LINCOLN — About half of Nebraska’s students tested proficient on a new statewide test in English language arts, a significantly lower number than on the old reading tests but a dip state officials said is to be expected because the new tests set the bar higher.

Proficiency levels for new English language arts tests, which test both reading and writing skills and follow more rigorous standards than previous tests, ranged from 47 percent proficient for sixth- and seventh-graders to 56 percent for Nebraska fourth-graders.

State Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt said it’s impossible to compare last year’s reading test scores with this year’s English language arts because they’re new tests, and follow standards approved by the state board in 2014 to ensure students are better prepared for college or a career when they graduate.

“This is a new baseline in Nebraska,” Blomstedt said. “Because we set an expectation that is higher, we have students not at that bar.”

He said he expects scores to rise as schools align their classes to the new standards.

Schools will soon be sending results to parents with information about how their students fared on English language arts, math and science tests, as well as how those results compare to preliminary statewide results.

Students in third through eighth grades took the tests last spring. For the first time this year, juniors statewide took the ACT college entrance exam instead of state tests.

While preliminary statewide results are available, test scores for individual districts and schools aren’t yet available.

Math and science tests, which have yet to be changed to follow more rigorous standards, are comparable to past years’ tests — and yielded higher results than the ELA tests.

In math, proficiency levels ranged from 65 percent for eighth-graders to 76 percent for fourth- and fifth-graders. In science, 72 percent of fifth-graders tested proficient and 68 percent of eighth-graders were proficient. Those are the only two grades tested in science.

For 11th-graders who took the ACT, 54 percent were on track or at college benchmarks set by ACT in English language arts, 51 percent in math and 55 percent in science.