New results show most students in McDowell and across the state earned passing marks on reading and math tests after state officials changed the requirements.

The results released Thursday by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction show that statewide about 56 percent of students in grades three through eight scored high enough on end-of-grade tests to be considered proficient in reading. In math tests, about 51 percent of students were considered proficient.

In McDowell 57.7 percent of students in grades three through eight scored high enough on end-of-grade tests to be considered proficient in reading.

McDowell’s student population also exceeded the state average of students considered proficient in math, with 65 percent of students considered proficient.

The results reflect a change approved in March that expands the criteria for students to be considered proficient. Because of change, some students who would have been previously labeled as failing to meet grade-level requirements are now considered as having sufficient skills to advance to the next grade.

Last year under the old standards, less than half of students throughout the state and in McDowell in grades three through eight scored in the proficient range.

During a state Board of Education meeting where the data was released, board member A.L. Collins from Kernersville asked Department of Public Instruction officials for help interpreting the new system.

Previously students were labeled as being in one of four levels based on the standardized tests, but the rankings have been expanded to five categories.

Now, children in the top three categories are considered grade-level proficient, while previously only students in the top two were.

"I think we need to have some way, No. 1, of comparing last year and, No. 2, I think we need to be able to evaluate whether this descriptor is actually achieving what we are wanting it to achieve. And I don't have a particular answer or concern other than just a lot of questions about what we do with that this year."

During and after the meeting, state education officials cautioned against comparing the most recent results with the previous year because of the change.

"Comparing it to last year is really not that productive," Tammy Howard, the Department of Public Instruction's testing expert, said after

During the 2013-14 school year, about 68 percent of students throughout the state were proficient on science tests given in grades five through eight.

In McDowell, 70.1 percent of students in those grades were found to be proficient.