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.
The 2015 Turnaround Plan was released October 1, 2015, and renewed for another three years effective October 1, 2018. Now, in 2019, following the path set forth in that plan and driven by the steadfast commitment and collective effort of our educators, families and students, we are proud of the improvements Holyoke has made during the last four years of receivership. Student learning gains are improving as more students are achieving on grade level, the graduation rate has increased, and students are thriving in welcoming, safe and supportive schools.
Across the district, a spirit of collaboration and empowerment has taken hold. We are building a system where school leaders and their teams have the knowledge and support necessary to create and foster school learning environments that deliver on the promise of a pathway of excellence for every student. School leaders and their teams partner with parents, families and community agencies to fully support the whole child.
System-wide, we have raised expectations and centered on a collective 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.
At the core of the original plan was the firm belief that all Holyoke students deserve a world-class education. There is still significant work ahead to achieve this reality. English language arts and math scores remain below state expectations and many of our students still do not graduate high school. We cannot afford to mistake improved for acceptable.
We have already demonstrated that, by working together, much improvement is possible. Let us continue to partner together to ensure a pathway for every student!
We are creating learning opportunities that nurture, engage and ensure that our young people are poised to excel in college, career and community leadership. Since the beginning of the turnaround efforts, signature initiatives include:
- A full school day with more enrichment, academic and social/emotional opportunities for students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade
- A High School Redesign, which included the launch of a Freshman Academy for a more personalized entry to high school and the launch of theme-based Linked Learning Academies, designed to ignite student interest and connect learning to the real world
- Expansion of programs to provide students and families with more choice for their education, including a dual language program, new middle school options (including Holyoke STEM Academy, Veritas Prep Holyoke and dual enrollment and early college opportunities for high school students
- Enhanced standards-based curricular resources in English Language Arts, Mathematics and Science (grades PreK-8)
- Breakfast in the Classroom to ensure students have a healthy start to the day and are ready to learn
These efforts are leading to improvements in student learning and engagement. Since 2015, drop-out rates have declined 53 percent, while graduation rates have increased by 10 points to 72 percent in SY18-19. We have seen a 10-fold increase in dual language student enrollment and have nearly 522 PreK seats, nearly doubling our access to PreK programming. We are excited to share that there has also been an 85 percent increase in number of students enrolled in college prep programming and our students have also experienced gains in English Language Arts, highlighted by a 6 point increase in third-grade ELA MCAS.