FAQs

Why should I choose Holden?

For over 40 years, we have successfully provided an educational environment based on mutual respect between staff and students that fosters self-esteem, creativity, personal growth and a love of learning. We offer a fresh start for kids who have experienced failure or have had few experiences of success at traditional high schools. We see your son or daughter for who they are and who they can become. We do not label our students. We view our students holistically and do not focus primarily on their learning disability or past difficult school experiences. Students who have strongly disliked going to school in the past, love coming to school at Holden.

Is Holden accredited?

Yes. We are fully accredited by the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

What types of students go to Holden?

Our students are curious, creative, independent, and bright and they desire to be in a small school environment. Many students who enroll at Holden have found mainstream school difficult for a variety of reasons and/or their emotional, social and/or academic needs were not being met in other schools. Some have impediments to learning or have had difficult school experiences or personal issues that make school hard. Students come from all over Bay Area, from Oakland to Benicia, Albany to Walnut Creek, and beyond. They represent diverse racial, cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.

What is Holden’s teaching philosophy?

Our philosophy honors that students develop and learn in social, creative, and emotional ways, that are just as important as academic growth. Some students have had difficult or even shaming educational experiences from the one learning-style accommodated at most large schools. We work with our students, including those with learning disabilities, to meet their needs and interests and to help them regain their love of learning.

For over 40 years, we have been devoted to providing a fully integrated range of teaching styles that work successfully with a broad range of learners. Because our class sizes are small, a strongly personal environment is created, allowing trust to develop within the community; this opens students up to the full range of their abilities and interests.

We provide an engaging and stimulating curriculum that is tailored to each student’s individual needs, abilities, and interests. We differentiate instruction, which allows us to teach the same content through multiple modalities. Students are grouped by interest and ability, not by grade level. We give multiple opportunities for students to achieve success and gain individual recognition. Each year students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades complete a Grade Level Project. These are interest-based  projects of their own choosing through support by the staff. Projects include creative or logical inquiry, jobs, internships, applying for colleges, and career exploration. (See also Academics).

How much homework is assigned each week?

Students receive an average of nine hours of homework a week. Students have ample opportunities to complete some of this work at school with the help of their teachers or other staff. In addition to homework labs staffed by teachers during the school day, Holden offers an academic office hour every Monday for students to meet with their teachers for extra help on assignments.

Does Holden provide Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?

If a student is funded by a district, we will participate in IEP meetings on site with district staff. We do not take primary responsibility to create and implement IEPs if we do not have a contractual agreement with the district. However, we will do our best to implement such non-contractual IEPs.

We hold annual end-of-year conferences with every one of our students (regardless of ability) and their families to discuss student progress, strengths, accomplishments and goals related to their academic and social growth. While these are not formal IEP meetings, they address similar issues. All students work with our transition counselor to plan and prepare for post-high school goals.

We provide appropriate accommodations, modifications, and supports for students with disabilities with input from students, parents, staff, educational testing, and prior student records.

With what types of learning disabilities does Holden work best?

We work well with students diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), Math- & Language-based Learning Disabilities, Dysgraphia, Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), Visual Processing or Visual Spatial Integration Disabilities, or Mild Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD), as well as with students who have emotional blocks to learning. (See also Learning Support Program.)

How does Holden address the needs of students with learning disabilities?

Recognizing that each student is unique, Holden doesn’t categorize or stereotype by disability. Because we have such a low student-to-teacher ratio, teachers are able to pay more attention to students’ individual needs, skills, and interests. All of our teaching staff are trained by a credentialed Learning Specialist to work with students with specific learning disabilities and learning styles; teachers are provided information about individual students’ educational backgrounds and experiences, including appropriate accommodations, modifications, and supports.

We utilize differentiated instruction, an approach to teaching and learning that provides students with multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas. For example, a teacher might use several different texts in teaching a specific topic where the content is the same but the reading levels are different. Also, a teacher might assign a written research paper to her class, but allow a student to complete an alternate assignment, such as an oral and/ or visual presentation or a shorter paper.

Does Holden have a credentialed Learning Specialist on staff?

Co-Director Abby Tuttle is a credentialed Education Specialist. Abby also has a Masters in Special Education with an emphasis in Mild-to-Moderate Disabilities.

How does Holden accommodate diverse learning styles?

We accommodate many different learning styles, including auditory, visual/spatial, kinesthetic, linguistic, musical, logical/mathematical, intrapersonal and interpersonal. Both academic and counseling staff members work together to identify strengths and areas for growth in social, emotional, and academic areas. Students are given opportunities to work within their preferred learning styles towards their various strengths. We also address their needs through monthly teacher evaluations, after-school homework labs, and behavioral support meetings (all included in the cost of tuition), as well as individual tutoring interventions (for an additional cost). Holden’s counselors, directors, and academic teachers meet weekly and work collaboratively to support all students.

Is there diversity at Holden?

Yes, there is both visible and invisible diversity at Holden. The student body reflects the racial, socio-economic, and cultural diversity of the Bay Area. Students of color represent 35% of our population, about 70% of families receive some tuition reduction, and 33% have diagnosed learning disabilities. About 56% of students come from Alameda County, 41% come from Contra Costa County and less than 3% from Marin and San Francisco Counties.

Because social/emotional growth is a huge part of our curriculum, we cultivate consciousness, appreciation, tolerance, and knowledge of all kinds of diversity. We provide ample opportunities within the classroom, as well as facilitate community-building events, to discuss issues of diversity. We also expose students to the richness of the Bay Area’s diversity by taking monthly field trips to various museums and areas of interest, and we regularly bring in speakers weekly to talk with students about a variety of issues.

How do you prepare students for life after Holden?

We have a transition counselor who works with students on their post-high school paths, which may include help with applying to colleges, conducting job searches, or applying to vocational programs. Life after Holden is also the focus of students’ 75-hour senior grade level project. (See also Transition Program.)

What do students do after they graduate from Holden?

Students graduate from Holden with a healthy self-esteem, a love of learning, the ability to communicate effectively, and the initiative and skills to fulfill academic and personal goals. Most continue on to college or vocational school, or begin a working career. (See also After Holden.)

What is cost of tuition?

Please click here to see our current tuition. A generous and flexible tuition reduction program and two funded scholarships make it possible for Holden High School to admit talented, motivated students from across the economic spectrum. Scholarships are awarded to juniors and seniors who are currently enrolled. We cannot give you a specific tuition quote until you have submitted your tuition reduction application and supporting tax documents. Tuition may be paid annually, bi-annually, or monthly. (See also Tuition.)

Is Holden a certified Non-Public School?

No, but some school districts have contracted with us to place students here. More commonly, school districts reimburse parents paying private tuition for students with disabilities.

How do kids get to school?

Most take BART, but some drive, carpool, or are dropped off by a family member.

Why does the school day start at 10am?

Research has shown that biological clocks change during puberty, so teenagers often have trouble falling asleep until late at night. Sleep deprivation makes early morning learning difficult. Our average school day is almost an hour longer than what the state requires.

What does a diploma from Holden mean?

In addition to several other school specific requirements, Holden students must complete 240 credits to graduate. Our diploma is recognized by 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.