District Slips on State Assessment

FAIRFIELD – The S.C. State Department of Education released its 2013 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) data this week, indicating erratic swings in achievement numbers for the Fairfield County School District. While most Fairfield County schools showed either no change, or the declination of one letter grade, between 2012 and 2013, the dramatic shifts for Fairfield Middle School (from an A in 2012 to an F in 2013) and Kelly Miller Elementary School (from an A to a C), indicate a statistical anomaly, according to Superintendent J.R. Green, and a flawed system.

“The system is not a valid and reliable system,” Green said. “I’m not just saying that now, I said that in 2012.”

The ESEA is in its second year of a two-year run to temporarily replace the Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) data that was part of the No Child Left Behind act, which graded schools and districts as either Met or Not Met. The State Department of Education applied for and was granted a waiver for the AYP system last year. Green said that while AYP was a flawed system, ESEA may be even more so. The State report cards, he said, which showed the District go from Below Average to Average from 2011 to 2012, were a better indicator of student progress. So, too, were 2013 numbers from the Palmetto Assessment of State Schools (PASS) tests and the High School Assessment Program (HSAP) test, both of which showed progress for Fairfield County students (see next week’s edition of The Voice for PASS and HSAP scores).

Half of the ESEA data, Green said, is pulled from numbers from the 2011-2012 school year. “So you can’t say it’s a snapshot of how a school is performing,” he said.

Green said the 2013 ESEA data used the 2011-2012 high school graduation rate, for example. For 2011-2012, that number was just under 77 percent; but for 2012-2013, Green said, it was up to over 80 percent. The District’s End of Course scores for 2013, which had close to an 80 percent passing rate, are also not reflected in this year’s ESEA data. Geiger Elementary, Green said, has shown improvements in all areas, yet went from a C to a D under ESEA.

“How can you improve and go from a C to a D in this system?” Green pondered. “Any time you see wild swings from year to year, it speaks to the reliability of a system at a statistical level. Last year I didn’t think the middle school was an ‘A’ school, and this year I don’t think it is an ‘F’ school.”

Green said PASS scores showed growth across the board, but those numbers are not reflected in the ESEA ratings. And next year, he said he expects the District to have one school achieve Excellent status in the State report cards, while two others are expected to go from Below Average to Average.

“There’s not a whole lot of correlation between ESEA and the State report cards,” Green said. “I’m not sure if we’ll be approved to use (ESEA) again next year, but it needs a lot of work.”

2013 Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) ratings

(2012 grades in parentheses)

Fairfield School District D (B)

Fairfield Middle School F (A)

Kelly Miller Elementary C (A)

McCrorey-Liston B (B)

Geiger Elementary D (C)

Fairfield Central High School D (F)

Fairfield Elementary F (D)

Fairfield Magnet A (A)