Fairfield County School District Gets B on State Report

The Fairfield County School District received some mixed results in school report cards released last week by the State Department of Education. Bolstered by three schools that earned a letter grade of A, the District received an overall rating of B under the Department’s new letter grade system.

Kelly Miller Elementary, Fairfield Middle and the Magnet School for Math and Science all topped the District report cards with A’s. McCrorey-Liston earned a B; Geiger Elementary a C; and Fairfield Elementary a D. Fairfield Central High School, meanwhile, received a grade of F from the State.

While Kelly Miller met its objectives in English Language Arts (ELA) and in Math, it failed to meet its objectives in Science and Social Studies. However, the State Department said, under the new grading system Science and Social Studies are weighted differently and comprise less of a school’s total points than Math and ELA. Therefore, the Department said, a school can miss objectives in Science and Social Studies and still earn an A, provided they achieve the bulk of their objectives in Math and ELA.

Fairfield Middle School was just shy of meeting its objectives in Science, while meeting objectives in ELA, Math and Social Studies. Running the board was the Magnet School, which met objectives in all four subjects.

McCrorey-Liston met its objectives in Math and ELA, but failed to meet objectives in Social Studies. The school showed some improvement in Science, but also failed to meet its objectives there. Geiger Elementary also showed results similar to McCrorey-Liston.

Fairfield Elementary, while it did not meet any of its subject objectives, showed considerable improvement in Science and minor improvement in Math and ELA.

Fairfield Central met only a single objective: ELA. The high school missed its Math objective entirely and showed only marginal improvement in Science and Social Studies. The school’s graduation rate, on the other hand, showed considerable improvement; although that, too, was short of its objective.

J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools, said that while he felt the old system of evaluating schools and school districts was flawed, he also has concerns with the new system.

“Some of the high school’s evaluation was based on last year’s test scores, and some on previous years’ scores,” Green said, “while the graduation rate for last year has not yet been calculated. It is a hodgepodge of data that presents an unclear picture.

“We are pleased with the B rating the District received, and especially with the A’s some of our schools received,” Green said. “I agree there are some things we need to work on at the high school, but there are some inconsistencies with how it was evaluated.”

This is the first time S.C. schools and school districts received letter grades based upon student achievement. The letter grades were a key component of the State’s flexibility request from certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais submitted the flexibility request to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) in February and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan approved the request in July.

Zais said letter grades provide the public a transparent and accurate reflection of current levels of student achievement and improvement. Under this new system, schools will have more data than ever before on student performance, including areas of strength and areas needing improvement.

“The new federal report card tells students, parents, schools, and the public how schools are performing in a clear and easily understood system of letter grades,” Zais said. “Students have received letter grades on their report cards for decades; schools and school districts should be held to the same level of accountability and transparency.”