Fairfield’s school report cards improve

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County schools saw marked improvement on the recently released 2023 Report Cards, with five of seven schools rated “Good” or higher.

Two schools – Geiger Elementary and Fairfield Magnet – received “Excellent” ratings, the highest in the five-tier rating system.

An “Excellent” rating means “school performance substantially exceeds the criteria to ensure all students meet the profile of the SC Graduate.” 

Fairfield Middle, Fairfield Elementary, and McCrorey-Liston School of Technology received “Good” ratings. “Good” means the school’s performance exceeds state criteria.

Fairfield Elementary’s rating represents a marked improvement over the “Below Average” rating the school received in 2022.

Two schools scored “Average,” including Fairfield Central High School, which scored a 51 on a 51-59 scale. Kelly Miller Elementary also scored Average.

At Tuesday’s monthly school board meeting, Dr. Claudia Avery, the district’s deputy superintendent for instruction, lauded the district’s results, noting that not one school received overall ratings of “Below Average” or “Unsatisfactory.”

“That for us is a huge achievement. When I saw the ratings for all schools, I was excited. I was overjoyed,” Avery said Tuesday night. “A lot of the principals and teachers have worked very diligently to… help ensure they are reaching proficiency.”

Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green said he was proud of the effort of students and staff before launching into a nearly 20-minute speech about the grievances he has about the South Carolina Report Card system.

“I am a bit skeptical about some of the motivations behind the accountability movement but nevertheless it is the movement by which we are judged,” Green said. “We can spend a whole lot of time talking about report cards. I look at how we serve kids.”

Green didn’t elaborate on those “motivations,” though he traditionally characterizes report card ratings as “picking winners and losers.”

“There are some components of the report cards that cause me to have issue with how the ratings are developed,” Green said.

In particular, Green took aim at graduation rate data.

Fairfield’s graduation rate was 82%, down from 83.7% a year ago and more than 6 percentage points lower than the 88.4% rate reported in 2020.

Green said it’s “impossible” to expect school districts to generate exceptionally high graduation rates, citing uncontrolled factors such as a student arrest, teenage pregnancies, or other unforeseen events.

“For a traditional school like Fairfield, we could never have a 99% graduation rate. It is mathematically impossible for us to have a 99% graduation rate,” Green said. “If you have a 99% graduation rate, obviously you are not serving all kids in your community or you do not have self-contained students in your community.”

Green didn’t address underlying factors in Fairfield Central’s rating.

Fairfield Elementary scored “Below Average” in the Academic Achievement category and “Unsatisfactory” in the Preparing for Success category.

Below Average schools are “in jeopardy of meeting the profile of a South Carolina graduate,” while Unsatisfactory means the school failed to meet the criteria.

Less than half of Fairfield Central students (46.5%) received a “C” or better on English 2 and Algebra 1 end of course tests.

The state average was 64.4%, nearly 20 percentage points higher, according to report card data.

Only 26.6% of Fairfield students scored “C” or better on the Biology and U.S. History and the Constitution end of course tests. The state average was 40.9%, data shows.

Despite the results, Green said report cards don’t paint an accurate picture of student learning and school environments.

“Schools with the most exceptional needs students are often reflected the most negatively. Schools with the most poverty are reflected the most negatively. Schools that have the most social instability are reflected the most negatively,” Green said.

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