Results of the Arkansas Benchmark Exams show nearly seven in ten Arkansas fourth graders performed at or above grade level, but just 31 percent of eighth graders were proficient in math. Overall, results from the literacy and math exams given this spring to fourth, sixth and eighth grade students improved in both categories at each grade level from last year. The biggest improvement was in sixth-grade iteracy, from 27 percent proficient or above in 2003 to 41 percent this year. The state Education Department says students scoring proficient are solid academically and well prepared for the next grade. State Education Director Ken James says education officials are pleased with the results, which he attributed to a greater focus on professional development in recent years. But James says there are still areas where the state needs to improve. He says steady progress is the way to bring about those improvements.