Schools of Opportunity recognize—and then meet—students’ needs. Denver’s Dr. Martin Luther King Early College (MLK), is constantly striving to do just that.
At MLK, all students have access to challenging curricula, including special education students. By cultivating post-secondary partners with different access requirements, the school enables special education and English Language students to enroll in concurrent enrollment classes. Even with four of Denver’s special education Center programs on site (two multi-intensive severe and two multi-intensive autism), inclusion is the goal, and 70 percent are enrolled in at least one general education class. One parent told us about her non-verbal autistic son who had bounced between many schools before finding a home at MLK, where he is respected, cared for, and successfully enrolled in several regular classes.
At a school where 87 percent of the population are students of color and a strong majority receive free- and reduced-price lunch, educators are determined to give all students opportunities to leverage their post-secondary options. To this end, the school offers an impressive number of concurrent enrollment partnerships purposefully chosen so that more students can participate in advanced classes. A fifth-year Early College program rounds out the concurrent enrollment options.
Through a robust Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, many students hone their academic skills in preparation for college. All students participate in a two-week business or industry internship during their junior year that they arrange with teacher support and share during a culminating Exhibition night.
Other academic supports include after-school tutoring from college students four days a week, as well as unit and credit recovery when students fall behind. Teachers are available during special “work hours” where students can drop in, and many tutor students before and after school.
As it provides wrap-around mental and physical health services, the school allocates resources based on students’ needs, recently hiring three full-time mental health professionals. Denver Health offers an on-site clinic, and MLK employs a full-time nurse and trauma specialist. In the Place of Peace, a warmly decorated room that lives up to its name, the trauma specialist works with students and teachers to ensure that students receive appropriate emotional and behavioral supports. A Strengthening Families program brings family members and students together to encourage healthy relationships at home.
MLK’s comprehensive efforts to student supports and families have paid off, with a 2018 graduation rate of 97 percent (compared to 65 percent in the district). We’re not surprised. In this intelligently resourced School of Opportunity, students are given real chances to achieve ambitious post-secondary goals.