Barnstable: A sad tale of MCAS scores

Three years of disappointment at Hyannis-West Elementary

Are Hy-West children being left behind by the Barnstable School District?

By Walter Brooks and staff

The town concentrated its non-Caucasian, non-native-English-speaking and low income population in a single school. (See charts below.)In our October 22nd story on de facto segregation in the Barnstable Public Schools, we reported that the town had concentrated its non-Caucasian, non-native-English-speaking and low income population in a single school – Hyannis West Elementary – and that the school turned in consistently poor MCAS scores when compared with the rest of the district.

As one can see on the accompanying charts below, Hyannis West performed fairly well in the spring 2009 MCAS – the last held before the school district reorganized.

A sad tale of MCAS scores

De facto state of racial and economic segregation at play in the Barnstable Public Schools.Comparing 2009 and 2012 demographics and test scores tells a sad tale.  The data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) already established the de facto state of racial and economic segregation at play in the Barnstable Public Schools.  The MCAS score comparison shows an alarming increase in the number of Hyannis West children who failed the third grade MCAS.

Curious to see what happened with MCAS scores at other Barnstable K-3 elementary schools, we explored the DESE data for the Centerville Elementary and Barnstable-West Barnstable Elementary buildings.  We omitted West Villages Elementary School because it has no comparative data from 2009.

Centerville Elementary had little significant change in its demographics or MCAS scores from 2009 to 2012.  Barnstable-West Barnstable maintained a steady racial demographic and had an increase in non-English speakers and its low income membership nearly doubled – but their MCAS scores generally improved.

Children Left Behind?

What is the purpose of walling off that population from the rest of the district?Why did Centerville and BWB show steady or improved MCAS scores while Hy-West dropped significantly?

One assumes that the same curriculum is taught across the entire district.  Obviously, with a high percentage of students who speak English as a second language (ESL) or have limited English proficiency, the Reading piece is more challenging.  However, since Barnstable has chosen to concentrate that population largely in one school building, would it not be logical to think that the district would focus most of their ESL resources on Hyannis West?  If not, what is the purpose of walling off that population from the rest of the district?

Superintendent Mary A. Czajkowski has not responded to an email from Cape Cod Today inviting her words on the situation with Hyannis West Elementary School.When a curriculum is taught consistently from building to building with inconsistent outcomes, one is forced to consider other variables.  Could it be that the mainstream curriculum is culturally tilted towards Caucasian students?  Is the quality of teaching different at Hyannis West than at other Barnstable K-3 buildings?  What effect does parental involvement and support play in the success of the curriculum?  Should more kids at Hyannis West be classified as Special Education than the current 14.3% so they can receive specialized assistance?  Is there a cultural impact on the 54% non-white student body at Hy-West being taught by a 97% Caucasian faculty?

The de facto segregation practiced in the Barnstable Public Schools would not be quite so egregious if all schools achieved similar academic results.  The fact that the one school where most of the low income, non-Caucasian, non-native-English-speaking students were placed remains the district's weakest performer is cause for grave concern.

Superintendent Mary A. Czajkowski has not responded to an email from Cape Cod Today inviting her words on the situation with Hyannis West Elementary School.

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