LITTLE ROCK — The percentages of Arkansas students achieving readiness benchmarks on ACT Aspire tests in the 2016-17 school year mostly increased over the previous year according to preliminary test results, the state Department of Education said Monday.


But education officials also said the test results show there is still much work to do, with fewer than 50 percent of students meeting benchmarks on a majority of the tests.


The past school year was the second in which Arkansas administered ACT Aspire tests to students in grades 3-10. About 288,000 students were tested.


ACT Aspire is separate from the ACT college readiness exam.


The percentages of students meeting benchmarks were higher than the previous year on all tests except sixth-grade math, fifth-grade English and third-grade writing, the Education Department said in a news release.


The largest increases were in sixth- and eighth-grade math and writing. Large increases occurred in fourth- through eigth-grade writing.


“The increase in Arkansas’ scores can be attributed to the full implementation of the state’s rigorous education standards, high-quality professional development, and innovative and evidence-based teaching practices in the classroom that encourage student engagement and learning,” state Education Commissioner Johnny Key said.


“While we are pleased with the improvement, we must expect more,” Key said. “The data show we have work to do, and we will collaborate with Arkansas educators to determine how we can drive continuous improvement. We are confident that if we set high expectations for our students and provide support to our educators, Arkansas will demonstrate stronger results in the years to come.”


Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement, “While we want to see continued improvements in the future, the increased scores in math and writing bode well for our state in our efforts to attract more industry with a strong workforce. In addition, these advances further underscore the hard work our teachers put forth every day and indicate that our students are responding well to the department’s new vision to provide a student-focused education.”


• Third-graders’ percentages were: Math, 58.52 percent meeting benchmarks, up 2.43 percent from the previous year; science, 38.25 percent, up 1.66 percent; English, 73.17 percent, up 1.29 percent; reading, 37 percent, up 1.87 percent; and writing, 19.17 percent, down 1.21 percent.


• Fourth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 55.15 percent meeting benchmarks, up 1.24 percent from the previous year; science, 42.4 percent, up 3.31 percent; English, 69.67 percent, up 1.88 percent; reading, 43.19 percent, up 1.8 percent; and writing, 32.78 percent, up 19.28 percent.


• Fifth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 52.15 percent meeting benchmarks, up 3.78 percent from the previous year; science, 41.51 percent, up 2.2 percent; English, 72.45 percent, down 1.04 percent; reading, 34.56 percent, up 0.9 percent; and writing, 42.09 percent, up 21.72 percent.


• Sixth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 62.05 percent meeting benchmarks, up 6.59 percent from the previous year; science, 48.95 percent, down 3.4 percent; English, 73.99 percent, up from 2.96 percent; reading, 46.64 percent, up 1 percent; and writing, 59.29 percent, up 15.2 percent.


• Seventh-graders’ percentages were: Math, 48.17 percent meeting benchmarks, up 4.54 percent from the previous year; science, 44.35 percent, up 3.39 percent; English, 78.61 percent, up 1.06 percent; reading, 38.69 percent, up 2.49 percent; and writing, 38.04 percent, up 9.55 percent.


• Eighth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 43.58 percent meeting benchmarks, up 5.58 percent from the previous year; science, 42.08 percent, up 3.47 percent; English, 73.28 percent, up 2.31 percent; reading, 48.99 percent, up 0.68 percent; and writing, 37.58 percent, up 14.21 percent.


• Ninth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 30.23 percent meeting benchmarks, up 1.84 percent from the previous year; science, 32.14 percent, up 4.94 percent; English, 58.46 percent, up 4.22 percent; reading, 39.4 percent, up 3.16 percent; and writing, 50.71 percent, up 6.81 percent.


• Tenth-graders’ percentages were: Math, 24.72 percent meeting benchmarks, up 3.2 percent from the previous year; science, 33.22 percent, up 3.91 percent; English, 60.11 percent, up 3.86 percent; reading, 36.38 percent, up 1.77 percent; and writing, 56.75 percent, up 4.96 percent.