District Sees Gains in State Scores

FAIRFIELD – Fresh off last week’s Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) ratings that dropped the Fairfield County School District from a B to a D, Superintendent J.R. Green is much more pleased with results from this year’s HSAP and PASS tests. The number of high school students scoring at level 2 or higher (2=competence; 3=proficiency; 4=exceptional) on both the English Language Arts and Mathematics portions of the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test grew over 2012 numbers. And although third- through eighth-grade students taking the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS) tests saw some declines in math and science, the District experienced overall gains in the percentage of students scoring Met or Exemplary.

“There is still a concern with math, and science is where there is the most concern,” Green said of the PASS results.

From 2012 to 2013, the percentage of students scoring at Met or Exemplary in math fell by a single point, from 62 percent in 2012 to 61 percent in 2013. That decline was greater in science, where scores fell from 61 percent to 56 percent over the same time period. But scores in other subjects have Green encouraged about the direction of instruction within the District.

The percentage of students scoring Met or Exemplary in writing improved from 58 percent in 2012 to 65 percent in 2013. The percentages in English Language Arts edged up from 63 to 65 percent, while in social studies the number grew from 66 to 70 percent.

The credit, Green said, goes to the teachers, as well as to the community.

“We have teachers who are committed to providing engaged instruction,” Green said. “If students aren’t engaged, they are not going to be successful. We’ve been more successful getting everyone on board for the instructional process. We’ve had better involvement from parents and from the community.”

Still, Green said, there is more work to be done.

“I’m not saying we had an outstanding year,” he said, “but we are seeing some progress.”

That progress can also be seen in the HSAP scores, which showed the percentage of students scoring at Level 2 or higher in English Language Arts reach 87 percent in 2013, up from 85.9 percent in 2012. More impressive, perhaps, were the gains in the percentage of students scoring at Level 4 (exceptional) between 2012 and 2013. In 2012, only 8.3 percent of students reached Level 4 status. In 2013, that figure was 16.6 percent.

“We’ve got a good, strong body of teachers at the high school who have done a good job of engaging students,” Green said. “My goal is to hit 90 percent. I expect math (scores) to move into the 80s next year. That’s aggressive, but we can do it.”

The percentage of students scoring at Level 2 or higher slipped in math between 2012 and 2013, from 67.6 to 66.8 percent, although the percentage of students hitting Level 4 went up from 10.8 to 13.5 percent. The percentage of students scoring at Level 1 (competency not met) also went up, however, from 32.4 to 33.2 percent. Green said the District has already made some personnel changes in the Math Department in response to those swings. Green said he has also done away with a long-standing tradition, one that is prevalent in many school districts, and one that allowed more experienced teachers to choose which classes of students to teach. Green said it has been common practice for more experienced teachers to push to teach juniors and seniors, leaving the freshmen to the rookies. But the freshmen, he said, may require instruction from a more experienced teacher in order to grasp the subject matter. A lack of experienced teachers for the underclassmen has been reflected in HSAP scores in the past, he said.

“We’ve had to change that mindset,” Green said. “We have to have some of our most experienced teachers teaching our most needy students.”