Superintendent Anthony Soto met with the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday, May 23 to provide an update on district achievements since 2015 while Holyoke Public Schools has been in receivership.
In advance of this meeting, State Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley sent a memo on May 17 to the BESE board members outlining his support for the progress that HPS has made.
“Over the past seven years, the district has established many systems and structures to support continuous improvement, including developing common instructional leadership practices for school administrators and expert teachers; supporting teachers and leaders to engage in effective planning and data team meetings; and utilizing data dashboards to continuously review key academic and culture and climate indicators,” Commissioner Riley wrote in the memo. “The district has continued to set aggressive goals for improvement, particularly focused on increasing student achievement as measured by statewide assessments, improving outcomes for multilingual learners, and reducing the chronic absenteeism rate.”
As part of Superintendent Soto’s presentation to BESE members, he cited the following achievements:
Holyoke Public School’s graduation rates have been steadily increasing for all students, as well as for subsets of students including multi-language learners, students with disabilities, and Latino/Latina students.
Dropout rates have steadily decreased over the past eight years for all students as well as for subsets of students including multi-language learners, students with disabilities, and Latino/Latina students, other than in 2020-21 where dropout rates increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of students enrolled in advanced coursework such as Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, and Early College has increased by nearly 70%, from 186 students in 2014-15 to 315 students in 2022-23.
HPS has made significant improvements in the number of students of color accessing advanced coursework, rising from 42% students of color taking advanced coursework in 2014-15 to 77% taking advanced coursework in 2022-23.
HPS has seen a steady increase in the number of teachers of color working in the district, from 13% of the total number of teachers in 2016 to 28% in 2023.
The district has just completed an inclusive rezoning planning process, which will be implemented for the 2023-24 school year.
“We are encouraged by the significant improvement we are seeing in many key areas, and we are continuing to focus our efforts to further improve our student outcomes, strengthen our educational programs and initiatives, and increase our graduation rates and improve daily attendance rates,” Superintendent Soto said.
He also acknowledged the following challenges the district continues to face:
Staffing shortages, especially in high-needs positions;
Continued increases in students’ mental health needs;
An increasing number of students requiring out-of-district placements; and
The need to more fully develop a full multi-tiered system of supports for students.
In his May 17 memo, Commissioner Riley said he will continue to review the district’s performance as HPS continues to implement its turnaround plan, which was renewed for an additional three-year term in December 2022. “In the 2024-25 school year, if not earlier, I will meet with Holyoke city and state officials to discuss potential pathways for exiting receivership,” he said.