Barnstable vs. DY – Segregation vs. Diversity

Barnstable vs. Dennis-Yarmouth MCAS scores – Segregation vs. Diversity

Segregated Hyannis West children are “left behind”

By Walter Brooks

Barnstable concentrated its non-Caucasian, non-native-English-speaking and low income population in a single school - Hyannis West.
See the 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 dramatically lower MCAS scores than the rest of the district.  We further explored the test scores versus demographics in our October 25th story.

We decided to take a look at Barnstable’s neighbor, the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District. You can see the charts below.

Dennis-Yarmouth is demographically similar to Barnstable but spreads its demographics evenly across all its elementary schools as opposed to the de-facto-segregated Barnstable school district, where Hyannis West receives most of the town’s low-income and minority students.

DY’s Consistent MCAS Scores

D-Y doesn’t segregate its students and their schools’ Grade 3 MCAS scores are consistent.  Unfortunately they’re consistently mediocre. Children in a DY elementary school are taught with a district-wide curriculum, as they are in most districts.  DY’s three elementary schools scored within a few points of each other on the Spring 2012 Grade 3 MCAS.  DY doesn’t show anything resembling the disparity that we have observed between Hyannis West and Barnstable’s other three elementary schools.

It is significant, however, that all three of Dennis-Yarmouth’s elementary schools score at levels similar to Hyannis West, versus the much higher-achieving Barnstable-West Barnstable, Centerville Elementary and West Villages Elementary schools.

Dennis-Yarmouth doesn’t segregate its students and their schools’ Grade 3 MCAS scores are consistent.  Unfortunately they’re consistently mediocre.

What is Barnstable Thinking?

The school district deliberately isolated its low-income, non-native-English-speaking, racial minority population in a single school.This brings us back to that question again:  What is Barnstable thinking?  A recent letter from the Barnstable superintendent and school board indicates that Hyannis West was populated according to the wishes of parents in the Hyannis village.  Thus the school district deliberately isolated its low-income, non-native-English-speaking, racial minority population in a single school. 

While we do believe the district when it declares the segregation occurred at the behest of the village community, it also conveniently served to artificially inflate the test scores at Barnstable’s other schools.  With its neediest students concentrated in building, did Barnstable then focus appropriate resources on the school?  A letter from the principal of Hyannis West tells us of enduring 8 principals in 6 years and needing to ‘continue to advocate for resources that put us on a level playing field”.

Hyannis West students are "programmed to fail"

If one believes the 2010 study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, as many as 43 percent of Hyannis West's students are essentially “programmed to fail” through the rest of their school career.  Did the “village community” realize what they were doing when they encouraged Barnstable to create some kind of “throw away” school with drive-by leadership and insufficient resources to support its mission?  School boards hire superintendents and administrators to fulfill the district’s educational mission, not to respond to political pressure. 

  • Did the “village” know what it was asking when it demanded all students be based at Hyannis West? 
  • Did the parents understand the educational disadvantage this might create – and has created – for their children. 

At this point the Hyannis West “experiment” is in its fourth school year and its students continue to lag behind other schools in the district.  The de-facto segregation of Barnstable’s K-3 schools – citizen requested or not - has failed and this harms the children.

De-segregated school districts across the nation have demonstrated that consistent quality of instruction across all of their schools yields consistent results.If Hyannis West burned to the ground tomorrow and its K-3 students were assigned to the town’s other schools, test scores at those schools would skew down at first – until the kids from Hyannis West received proper instruction to get them functioning at the same level as the students in the town’s other schools.

De-segregated school districts across the nation have demonstrated that consistent quality of instruction across all of their schools yields consistent results.  Is it asking too much that this be true in Barnstable - or is the racial and demographic isolation of Hyannis West too much for the faculty to overcome?


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