WINNSBORO — During last week’s superintendent’s breakfast, Fairfield County School Superintendent J.R. Green updated district employees, government officials and community leaders on the district’s progress. He said students are telling him that they have “never worked so hard in their lives,” as they have while currently participating in the STEM early college academy program. Those students are now taking chemistry and algebra to receive high school credit in the eighth grade. During December the middle school students will take tests from Midlands Technical College to prepare themselves before they even reach high school. This allows them more time to figure out what they have to work on before they take the test again in August.
According to Green, no other districts are doing that in South Carolina.
“The goal and want is for them to pass with a qualifying score before they go into the ninth grade,” he said. “These comprehensive programs will give students the opportunity to achieve their first year of college credit while in high school.”
By Dec. 2014, the school district hopes to launch a nursing program and an HVAC program. Green said that those two industries continue to grow in South Carolina.
“We will always be in the mode of reevaluating what we can offer our students,” he stated. “We want to develop programs that can serve those niches.”
Green also noted that these programs would not be possible without the collaboration of Midlands Technical College.
“They’ve been open and willing to keep a relationship open and I want to publicly thank them,” he said. “Other school districts are envious because of our relationship with Midlands Tech.”
Green once again cautioned against community members reading too much into the district’s low SAT scores. He reminded the audience that the SAT board says the scores from school to school, and even from state to state, should not be compared.
“It is like comparing apples and oranges,” Green said.
South Carolina is currently ranked 48 in SAT scores, but tested 73 percent of the class, while states at the top of the list are only testing 10 percent or below.
He believes South Carolina could quickly go from number 48 to number 14 in the country by just reducing the number of students who take the test.
“If we only pushed the most prepared students to take the test we would make a significant jump,” Green noted. “So it is an absurd statement to judge a school’s performance state by state.”
He believes the percentage of students tested should be equitable to how many go on to a four-year college. For example, if 30 percent take the ACT or SAT, then 30 percent should go on to a four-year college. Green believes it is an inaccurate judge when 70 percent of students take the SAT or ACT and only 30 percent go on to a four-year college.
“We encourage everyone to take the test,” Green said. “But by doing that we might end up 150-200 points below the average by allowing students to take the SAT who aren’t prepared.”
Students pay $75 to take the SAT, but the school district will be offering a fee waiver to students who choose to spend 10 hours in a diagnostic instrument. The diagnostic will help to prepare a student and strengthen their weaknesses.
Ridgeway Mayor Charlene Herring noted that students at the top of their class in South Carolina have comparable scores to students at the top around the nation.
“If you take the top 10 percent of South Carolina students and compare them to other states, students in South Carolina are as good if not better,” she emphasized.
Green said the district does encourage all students to take the SAT, as long as they are prepared.
“We do not encourage students to take the ACT or SAT if they’re not prepared,” he noted. “Because it is just not an accurate gauge. If a student doesn’t work hard then they’re not going to score well.”
Hall of Fame
The Fairfield County School District has established a Hall of Fame to honor graduates of the district and other persons whose interests or activities have resulted in a significant contribution. Persons eligible for nomination might include former FCSD students (eligible five years after graduation), former FCSD employees (eligible two years after employment), former FCSD board members (eligible two years after service), community leaders (current elected officials cannot be nominated), parents of former FCSD students or any other person who has made a significant contribution. The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be a panel appointed by the School Board of Trustees. Deadlines for the inaugural nominations end on Jan. 10 and the induction ceremony will take place on May 24. Nomination forms can be picked up at the district office.