District’s report card mixed

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County elementary students did well in classroom testing last school year, but successes didn’t carry forward into middle and high school scores.

Fairfield Magnet School for Math & Science and Kelly Miller Elementary both received “Excellent” ratings, the highest possible on the 2019 South Carolina report cards, which were released last week.

Fairfield Middle and Fairfield Central High, however, struggled.

Fairfield Middle School received an Unsatisfactory rating, earning just 22 of a possible 100 points. Only seven middle schools received the state’s worst rating, according to report card results.

Fairfield High School received an Average rating, the same as last year, but the school’s score plunged from 57 to 51 points, placing it just one point shy of “Below Average.”

Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green couldn’t be reached for comment.

William Frick, chairman of the Fairfield County Board of Trustees, also couldn’t be reached.

Behind the Ratings

Since 2012, when Green became superintendent, the district has received an Average rating every year except in 2016 and 2017, when the state didn’t issue accountability ratings.

The ratings returned after the report cards were revamped in 2018.

Report cards grade schools based on these indicators: Academic Achievement, Preparing for Success, College & Career Readiness, Graduation Rate and Student Engagement. Varying weights are given to each category in calculating a school’s overall rating.

Here’s a breakdown of how each school performed in 2019, with the 2018 rating in parentheses:

Fairfield Magnet School for Math & Science – Excellent (Excellent 2018)

Kelly Miller Elementary — Excellent (up from Good 2018)

Geiger Elementary — Good (up from Average 2018)

Fairfield Elementary — Average (up from Below Average 2018)

McCrorey-Liston Elementary — Average (Average 2018)

Fairfield Central High School — Average (Average 2018)

Fairfield Middle — Unsatisfactory (down from Below Average 2018)

Fairfield Middle

Report card figures paint a grim picture behind Fairfield Middle’s unsatisfactory rating.

On the SC Ready language arts exam, only 26.1 percent of students met or exceeded standards compared to 31.3 percent for the district and 45.4 percent in the state.

Fairfield Middle struggled even more on the SC Ready math exam.

Only 17.5 percent (69 of 395) met or exceeded the standard, less than half the district’s performance (35.8 percent) and also below the state average of 45.1 percent.

Fairfield Middle’s prime instructional time fell four percentage points, from 89% to 84.9%. One in five students (20.9%) was chronically absent, while teacher attendance tumbled from 96.9% to 91.2%

Student-teacher ratios rose to 16.8 to 1, up from 15.6 to 1, figures show.

Teachers with advanced degrees dropped from 72.1% to 66.7% while teachers returning from the previous year plunged nearly 9% (81.1% to 72.5%).

Fairfield Central

Fairfield Central eked out an Average rating despite receiving Below Average ratings in the categories of Academic Achievement, Preparing for Success and College & Career Readiness subcategories.

An Excellent rating on Student Engagement and Average rating for Graduation Rate (81%) saved Fairfield High from receiving an overall Below Average rating.

Fairfield High students struggled on English and Math end of course tests, with less than half of 200 test takers earning at least a “C” on either exam.

In Math, the drop in the number of Fairfield High students scoring “C” or better was profound – from 62.7% to 51%.

English results declined as well, with the gap growing between Fairfield High and the state averages.

The percentage of Fairfield students scoring “C” or better in English fell from 43.6% to 40.5%, while the state percentages rose from 53.9% to 56.3%.

As with Fairfield Middle, Fairfield High experienced declines in teacher attendance, qualifications and retention, figures show.

In 2019, Fairfield High staffed 54 teachers, down from 61 the previous year. The percentage of teachers with advanced degrees dropped from 68.9% to 59.3%

Teachers on continuing contract fell from 63.9% to 57.4% while teachers returning from the previous year dropped from 80% to 77.8%

District Level

At the district level, teacher attendance fell from 96.1% to 93.3%, teachers on continuing contract fell from 63.2% to 58.7% and teachers with advanced degrees fell from 62% to 59.4%.

Fairfield’s per pupil expenditures again led area schools at $17,780

Fairfield Compensation

Fairfield County average teacher salaries rose about 4.2 percent, from $49,288 to $51,363, from the 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 school years, according to report card data.

However, the district’s percent of expenditures on teacher salaries dropped from 47.1% to 44.2%, data shows.

Administrator salaries increased 1.77 percent, from $85,575 to $87,091.

The district’s increases in teacher and administrator pay are less than the 5 percent raises that Green, the district’s superintendent, has received annually since 2015. His base pay is $182,287 plus benefits that bring his total to over $200,000.

Green is contractually entitled to an automatic 5 percent raise every year provided he receives at least a Satisfactory rating on his annual evaluation.

While the District’s overall ratings have remained at ‘Average’ during Green’s seven-year tenure in Fairfield, in December, the school board gave Green an ‘Exemplary’ rating and voted to extend his contract to 2024.

Union

For the second straight year under the revised report card system, none of Union County’s eight schools received an Unsatisfactory rating, despite the district resembling Fairfield both demographically and economically.

Union’s average teacher pay was lowest among area districts at $46,611. Per pupil expenditures were $9,112, almost half of Fairfield’s.

The district, however, reported two Below Average schools, up from only one in 2018.

Four schools received Average ratings and one was rated Good. No Union County school received an Excellent rating.

Kershaw (Note: Kershaw was accidentally left out of the story in the paper copy of the newspaper.)

Kershaw County schools, which also had no unsatisfactory schools for the second year in a row, had the second highest average teacher salary in the area at $51,880. Per pupil expenditures were $9,034.

However, two schools were rated as Below Average. Six schools received Average ratings while the district also had two Good and one Excellent school.

Lancaster

While four of the six school districts bordering Fairfield County had at least one school rated as Unsatisfactory on state report cards, only Lancaster reported two Unsatisfactory schools. Lancaster had none in 2018.

Ten Lancaster schools, however, received either Good or Excellent ratings. Seven others were rated Average and two were Below Average.

In 2018-2019, Lancaster teacher salaries rose about $1,200, from $49,413 to $50,657.

Chester

Chester County reported one Unsatisfactory school, down from three Unsatisfactory schools in 2018. Four schools received Average ratings while two others were rated as Good.

Average teacher salaries remained virtually unchanged, creeping up to $49,309. Chester’s total per pupil expenditure was $10,767, highest among districts neighboring Fairfield, but well under Fairfield’s.

Richland Two

The area’s largest school district also turned in one of the strongest showings.

Nearly two-thirds of Richland Two’s 39 schools received either Good (13) or Excellent (11) ratings. Another 13 schools received Average ratings.

Richland Two only had one school rated Unsatisfactory and another was rated Below Average.

The district had the highest average teacher salary at $52,149, slightly higher than last year’s average of $51,802.

Newberry County

Newberry County, which had no Unsatisfactory schools in 2018, had one school rated Unsatisfactory this year.

Also in 2018-2019, the district had two schools rated Excellent, down from three last year. Five other schools received average ratings.

Newberry had the second lowest average teacher salary in the area at $46,707, while the total per pupil expenditure was $10,696.

To view the entire Report Card for South Carolina schools, go to: ed.sc.gov/data/report-cards/