City schoolchildren's state test scores are up for the ninth straight year, according to preliminary data released by the Philadelphia School District on Monday night.

District-wide, 59 percent of students met state standards in math, up 3 points over last year. In reading, 52 percent hit the mark, up 2 points.

Students improved their performance across the board, with the exception of eighth-grade reading. Students in grades 3 to 8 and 11 took the test, called the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), this spring.

The percentage of students who performed at the lowest level is still trending down as well. In reading, 27 percent of students fell into the "below basic" category, down 3 points, and in math, it was 23 percent, down 2 points.

"Teachers, parents, and administrators celebrate the success of our students and the acknowledgment that as a city we are heading in the right direction," Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman said in a statement. "Nine straight years of academic gains is something we should all be proud of, but the task at hand is far from complete. I hope we can use this momentum to propel us forward in continuing the smart practices and multiplying the gains we applaud today."

Gaps remain in the achievement of white and Asian students and black and Hispanic students. But most groups saw some gains in test scores.

Students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students also saw jumps in scores in reading and math. But English language learners' scores declined slightly, from 28 percent meeting goals in reading to 25 percent, and in math from 45 percent to 44.

Promise Academies, a key initiative of the Ackerman administration, saw gains. The overhauled, low-performing schools with more resources and a longer school day and year improved their performance in reading, from 23 percent meeting state standards to 29 percent, and in math from 26 percent to 37 percent.

Promise Academies also shrank the number of students performing below basic on state exams.

This was the first year of the Promise Academies initiative. There are six such schools operating; an additional 11 are scheduled to join the ranks in September.

The expansion of the Promise Academies has been controversial as the district grapples with a budget gap that was as large as $629 million.

The district has laid off more than 3,000 employees and made deep cuts in programs. Some have suggested that Promise Academies are too unproven to invest more resources in.

Empowerment Schools - another Ackerman initiative - also improved test-score performance. Those low-performing schools receive more oversight and resources, but are one step below Promise Academies.

Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146, kgraham@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles.