The recent release of state standardized test results brought generally favorable news for Washington County schools, state data shows.
Students in five of six local school districts outperformed their statewide peers in at least two of the three Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) exams, covering math, reading and science.
The Mahtomedi Public Schools, in fact, led the state in the percentage of students deemed proficient in math and science, with 82 percent of students proficient in math and 85 percent in science, officials said.
"The excellent MCA results are a testament to the hard work, dedication and focus of our students and staff," Superintendent Mark Larson said in a statement.
The Mahtomedi district faces fewer challenges than most public school systems, with 10 percent of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, compared with 38 percent in the average district statewide, state Department of Education data shows.
Of the six Washington County area districts, only the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District, the county's most diverse, saw its students outpaced by their state peers in two of the three exams, having fallen short in reading and science.
The district noted, however, that more of its students were proficient in math and science for a second consecutive year in 2013.
Nearly half of the district's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The South Washington County District, the county's largest with 17,643 students, saw its students exceed statewide proficiency rates in all three tests.
In math and science proficiency, the district improved over a year ago, with 74 percent of students proficient in math, a 5 percent gain, and 66.3 percent in science, a 0.5 percent improvement.
South Washington County, like other districts statewide, saw reading scores plummet, the result of a move to a tougher test aligned to standards laid out by a national initiative called Common Core. This year's reading results will be used as a baseline to assess future performance.
"We remain confident that the new reading test will better prepare students and will show improvements into the future," Superintendent Keith Jacobus said in a news release.
Each of South Washington County's minority groups outperformed their state counterparts. But within the district, officials say, "significant gaps in proficiency persist" between white students and black and Hispanic students, and students who pay full prices for lunches and those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
Gender gaps also exist in science, with male students being more proficient, and in reading, with females having the upper hand.
Students in the Stillwater and White Bear Lake school districts also finished ahead of state peers in all three tests.
The White Bear Lake Area Schools touted its science gains, which it said was the "largest single-year rise" among 16 east metro districts. Sixty-two percent of White Bear Lake students were proficient in science, placing the district ahead of Stillwater, but behind Mahtomedi and South Washington County.
Students in the Forest Lake Area Schools outperformed their statewide peers in math and science, and had nearly the same proficiency rate in reading.