Carroll County posted some of the highest scores in the state in the 2012 Maryland State Assessment scores released this week.
More than 89 percent of students in Carroll passed the tests in every category but eighth-grade math.
MSA exams in reading and math are given to students in the third through eighth grades, and the results are ranked in the categories of basic, proficient and advanced — the latter two of which constitute a passing score.
Carroll students also showed improvement from last year in every category except for fourth-grade math, where they nonetheless passed at a rate of 94.6 percent.
That compares to a statewide passing rate of 89.9 percent for fourth-grade math.
The county showed significant progress in seventh-grade math, where the pass rate jumped from 81.3 percent to 89.7 percent.
Statewide, the seventh-grade math passing rate was 76.3 percent.
"We improved in pretty much every category," said Gregg Bricca, the county's director of research and accountability.
Even in eighth-grade math, the most difficult test for students statewide, Carroll improved about 5 percentage points to an 81.4 percent pass rate.
Statewide, the eighth-grade math passing rate was 69.3 percent. And samplings of other nearby jurisdictions for eighth-grade math scores include Montgomery County's 76.7 percent passing rate; Howard County, 85.9 percent; Baltimore County, 67.6 percent; and Frederick County, 80.7 percent.
In the reading categories, every grade in Carroll was either steady or saw an increase, with the largest improvement seen in eighth-grade reading, which went from 88.5 percent passing in 2011 to 91 percent in 2012.
Statewide, passing rates for eighth-grade reading actually fell, from 82.7 percent last year to 80.8 percent this year.
Samplings of other jurisdictions in eighth-grade reading include Montgomery County's 87.6 percent passing rate; Howard County, 90.6 percent; Baltimore County, 81.2 percent; and Frederick County, 89.0 percent.
Under the state's new accountability system, adopted after Carroll received a waiver from federal No Child Left Behind standards, nine of Carroll's 34 middle and elementary schools had failed to meet their state goals in some category.
Of those, seven missed in only one area, Bricca said, with math the consistent trouble spot in elementary schools and special education reading the culprit in middle schools.
But with a new system of accountability in place, Carroll no longer has to pursue school improvement plans that went into place last year for three middle schools.
Nevertheless, two of those schools, New Windsor Middle and Westminster East Middle, showed substantial progress in multiple categories. At New Windsor, for example, students jumped from a 68.3 percent pass rate in seventh-grade math to a 90.7 percent pass rate.
Westminster East Middle, meanwhile, produced double-digit gains in both seventh- and eighth-grade math.
Bricca said the scrutiny helped teachers to "sharpen their tools, and that focus shows in the numbers."
Scores at the third school, Westminster West Middle, didn't improve as much overall, though seventh-graders made a 15-point jump in math.
For a school-by-school and grade-by-grade breakdown, go to mdreportcard.org.
Childs Walker, Baltimore Sun