WINNSBORO — Fairfield County Schools fared better as a whole when school report card data for South Carolina was released Friday and brought few surprises for Superintendent J.R. Green.
The district posted an “excellent” growth rating overall and maintained an overall “average” absolute rating. Statewide from 2010 to 2013, the number of districts ranked “average” declined by half with large increases seen in districts ranked “good” and “excellent.”
“Overall I expected to see what we are seeing,” Green said. “I expect next year to be better than this year.”
Green said he has not seen another school in Fairfield within the last seven years that received an excellent rating. “We, as a district, will celebrate that,” he said.
The number of districts ranked “below average” declined by more than half and the number of “at risk” districts dropped significantly.
Green predicts benefits will trickle up for the district from investments made in the early grades. He sees students in the STEM early college academy as being poised to do great things, noting how increased rigor in instruction, including algebra, Latin and chemistry will have them “as prepared as students anywhere.”
By next year he expects the magnet school to maintain its excellent rating (which it climbed to from a good rating) and for the rest of the district to move from average to excellent.
Green noted that Fairfield Elementary School was the only district school below average and it did not improve to at least average.
“We will get there but it is a taller hill to climb because of the high population of exceptional education students there,” Green said.
Due to the size of the district, he said administrators agreed it made sense to have that student population at one centralized location to better direct resources to helping them achieve. Again, he mentioned the cream of the crop of students who placed in the top 10 percent in the state on standardized testing.
Green said he was pleased for the most part with end of course results and pleased overall with the high school end of course examination scores and graduation rate. He said FCHS students need to show a better first time pass rate on HSAP, especially on math. The ELA first attempt pass rate was 80 percent but in math it was just 65 percent.
He said the district goal is to move that score over 80 percent also.
“There is no reason we should not see improvement on HSAP math scores,” he said, “because these ninth-graders did so well on Algebra I end of course examinations that are more rigorous than HSAP (which they will take in grade 10).”
Green said the district made some staff adjustments that he anticipates will help there. U.S. History scores are another area of concern for high school students. Just 16 percent of students in this district scored 70 0r above in history end of course examinations.
He said that must improve and noted that other districts have made curriculum adjustments to split the course into two courses since so much material is covered in one year.
Other than to say that his curriculum staff and district office staff will work with classroom teachers to address the low scores, he did not give specifics FCSD would use to lift U.S. History scores. Statewide the pass rate for history improved to 60.6 percent.
Green noted how successful the evening high school program has been in Fairfield County which serves students who are unable to thrive in a traditional high school setting. “That is a huge factor to an increased graduation rate,” he said, “because you don’t lose kids due to a situation in life.”
The evening program is at capacity with 20 students in the program. In Fairfield County the on-time graduation rate of 80.8 percent was better than the statewide graduation rate which increased from 73.6 percent in 2010-2011 to 77.5 percent in 2012-2013.
Green noted the Gordon Odyssey Academy should continue to blossom once its facilities improve. Though Fairfield Middle School had an average rating, he said the end of course examination scores in Algebra I and English I are cause for optimism.
“About half of the STEM early college academy students are taking Algebra 1 in seventh grade and we have another cohort this year to follow behind our eighth-graders,” he said. “We had (middle school) students scoring at the average rating and our goal is to move them up to good, if not excellent.”
Despite his differences with State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mick Zais on assessment tools, the tone of Green’s remarks about the district overall was consistent with that of Zais with regard to school report cards.
“We are putting the next generation of South Carolinians onto a path of prosperity and success,” Zais said. “But this is a team effort. It means all stakeholders having the same vision, from engaged parents, passionate teachers, and committed students. Working with those in the education and business communities along with technical colleges, we are making great progress. I am proud of what we have achieved.”