades second through eighth this year, and have yet to see the final data on those scores.
Eloise Barron, associate superintendent for teaching and learning for Hall County schools, said the county school system perceives the test as a more telling indication of how system students are performing. She said it also allows the system to learn whether its students can compete with other students across the nation.
Gainesville schools superintendent Merrianne Dyer said the city school system puts more stock in the state's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, which allows systems to track individual student progress.
Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield said the math computation scores on the Iowa test were particularly positive. Since the 2006 administration of the Iowa test, Schofield said third-grade students gained 30 percentage points on the math computation portion of the test.
"Jumps of up to 30 percentile points with approximately 2,000 students per grade are remarkable," he said. "... Our teachers and students deserve a huge ‘well done' for these results."
Schofield attributed the higher scores to the system's focus on academic standards. Barron said she also believes the Georgia Performance Standards curriculum, which focuses on depth of understanding and has been in schools statewide for two years, is starting to take hold.
Dyer said the vocabulary portion of the Iowa test proved most difficult to Gainesville students. To help students improve vocabulary, Dyer said more emphasis is being placed on word usage through visual and group work in the school system.
She said it's important to note that 72 percent of Gainesville students are economically disadvantaged and about 29 percent do not speak English as a first language, according to the state Department of Education. In comparison, 51 percent of Hall County students are economically disadvantaged and 18 percent do not speak English as a first language.