COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina students got mostly good news as the Education Department released several measures of student performance Thursday.

Education officials said 84 percent of the state's 1,082 schools got at least a C, passing its new letter-grade assessments. The assessments replace the old system under the federal No Child Left Behind law, which failed a school if it didn't meet any of 27 different standards.

"Students have received letter grades on their report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency," state schools Superintendent Mick Zais said in announcing the new grades.

Officials on Thursday also released results of standardized testing, which show improvements in grades three through eight. The number of students passing the test required to graduate high school on the first try also increased.

The state's new grades for schools are much fairer because they consider the schools as a whole, Zais said in his statement.

The grades are based on student achievement in English, mathematics, social studies, science, and high school graduation rates. Schools also get credit if their test scores are improving over time.

Under the old No Child Left Behind system, only 7 percent of South Carolina high schools met every standard and were considered adequate. Under the new system, 68 percent of high schools received at least a C, which is the state's new standard.

Under the new system, 90 percent of elementary schools met the standard, compared to just 35 percent of those schools under last year's No Child Left Behind Standards.

Nearly three out of four schools in South Carolina got either an A or a B in the new grades.

Zais used the release of the new data to again call for the repeal of the No Child Left Behind law.

"For the federal government to label a school as 'failing' when it meets or exceeds every goal except one defies common sense. It's time for Washington to end top-down directives and acknowledge its limited role in setting education policy," Zais said.

Standardized test scores, based on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards, also showed solid increases, but Zais is still unhappy with reading scores in elementary schools.

"It is good news that the number of students demonstrating reading proficiency in third grade has increased," Zais said. "But the fact remains that nearly 20 percent of students leave third grade not reading on grade level. Promoting students whom have not mastered basic reading skills by third grade doesn't help them; it hinders their education."

On the test needed to graduate from high school, the success rate on the first try by students increased slightly to 80.1 percent. It marks just the second time since 2004 that four out of five students in the state passed test the first time.

English scores declined slightly, while math scores increased enough to make the difference in the pass-fail rate.

But Zais sees a link between the high school scores and the standardized test scores from eighth graders, which showed about 30 percent of them did not read or show math proficiency at grade level.

"The high school graduation rate is the most important indicator of success for a school system," he said. "It's not surprising that nearly three out of 10 high school students don't graduate on time when three out of 10 students aren't prepared for high school coursework."