Barnstable Public Schools strive to ensure “that all children have an opportunity to obtain a high quality education,” according to Superintendent Dr. Mary Czajkowski. Dr. Czajkowski was responding to Cape Cod Today’s questions about ongoing support for high need students as they graduate from Hyannis West Elementary School.
In compiling the story on HyWest’s MCAS results, we asked the superintendent a series of five questions regarding ongoing support for high need students. Given her detailed answer to our questions, we will let Dr. Czajkowski’s own words tell the story.
Cape Cod Today: What continuing support system is in place for the HyWest cohort when they enter Barnstable United? We see a group of kids who, while performing well against their own demographic state-wide, are poured into the melting pot of Barnstable United with students from other Barnstable schools with much higher skill levels.
Dr. Czajkowski: At Barnstable United we do have a Title 1 support program which is a program to ensure that all children have an opportunity to obtain a high quality education. We review the data from all grade 3 students who will be attending Barnstable United to determine those students who will be participating in Title 1 and monitor their progress throughout the year to increase their skill level. The challenge is that all students leave their K-3 elementary schools and are consolidated into one grade 4-5 school. That change in environment and student population can be challenging for some students.
Cape Cod Today: Is the HyWest cohort kept together at Barnstable United (or at Barnstable Intermediate, for that matter?
Dr. Czajkowski: No school’s cohort is kept together. Students enter each school as a member of a new community of students and are placed in classes with other students of varying academic levels. This peer representation allows the students to learn and grow with one another. We do not create homogenous academic groups, we create heterogeneous academic groups.
Cape Cod Today: Does the district have a continuing support system for this group of children?
Dr. Czajkowski: Yes. We have interventions for all of our students depending on their academic level and social and emotional needs. At Barnstable United, along with Title 1 support programs, we have a summer program, intervention time at the Intermediate school and all schools have structured time with teachers after school.
Cape Cod Today: Does the district have any multi-year comparisons to track how well the HyWest cohort advances/performs versus their classmates who did not attend HyWest?
Dr. Czajkowski: Not at this time. However, our focus is on meeting the needs of every student in every school, every day, every year. Tracking a specific group of students may be informative but it should not take away from the district goal of student achievement academically, socially and emotionally.
Cape Cod Today: Is there a point at which the HyWest cohort starts to perform as well as their non-HyWest classmates?
Dr. Czajkowski: Related to the previous question, we have not reviewed comparative data as we focus on moving students to proficiency for each subject and grade level. Whether it’s one particular school, one particular group or one particular student, our vision is the same: provide a common, standards-based educational program that will enable EVERY student to achieve rigorous performance standards in order to graduate college and career ready.
Looking at district-wide MCAS sub-group breakdowns for Barnstable, it appears that minority, low income and high needs students generally perform better at Barnstable schools than they do state-wide.
According to Dr. Czajkowski, Barnstable’s English Language Learner population has doubled over the past three years. One in three students is receiving free or reduced lunch assistance. With such demographic changes, the district has made an effort to sharpen its focus on individual student skills and needs.
For a diverse school district such as Barnstable (or Dennis-Yarmouth) perhaps the greatest advantage for skill-deficient students is the suite of resources the schools can bring to bear on supporting individual children. In many ways it is easier (and cheaper) to deliver skill recovery in a larger district.
In a recent story about Dennis-Yarmouth and Monomoy’s MCAS scores, we observed how DY’s “engine that could” culture brought their initially low-achieving students to within a few points of tiny Monomoy’s MCAS scores by tenth grade.
So too with Barnstable, student progress will be the most important metric to watch over the next few years.