Case Study: School Turnaround

When Holyoke Public Schools was identified as one of the state’s lowest performing districts, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education appointed a receiver superintendent to oversee the turnaround process. The receiver superintendent, in turn, hired SchoolWorks.

The Challenge
  • Assess the school’s areas of strength and need, and provide leadership coaching and instructional supports to immediately impact student learning.
SchoolWorks Approach
  • Shadow the principal to identify leadership style, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Conduct co-observations of classroom instruction with the administrative team to calibrate expectations on the characteristics of effective instruction and to collectively provide feedback to teachers.
  • Assign a team of consultants, including experts in English language learning and special education, to lead a School Quality Review (SQR) and subsequent action-planning session.
  • Create a tight, actionable plan for school improvement.
  • Develop a safety communication plan and streamline procedures for student entry and dismissal, attendance monitoring, and transitions between classes.
  • Develop an Instructional Guide that clearly articulates expectations for well-structured lessons to promote student engagement and ownership of learning.
  • Design and deliver a series of professional development sessions that focus on targeted instructional shifts in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics.
  • Conduct leadership coaching with the principal and leadership team, assisting in the development of clearer administrative meeting agendas that incorporated accountability and calendars for completion of tasks.
  • Facilitate administrative team classroom walk-throughs to gather evidence throughout the year on classroom culture and instructional practices.
  • Guide the school through reassignments of staff, as well as the hiring and on-boarding of new personnel.

The Results
  • Attendance at the school rose more than 5% and discipline incidents reduced by half.
  • Results from administrative team classroom walk-throughs showed positive trends in the extent to which teachers incorporated elements from the Instructional Guide into their daily practice.
  • As a result of the successful engagement with the Peck Community School in 2015-2016, SchoolWorks was asked to extend its lead partner work by spearheading a personalized learning program at the school. In 2016, the school adopted the P3 program, based on the Summit Public Schools model.
Dates: 2015-2017


"SchoolWorks has been a thoughtful and collaborative lead partner. Together, we have created a much better environment for students in the first year of turnaround, as reflected in improved attendance and a drastic reduction in discipline incidents. I value our work together."
- Dr. Stephen Zrike, Jr. Receiver Superintendent, Holyoke Public Schools

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