Denver’s Lincoln High School Receives Extension to Enhance Performance, State Board Commends Progress

When the authorities in Colorado instructed Lincoln High School in Denver to develop a plan to enhance student achievement, little did they know that the pandemic would disrupt school operations a month later.

Despite the unforeseen shift to remote learning and an influx of new students, Lincoln persevered with its improvement initiatives. Although the school’s test scores and state rating remained subpar this year, State Board of Education members commended Lincoln’s progress and extended the timeline for enhancing its rating.

School leaders have already completed a leadership program with the University of Virginia, established a new ninth-grade academy, and introduced career-focused pathways for students. The PTECH program enables students to pursue an associate’s degree in business by extending their high school education for a fifth or sixth year. The first batch of participants from Lincoln is set to graduate this spring.

These transformations were facilitated in part by Lincoln’s classification as an “innovation school,” which provides autonomy from certain district and state regulations and provisions of the teachers’ union contract to facilitate state-ordered improvement plans.

Lincoln is one of only two Denver schools with state-ordered improvement plans. The other school, Manual High School, achieved an enhanced rating this year and could be released from state orders if it maintains the rating for another year.

Contrastingly, Lincoln did not show improvement and underwent a review of its plan this year. The state board unanimously approved a district plan on Wednesday to retain Lincoln’s innovation school status while monitoring its progress.

Should the school fail to elevate its state rating by 2026, it will be required to seek another hearing from the state.

Persistent low ratings over several years compel the state to implement an improvement plan for a school, which may involve external management, conversion into a charter, or closure. Lately, State Board members have favored granting innovation status as an alternative.

State Board members expressed contentment that Lincoln’s assessments of the school’s potential for improvement align with feedback from the community, Colorado Department of Education staff, and an external state review panel.

“I’m constantly reminded that when we provide schools autonomy, remarkable things unfold,” remarked State Board member Angelika Schroeder. “What you’re offering is truly exceptional.”

In line with the district’s strategy, Lincoln will expand its workforce development programs for high school students.

The school’s forthcoming focus will center on enhancing attendance rates. Currently, Lincoln’s average attendance stands at 83%, a slight increase from 81% last year.

Principal Antonio Esquibel noted that attendance among new immigrant students, contending with various challenges like housing instability, is notably low.

Acknowledging recent challenges sustaining a surge in new students from abroad, Lincoln High School operates one of Denver’s newcomer centers, aiding these students in acclimating to American high school life.

Esquibel revealed that the school registered an additional six new students on Wednesday.

To accommodate the influx of newcomers, the school has bolstered its staff and now conducts orientation sessions every Monday for new students and their families. These sessions introduce them to Lincoln, the U.S. school system, and life in southwest Denver.

Amid the improvement plan, the school will intensify its support for all educators to tailor their lessons for English learners through sheltered instruction, enabling teachers to incorporate assistance for English learners throughout the day.

Roughly half of Lincoln’s nearly 1,000 students are English learners, with approximately 75% identifying Spanish as their primary language. Given the increasing number of new students from abroad, these percentages are on the rise.

“Every teacher at Lincoln must be adept at teaching English learners,” emphasized Esquibel.

The school follows the TNLI model, which initially offers Spanish instruction to students and gradually transitions to English instruction, sustaining bilingualism, as per Esquibel.

“We firmly believe that with the right support and resources, our students will thrive,” he concluded.

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