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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Holyoke Public Schools Turnaround Plan

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
October 9, 2015


On October 1, Holyoke Public Schools Receiver Stephen Zrike, Jr. and I announced the release of the Level 5 District Turnaround Plan for the Holyoke Public School District. The plan recognizes every student's ability to learn and maps out strategies for raising all students' academic achievement. The plan calls on the district to:

  • 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 each student 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

The district's turnaround plan was informed by the recommendations of the local stakeholder group that met five times from May to July. The plan envisions a school system in which effective educators deliver a world-class education to all Holyoke students. By focusing on high-quality instruction, a supportive school culture, shared responsibility and high-functioning district systems, Holyoke Public Schools will enable all students to reach their full potential.

The plan will implement a number of strategies to dramatically improve student performance and educator effectiveness. For instance, beginning in the 2016-17 school year, the district will extend the school day for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. In addition, Dr. Zrike is convening a group of experts on secondary education to draw up recommendations about how Holyoke could reshape students' middle and high school years so that all students have individualized college and/or career plans and multiple routes to reach their goals.

A Level 5 designation brings with it the expectation that sweeping changes need to be made, including significant improvements in teaching and learning; improvements in the recruiting, hiring, supporting, supervising and evaluating of all personnel; and higher expectations for students.

To achieve the vision of the turnaround plan, the district will focus on five priority areas:

Priority Area 1: Provide high-quality instruction and student-specific supports for all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners

  • Includes creating a culture of high expectations for all students and building an instructional program based on students' cultural and linguistic strengths

Priority Area 2: Establish focused practices for improving instruction

  • This would strengthen instruction in targeted areas, such as the middle grades, and includes re-engaging disconnected youth and ensuring educational tools and materials are high-quality

Priority Area 3: Create a climate and culture that support students and engage families

  • Includes identifying and addressing students' strengths and needs, repairing relationships with families and building trust in the school system

Priority Area 4: Develop leadership, shared responsibility and professional collaboration

  • Includes putting staff's knowledge to work in formal and informal leadership roles, encouraging professional collaboration, and evaluating employees through a streamlined, fair and transparent process that provides opportunities for growth.

Priority Area 5: Organize the district for a successful turnaround

  • Includes building systems to recruit, develop and retain strong educators and deploy them where most needed; maximizing the use of school time and adding time where needed; redesigning the central office to focus on supporting schools; and preparing the school committee to sustain improvements after receivership ends.

The district's turnaround strategies will include concentrated efforts to improve its lowest performing schools: Morgan Full Service Community School (Level 5) and William J. Dean Vocational Technical High School (Level 4). Already this year, Morgan teachers engaged in additional professional development before the start of school.

The turnaround plan is available online in English Download Word Document and Spanish Download Word Document.

Dr. Zrike and Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will be at the October Board meeting to answer your questions.

Last Updated: October 22, 2014
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