Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School has achieved national ranking for the first time in its history. The school was ranked 1,852 out of 21,000 high schools across the nation by U.S. News and World Report’s 2013 Best High Schools. DYRHS was ranked 51 out of 358 Massachusetts high schools in the same report.
This is a stunning achievement for the resurgent Dennis-Yarmouth school district. Suffering from years of declining enrollment, disappointing test scores, questionable community support and hemorrhaging students to school choice and charter choice – many people believed the district’s schools were beyond fixing.
Turning the Tide
Signs of a change in fortune became evident over the past year as the district focused on emphasizing its strengths by implementing successful programs such as the Wixon Academy, a STEM program at the high school, reassigned staff while at the same time working on programs to help the academically disadvantaged. At the same time, the district focused its “DY Advantage” program on communicating its strengths and diversity to the local community.
In a February interview with Cape Cod Today, Superintendent Carol Woodbury reported that after losing students every year since 1998, the district’s enrollment had remained the same from last year to this year. She pledged to increase public awareness of the district’s achievements to help stem the loss of students to school choice and charter schools. The district currently loses $1.58 million to school choice alone.
In that same interview, Woodbury told us that DY High School was rated as a level 1 school this year, a rating that is based on how it successfully closed the achievement gaps for all students.
Serving All Students Well
The US News and World Report article described the criteria used to select schools for their list as follows:
“The importance of a strong high school education cannot be overstated. Good schools challenge students academically, while giving them ample opportunity to explore their interests. This combination can set teens up to succeed long after graduation. U.S. News joined forces with the American Institutes for Research, a D.C.-based organization, to evaluate schools on overall student performance on state-mandated assessments, as well as how effectively schools educated their black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students. Performance on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams was then used to determine the degree to which school prepare students for college-level work.”
DYRHS received a national silver medal and was ranked in the top 9% of all US high schools. A school must receive a national medal to receive state ranking. At the state level DY ranked 51 out of 358.
Comparison with Sturgis, Nauset
Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis and Nauset Regional High School were also ranked in the USNR list. Sturgis, a nationally-renowned charter high school emphasizing the International Baccalaureate program was ranked #1 in the state and Nauset ranked #32. Certainly neither of these two schools’ high achievement surprised anyone with their long-term sterling reputations.
Looking at the statistics associated with the national medals tells a tale of Dennis-Yarmouth’s perseverance.
Clearly, DY works with the most challenging demographics of the three Cape districts that earned national recognition.
The DY Surprise
Nobody is surprised to see a national showplace charter school like Sturgis achieve national recognition. Neither is it surprising for Nauset, the Cape’s school choice powerhouse, to achieve these honors. However, it is safe to say that few expected Dennis-Yarmouth to appear on U.S. News and World Report’s radar this year.
A resurgent Dennis-Yarmouth region shifts the balance of school competition on the Mid-Cape and perhaps as far away as Nauset. As the district continues to show improvement, it is likely to result in a slowing of the school choice exodus of Dennis-Yarmouth students to other districts. This especially threatens the new Monomoy Regional School District, which has seen significant numbers of choice students from DY in the past.
The words with which we ended the February interview article appear prescient through the lens of this week’s USNR recognition. We conclude with them once again: When the history of school competition on Cape Cod in this era is written, 2013 may well be marked as the year Dennis-Yarmouth started its turn-around.
See the DY Regional High School website here.
Read the US News & World report here.