School districts in Kentucky knew a considerable drop in test scores were coming, so they were not surprised by the release Friday of the new assessment information. But administrators see a few positive findings in the new assessment.

While the new Unbridled Learning assessment information shows great need for improvement in most of Kentucky's 174 school districts, administrators continue to assure parents that the scores aren't as bad as they seem. This is the first year that the current testing system has been used, and the scores will serve as a baseline for future testing throughout the state.

Rebecca Moore, instructional supervisor for Trimble County Schools, said the district expected a decrease in scores because last year's assessment scores valued differently.

"We are disappointed that the overall scores are lower, but we did anticipate a drop because of new assessments and standards," Moore said.

Trimble County Schools ranked in the 19th percentile, or scoring higher than 33 districts in Kentucky, with an overall score of 49.9. Bedford Elementary, Trimble County Middle School and Trimble County High School showed that the scores needs improvement under the new assessment system.

"We knew our reading and math scores may decrease," Moore said, yet the district has implemented new curriculum standards and works toward the goal of yearly improvements that are part of the new assessment system.

Even though three of the four schools in the district are labeled by the assessment as needing improvement, the district had one school that was labeled "proficient." Milton Elementary received an overall score of 64.6, which ranks the school higher than 77 percent of the other elementary schools in the state.

Trimble County High School continued to be a "priority school," which replaced the "persistently low-achieving" designation under the new assessment system. Trimble County High School was listed as a persistently low-achieving school last year and will remain a priority school for three years.

No new priority schools were identified during the first year of the new assessment, Moore said.

Carroll County Schools, like other school districts across the state, expected scores to be lower, said Pam Williams, the elementary instructional supervisor. She said there are some positives in the new assessment scores - such as higher than average college- and career-readiness - even though the district ranked in the 15th percentile, or scored better than 26 of the 174 districts in Kentucky. The district had an overall score of 48.9.

Cartmell Elementary and Carroll County Middle School were labeled as schools that "need improvement," and both were designated "focus schools" because of their "gap" scores, which compare the performance of students who are in traditionally underperforming groups such as poverty, special education, limited English proficiency or ethnic minorities.

Carroll County High School "needs improvement" as well, according to the assessments, because the school ranks in the 40th percentile in the state.

Carroll County Schools was designated a "focus district" because of the low "gap" scores throughout the district's schools. Williams said some students in the "gap" had not been factored in to the previous assessment scores. The district continues to work on increasing "gap" scores, she said, as well as other pieces of the new accountability standards.

"Everything about this assessment is different," Williams said. "It's just a growing process as a school district to meet those needs."

Even with the lower test scores, Carroll County Schools showed a high college- and career-readiness rate at 60.3 percent, higher than the state average of 47 percent.

"We were very excited the high school did so well," Williams said.

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said the statewide results showing that 47 percent of high schoolers are ready to advance are a significant improvement over the previous year's 38 percent.

"That's a very positive signal," Holliday said. "That's our ultimate goal, to get kids to graduate college- and career-ready. Our goal is to get to 67 percent by 2015, and we're on track to get there."

Richard Innes, education analyst for the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy, said people had lost confidence in the former test because many of the students who performed well on it still were ending up in remedial classes in their first year of college.

Kentucky was granted a waiver from the Bush-era No Child Left Behind education law that allowed the state to implement the new testing system. Students in the state's 174 school districts took the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress tests last spring.

The new test scores showed Kentucky students have much room for improvement in all subject areas.

Trimble County and Carroll County school districts both received the designation of "needs improvement," joining 119 other school districts in Kentucky that received that mark.

Only 19 school districts of 174 districts in Kentucky received the "distinguished" rating, while 35 districts received the "proficient" designation.

Holliday encouraged educators and parents to consider this year's scores a starting point for improvement.

"Although more than two-thirds of schools and districts are in the 'needs improvement' category, this is not an indicator of failure," Holliday said.

Innis didn't see it in such a positive light.

"I think Kentucky parents have every right to be concerned at this point," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.