Is Your School District Worth Your Mortgage? South Carolina’s Top 10

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Is Your School District Worth Your Mortgage? South Carolina's Top 10

The best schools don’t always have to be in the priciest areas. South Carolina is proof that there are communities that offer the perfect combination of affordable living and a great education.

The best public school districts typically have high graduation rates, with most students going to college. In South Carolina, the median graduation rate is over 77%, while the median rate of students who go on to postsecondary education is almost 64%. Test performance is also a good indicator of quality — in South Carolina, a median of 92% of students passed the state High School Assessment Program exit exam and the median SAT composite score is 1381.

As for affordability, home values in the state have grown 3.7% over the past year, and are expected to continue rising, according to Zillow. The median home value in South Carolina is $93,850, while median monthly expenses for homeowners are $1,020.

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To find the top 10 school districts in South Carolina that are worth your mortgage, NerdWallet crunched the data on education and housing. The districts on our list all have Palmetto Gold and Silver Awards, which are given to schools with high performance and high growth and which have closed achievement gaps, according to the state’s Department of Education.

Is Your School District Worth Your Mortgage? South Carolina’s Top 10

1. Florence County School District 5

Florence County School District 5 serves the small rural city of Johnsonville. The city is one of the least expensive on the top 10 list due to its median home value of $72,500, and low median monthly housing costs of just $787. The district has three schools — Johnsonville High School, Johnsonville Middle School and Johnsonville Elementary. The district’s graduation rate of 83.49% is the third highest on the top 10 list. Almost 96% of students passed the state high school exit exam. This year, the district launched a five-year plan to improve access to technology and equipment for all students and teachers.

2. School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties

School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties serves students in the Irmo, St. Andrews and Chapin areas outside Columbia, the state capital. The region is the most expensive in the top 10 with a median home value of $171,300, and median monthly housing costs of $1,351. The district, commonly referred to as District Five, has 12 elementary schools, two intermediate schools, three middle schools, five high schools and an alternative school, the Academy for Success. The district’s graduation rate of 88% is the highest on the top 10 list. Postsecondary enrollment here also tops the list with 88% of students pursuing higher education. District Five’s pass rate for the state exit exam is nearly 98%, the second highest in the top 10, and the median SAT score is 1506, also the second highest.

3. Anderson School District 3

Anderson School District 3 serves the rural communities of Flat Rock, Starr and Iva. The area is one of the least expensive places to live on our top 10 list. The median home value is $75,800, while median monthly housing costs are $795. The district has three elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and an alternative school. The district’s median pass rate for the exit exam is nearly 93%, and the median SAT score is 1459. The high school offers agriculture and natural resources classes, as well as a two-year electronics program.

4. Anderson School District 1

Anderson School District 1 schools are located in Williamston, Easley, Pelzer, Greenville, West Pelzer and Piedmont. This district is the second-most expensive area among the top 10 — the median home value is $144,000, and median monthly housing costs are $1,193. The district includes eight elementary schools, three middle schools and three high schools. Anderson School District 1’s graduation rate of 84% is the second highest on the top 10 list. Postsecondary enrollment is high as well with 76% of students pursuing higher education. The median SAT composite score in this district is the highest on the top 10 list at 1512.

5. Dillon County School District 3

Dillon County School District 3’s three schools — one each at every level — serve the town of Latta. The area is the least expensive in our top 10 with a median home value of $64,300, and median monthly housing costs of $830. In the district, 92% of students passed the state high school exit exam, and the median SAT composite score is 1401. The graduation rate in Dillon 3 is 76% while 63% of students enroll in postsecondary education.  

6. Darlington County School District

Darlington has a median SAT score of 1412 and a high pass rate of 98% on the high school exit exam. Here, curriculum is organized into academies such as engineering or business, which allow students to align their classes more closely with a career path. Courses range from psychology and Mandarin to agriculture mechanics and automotive technology. The median home value here is $87,200.

7. Spartanburg County School District 4

Spartanburg, which has a median home value of $86,500, was one of 11 school districts in South Carolina last year to receive an A grade for improving performance in a way that “substantially” exceeded the state’s expectations. The grade isn’t surprising given that Spartanburg 4 beat the state median in graduation rate, SAT score and for the high school exit exam pass rate. State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said in a statement last year that “we’re making progress and heading in the right direction in our elementary and high schools.”

8. Spartanburg County School District 2

Spartanburg School District 2 serves the students in Chesnee, Boiling Springs and other nearby rural areas. The area is one of the more expensive on the list — the median home price is $126,000 while median monthly housing costs are $1,120. The area has been growing, averaging over 200 new students a year for more than a decade, according to the district, which has built new schools and expanded existing ones. The district includes nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. Spartanburg School District 2 has a graduation rate that tops 80%, and over 75% of students go on to postsecondary education. Almost 94% of students passed the high school exit exam. The district also offers a virtual public school for students who are home-schooled.

9. Cherokee County School District

Cherokee County School District serves over 9,400 students. The area is one of the more affordable places to live on the top 10 list. The median home value is $83,300, and median monthly housing costs are $908. The district has 12 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools and the Community Learning Center. One of the high schools is a technical school, which offers students hands-on training in nursing, special services and work-based learning. The Cherokee County School District graduation rate is over 80%.

10. Anderson County School District 5

Anderson County School District 5 serves the city of Anderson. The area is the third-most expensive on the list with a median home value of $128,900, and median monthly housing costs of $1,117. The district offers magnet schools in its mix of 22 schools including a career and tech school, charter school, two arts academies, a science and engineering school, a communications and technology school and two STEM schools. The district has the second highest post-secondary enrollment on the top 10 list — nearly 79%, and almost 93% of students pass the exit exam. SAT composite scores are the third highest on the list, with a median score of 1479.  

 

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South Carolina school district and housing data

Scroll through the table below for more data on 80 school districts in South Carolina.

Rank School district Graduation rate Enrollment
in higher
education
High school
exit exam
pass rate
SAT composite score Median home value in 2013
1 Florence 5 83.49% 66.70% 95.65% 1412 $72,500
2 Lexington 5 87.73% 88.17% 97.90% 1506 $171,300
3 Anderson 3 72.34% 60.80% 92.72% 1459 $75,800
4 Anderson 1 84.14% 76.00% 94.76% 1512 $144,000
5 Dillon 3 75.73% 63.20% 92.13% 1401 $64,300
6 Darlington 76.55% 69.05% 98.00% 1412 $87,200
7 Spartanburg 4 77.55% 69.40% 92.35% 1426 $86,500
8 Spartanburg 2 80.54% 75.65% 93.78% 1472 $126,000
9 Cherokee 80.80% 67.20% 91.77% 1379 $83,300
10 Anderson 5 73.82% 78.80% 92.97% 1479 $128,900
11 Spartanburg 3 76.86% 62.90% 90.34% 1426 $83,400
12 Spartanburg 6 83.33% 79.60% 93.94% 1408 $132,300
13 Bamberg 1 79.20% 62.40% 95.45% 1357 $83,700
14 Pickens 75.16% 64.95% 92.39% 1541 $123,900
15 York 4 93.33% 87.90% 99.04% 1568 $227,400
16 Barnwell 29 88.61% 65.30% 94.44% 1262 $67,300
17 Anderson 4 77.99% 79.70% 93.30% 1422 $137,100
18 Laurens 56 70.20% 85.30% 84.43% 1301 $72,500
19 Oconee 81.78% 67.98% 93.46% 1446 $136,300
20 Spartanburg 1 84.63% 61.35% 91.19% 1453 $117,900
21 Abbeville 76.54% 71.13% 91.93% 1350 $91,200
22 Greenwood 52 84.55% 48.20% 98.08% 1389 $97,800
23 Anderson 2 85.20% 39.40% 96.86% 1478 $99,600
24 Barnwell 19 76.92% 63.50% 96.00% 1237 $55,600
25 Saluda 81.41% 64.00% 93.43% 1321 $89,700
26 Lexington 3 78.72% 61.60% 93.33% 1409 $107,100
27 Chesterfield 79.69% 53.80% 91.55% 1373 $79,400
28 Barnwell 45 65.97% 73.20% 86.14% 1418 $84,200
29 Newberry 77.52% 78.45% 88.28% 1344 $107,400
30 Union 79.32% 61.90% 84.68% 1332 $74,000
31 Kershaw 79.73% 66.20% 92.46% 1404 $116,000
32 Greenwood 51 68.75% 57.10% 89.71% 1406 $73,800
33 Florence 2 84.29% 56.50% 92.75% 1229 $68,400
34 York 1 76.27% 68.40% 93.47% 1401 $117,400
35 Clarendon 1 86.15% 69.00% 93.10% 1242 $89,500
36 Orangeburg 5 77.43% 73.10% 90.76% 1289 $94,200
37 Sumter 81.61% 60.03% 91.91% 1366 $107,300
38 Lexington 1 82.56% 62.08% 94.22% 1490 $149,500
39 Calhoun 85.37% 58.20% 95.19% 1289 $100,600
40 Lexington 2 70.87% 66.70% 89.79% 1439 $117,000
41 Greenwood 50 77.33% 58.10% 92.25% 1391 $109,100
42 Marion 1 74.76% 48.30% 86.22% 1446 $88,900
43 Florence 3 85.63% 64.90% 86.60% 1170 $69,500
44 Florence 1 79.96% 73.23% 91.80% 1332 $134,700
45 Marlboro 64.78% 78.40% 84.31% 1195 $58,200
46 York 3 77.44% 67.13% 93.62% 1410 $144,100
47 Lancaster 81.73% 72.98% 93.57% 1304 $142,200
48 Lee 79.04% 73.30% 84.17% 1149 $65,000
49 Greenville 68.45% 75.58% 92.51% 1455 $152,000
50 Spartanburg 5 81.82% 48.60% 94.80% 1449 $132,000
51 Horry 78.65% 62.92% 93.93% 1482 $159,600
52 Aiken 72.65% 59.36% 91.81% 1438 $123,900
53 York 2 84.35% 63.90% 94.66% 1472 $179,800
54 Edgefield 73.44% 44.60% 94.24% 1454 $109,500
55 Bamberg 2 72.13% 76.50% 81.82% 1161 $64,700
56 Chester 71.80% 46.83% 92.54% 1329 $82,500
57 Hampton 2 76.60% 62.20% 83.54% 1173 $65,600
58 Orangeburg 4 74.91% 64.87% 87.20% 1207 $72,200
59 Dorchester 2 77.41% 69.60% 94.12% 1463 $175,900
60 Berkeley 75.71% 59.34% 91.58% 1443 $150,400
61 Georgetown 85.43% 58.08% 93.66% 1364 $158,800
62 Marion 7 88.89% 41.20% 89.13% 1134 $59,200
63 Laurens 55 71.54% 44.70% 88.62% 1342 $86,000
64 Hampton 1 70.10% 67.10% 80.23% 1226 $86,600
65 Richland 2 69.46% 70.60% 92.49% 1410 $160,700
66 Lexington 4 69.66% 41.40% 88.66% 1299 $66,500
67 Orangeburg 3 77.38% 45.10% 88.66% 1242 $81,900
68 Colleton 76.28% 45.00% 88.10% 1303 $89,900
69 Dorchester 4 71.51% 36.90% 86.67% 1332 $93,500
70 Allendale 71.20% 48.40% 87.50% 1091 $65,400
71 Florence 4 68.57% 62.10% 74.58% 1176 $82,400
72 Williamsburg 69.45% 54.00% 76.68% 1159 $67,100
73 Fairfield 76.92% 35.60% 84.11% 1222 $91,900
74 Richland 1 56.97% 62.19% 75.79% 1347 $132,400
75 McCormick 74.70% 29.70% 90.77% 1189 $112,500
76 Charleston 71.98% 64.84% 85.72% 1442 $236,100
77 Clarendon 2 61.59% 31.45% 72.18% 1299 $87,900
78 Spartanburg 7 36.68% 80.10% 45.13% 1477 $114,400
79 Beaufort 75.92% 66.80% 93.26% 1383 $275,700
80 Jasper 67.56% 33.50% 82.94% 1126 $90,200

 

Methodology

We analyzed 80 school districts in South Carolina. This study didn’t include Dillon 4, Clarendon 3, Marion 2 and SC Public Charter because of missing data. Each district was ranked with the following data:

Affordability is 30% of the total score. This measure was calculated by averaging the school district index score for median home values and selected monthly homeowner costs, which include property tax. The more affordable the area, the higher the score. Data are from the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Standardized testing is 35% of the total score. The SAT average and pass rate for the High School Assessment Program exit exam for the class of 2013 were equally weighted. Data are from the South Carolina Department of Education.

College readiness is 35% of the total score. This measure was a combination of each school district’s 2012-13 high school graduation rate, which is the percentage of students who graduate in four years, and the 2011-12 percentage of students going on to two- and four-year institutions for higher education. Data are from the South Carolina Department of Education.

NerdWallet staff writer Anna Helhoski contributed to this article.


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