Holden provides a customized education for teens with learning differences


Holden helps students with learning differences

Holden helps students with learning differences who

- Thrive with tailored support for mild to moderate learning differences.

- Require assistance with anxiety, depression, and other challenges.

- Benefit from specialized programs for students who face difficulties in traditional school settings.

Holden high school campus

A Tight-Knit Learning Community

Because Holden is rooted in the alternative education movement, we recognize the importance of solid relationships with peers and adults for teen development.

As a result, staff and students develop strong relationships through individual and group activities.

Holden High, Orinda helps students with learning differences

Holden inspires students to love learning again

Given the negative school experiences many of our students have endured, we employ innovative methods to reignite their natural curiosity and foster academic and personal confidence.

Empowering Minds, Nurturing Hearts: High School Transformation

Play Video about Holden High, Orinda alternative for teens with learning disabilities

Holden by the numbers

Year Founded
(Or Less) Students
Students of Color
27 %
Receive Tuition Reduction
60 %
Average Class Size
Average # of Electives
Student Teacher Ratio
5: 5
Unique Campus
Holden Directors

Why our Co-Directors love Holden

For many young people who have struggled in school, the issue is not their capacity to learn but rather a negative relationship to school.

Holden fosters a deep sense of community where every student is seen, heard, and understood. For over 50 years, Holden has radically changed our students’ notion of school.

Our small class sizes and personalized environment cultivates trust and encourages students to open up to the full range of their abilities and interests.

Kate, Kristin, Abby, Jenn

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Holden students are curious, creative, independentand bright. Many of our students possess significant academic potential that is often left untapped while receiving a mainstream school education. 

Our students often need social-emotional support, have learning differences, and thrive in a small, nurturing environment where they receive weekly 1-on-1 counselingOur teens reside all over the Bay Area (Oakland, Walnut Creek, Antioch, Richmond, and more!) 

Our student body is comprised of students with diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds.

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 approximately 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 core aspect of our curriculum, we cultivate consciousness, appreciation, tolerance, and knowledge of all kinds of diversity. 

Students have ample opportunities within the classroom and during community-building events to discuss issues of diversity. 

Each student works with a Transition Counselor to map out their post-high school paths, including 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.)

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

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.

Holden works well for students diagnosed with:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) 
  • Learning Disabilities impacting reading, writing, and math (i.e. Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia) 
  • Mild Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Depression and / or Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

(See also Learning Support Program.)

A credentialed Learning Specialist trains our teaching staff to work with students with specific learning disabilities and learning styles. We equip our Teachers with information about individual students’ educational backgrounds and experiences, including appropriate accommodations, modifications, and supports.

Our low student-to-teacher ratio allows teachers to pay special attention to students’ individual needs, skills, and interests. 

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. 

Co-Director Abby Tuttle is a credentialed Education Specialist. Abby also has a Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in mild-to-moderate disabilities.

Holden accommodates various learning styles, including: 

  • Auditory
  • Visual/spatial
  • Kinesthetic
  • Linguistic
  • Musical
  • Logical/mathematical
  • Intrapersonal
  • Interpersonal

Academic and counseling staff members work together to identify strengths and areas for social, emotional, and academic growth. 

Students are empowered to work within their preferred learning styles. 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.

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 mainstream 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.

We provide a fully integrated range of teaching styles that work successfully with a broad range of learners. Our small class sizes offer a unique, personalized learning environment, allowing trust to develop within the community; this opens students to the full range of their abilities and interests.

We provide an engaging and stimulating curriculum 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 the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades complete a Grade Level Project. These are interest-based projects of their choosing through support by the staff. 

Projects include creative or logical inquiry, jobs, internships, applying for colleges, and career exploration.

The reasons that families choose Holden are as unique and varied as each family. However, most families choose Holden for our:

  • Alternative school structure: small class size and close teacher-student relationships
  • Caring staff who take the time to understand each student’s unique strengths, interests, and challenges
  • Ability to award high school credit for learning experiences that students have both inside and outside of school
  • Welcoming, tight-knit community

Most of our students describe Holden as a welcoming, accepting, and supportive learning environment.

Click here to view current tuition. 

A generous and flexible tuition reduction program and two funded scholarships allow Holden High School to admit talented, motivated students from across the economic spectrum. 

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. 

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

Holden students travel to school from various Bay Area cities. Most arrive via BART, and others carpool or get dropped off by a parent.

In addition to several other school-specific requirements, Holden students must complete 240 credits to graduate

Both 4-year and 2-year colleges and universities recognize a Holden diploma.


changing lives since 1969