PINE BELT (WDAM) - The Mississippi Department of Education released the state's third grade reading test scores Thursday.
Seven Pine Belt school districts - Columbia School District, Jones County Schools, Lumberton Public School District, Pearl River County Schools, Perry County Schools, Petal School District, Poplarville School District - had at least 90 percent of students of the test.
Forrest County School District had 87.1 percent of third graders pass, which is just slightly above the state average of 87 percent.
"Our performance has certainly increased," said Brain Freeman, superintendent of Forrest County School District. "We're excited about that, but we've got a long way to go."
Hattiesburg Public School District had one of the lowest third grade test scores in the Pine Belt with 77.2 percent of students passing.
"We were not, naturally, where we wanted to be," said Deborah Woullard, director of cradle to third literacy for the district.
She said there were fewer than 100 students who didn't pass, and those who did fail, only missed the needed 926 score by a few points.
"When you look at those that scored in that 900 to 925 range, that was the bulk of our students," she said.
Freeman said one of the ways his district is working to improve reading skills is by providing individualized reading programs to its youngest students.
"K through 3, not just third graders," Freeman said. "We're trying to get them at the lower grades when they really can build and not need those resources as a third grader. They're advanced past that, and our goal is to have all those well above the third grade reading level when they take that test."