In April 2015, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to designate the Holyoke Public Schools chronically underperforming (Level 5), placing the district in state receivership. In July 2015, Stephen Zrike became the Receiver of the Holyoke Public Schools. The receivership provides the opportunity for a significant, sustained district turnaround in Holyoke.
At the core of this Turnaround Plan | (En Español) is the firm belief that all Holyoke students deserve a world-class education. For too long, many Holyoke students have not received a high-quality education or were allowed to fail. With this plan, we are raising the bar, improving the instruction and services we offer, and providing students with the skills and tools they need to be successful in school now, and later in college and their careers.
Central to the turnaround plan are the educators who are charged with transforming the district from one of low performance to one in which student achievement is consistently strong. Job one is ensuring that we employ an effective teacher in every classroom and that effective administrators lead our schools. To accomplish this, the district is implementing strategies to retain high-performing staff and to recruit new talent to Holyoke, to ensure that all students receive strong instruction, interventions, and supports in every classroom, every day.
Throughout the plan, we focus on the following critical action steps to implement Holyoke’s turnaround:
- Build on what is working and fix what is not working
- Empower staff to make decisions while holding them accountable for results
- Extend time to increase learning opportunities, for both students and staff
- Provide students with individualized college and/or career plans and multiple pathways to reach their full potential
- Invest partners’ knowledge and skills strategically
- Engage families as active partners, repairing relationships and building trust in the district
This will be a year of excellence in our schools as we strengthen our efforts to deliver on our critical and urgent mission to be the 1st educational choice for Holyoke families by designing multiple pathways where all students graduate prepared to excel in college, career and community leadership. The efforts to deliver on this promise of excellence have already begun, with educators teaching students, designing curriculum and engaging in professional learning during the summer months!
We have entered the year with more options and supports for students who are struggling in our schools and accelerated learning opportunities for students whose learning needs to be pushed. We have infused more technology, increased the number of higher education and workforce partnerships and have introduced additional tools to measure and report student and school progress throughout the year. We continue to work with our elected and city officials to invest in new schools and upgrade the learning environment for our students.
The district is continuing to expand and grow successful choice programs – dual language offerings and the Personalized Pathway Program (P3) – that have demonstrated strong academic outcomes and high levels of student, parent, and staff satisfaction.
We are on the cutting edge of secondary school redesign in the Holyoke Public Schools. With financial support from the Barr Foundation, we have convened teachers, parents, students and community members to transform the high school experience. We are designing an experience that is individualized, tailored to student interests, and prepares students for both college and career. The Holyoke Public Schools launched the Opportunity Academy for students who need an off campus approach as an alternative to the large high school setting, and a Newcomer Academy for students with limited English proficiency and are new to the country. The district is opening two new middle schools – Holyoke STEM Academy and Veritas Prep Holyoke.