Graduation and dropout rates dramatically improve in the Holyoke Public Schools

Graduation and dropout rates dramatically improve in the Holyoke Public Schools



February 27, 2018


Holyoke, Massachusetts – The Holyoke Public School district (HPS) has seen notable improvements in graduation and dropout rates.   The district’s graduation rate is 69.9%, up 7.8 percentage points from the prior year.  Wm. J. Dean Technical High School (Dean) achieved an incredible 19.1 percentage point increase in its graduation rate to 59.1%, and Holyoke High School’s rate increased 6.5 percentage points to 75.4%.

The district’s average dropout rate for the past 10 years has been nearly 10%.  Over the last two years, the dropout rate has been almost cut in half, averaging 5.6%.  This reduction means over 100 fewer students per year have dropped out of school.

“This is very encouraging news,” stated Receiver/Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike, Jr.  “I applaud our students for their persistence and commitment to completing their high school graduation requirements, an important step towards future college and career success.  I also commend our teachers, staff and high school leaders who have worked tirelessly to ensure that more and more students earn their diplomas.  The improved graduation and dropout rates are a step in the right direction, as we continue to transform the high school experience through One City One High School.  This ongoing work will allow us to take advantage of our assets and make access more equitable for all students, ensuring each student has a high-quality educational option that will prepare him or her for college and a career.”

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released graduation and dropout information for school districts across the Commonwealth for the 2016-17 school year.  The graduation rate improvement for the Holyoke Public School District was among the largest increases in the state.

Dean and Holyoke High School staff made explicit efforts last year to ensure that seniors met all of their graduation requirements, and staff also continuously reached out to families.  “We are thrilled to see such an improvement,” stated Dean Technical High School Principal Jeffrey Peterson.  “This significant gain is attributable to several factors, primarily the improved climate and culture that has emphasized building positive relationships with students, setting high expectations, and creating a safe and friendly learning environment.  We also have stressed the importance of attendance, promoted family engagement, offered tutoring, and engaged in extensive student data analysis.  Students want to come to school and they want to be successful.”

Furthermore, one new initiative explicitly intended to increase graduation rates and reduce dropouts had a particularly big impact last year.  Opportunity Academy, a new set of innovative pathways to a diploma, was established for students who were most at risk of school failure.  Opportunity Academy accounts for 3.1% of the district’s overall 7.8 percentage point increase in graduation rate.

Holyoke Public Schools has embarked on a strategic, innovative High School Redesign initiative that includes strategies for improving the instruction and services offered, and providing students with the skills and tools they need to be successful now, and later in college and their careers.  The high school redesign structure empowers students as self-directed learners ready for 21st-century workplace and college rigor.    The plan, developed by nearly 100 educators, students, community members and national experts, including support from the Barr Foundation, is organized around an academy structure designed to provide “a pathway for every student.”


“I’m very pleased with the progress we are making in the Holyoke Public Schools in recent years,” stated Mayor Alex Morse.  “When I took office, we had a 49% graduation rate, and today we are at 70%. These improvements are a direct result of the hard-working teachers and support staff in our district, as well as the students who have responded to the positive changes implemented by the school turnaround plan. We have worked to make sure there is a pathway for every student, and this news affirms that more students are finding a path that best fits their educational needs and interests. I’d like to thank all members of the Holyoke Public Schools family that have made such progress possible, and I look forward to continuing to support innovative ideas that will improve outcomes for all of Holyoke’s young people.”

The high school redesign strategic plan calls for creating a series of thematic academies that will provide opportunities for students to develop a personalized learning path toward college, career or both. Built upon choice, and access to advanced educational opportunities, the plan deepens student engagement and provides families and business and civic leaders with explicit opportunities to partner with educators to help guide students’ career and college plans, as well as strengthen our local economy. Importantly, our academy structure will prepare our students for the global economy and a society that demands more critical thinking and higher levels of educational achievement. It is a structure that gives our students a competitive advantage, ensuring they graduate with credentials sought after by employers and colleges and universities alike.


As part of the redesign process, the Holyoke Public Schools has also substantially increased the number of college courses students can access on and off campus through partnerships with Holyoke Community College, Westfield State University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Judy Taylor, Communications Director

(413) 493-1605,

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