High marks continue for WCC’s charter high school

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When students want to jumpstart their future, they choose the Washtenaw Technical Middle College (WTMC) at Washtenaw Community College.

There, they can earn a high school diploma and a technical career certificate and/or associate degree, saving lots of time and money in the process. It’s one of the many reasons why Metro Parent magazine recently named WTMC as one of the five top-rated charter schools in southeast Michigan. It wasn’t the first general circulation publication to recognize the school’s academic standing. Newsweek Magazine rated it the seventh best public high school in the country in 2014.

At WTMC, students can choose from more than 100 programs at WCC, including accounting, broadcast arts and pre-engineering. Furthermore, students are encouraged to get involved on campus and take part in WCC’s clubs and organizations or start one themselves. They also have access to WCC’s student support services, such as academic advising, career services advising and tutoring.

“We help prepare students so they can become successful in college and the workplace,” said Dr. Karl Covert, dean and superintendent of WTMC. “It’s also an opportunity for them to explore a career path that may be of interest to them. In addition, if a four-year degree is something they want to pursue, they will enter with more than 60 credits.”

Housed in WCC’s Technical and Industrial building, WTMC enrolls 600 students from more than 30 different school districts and five counties. The school has a 96 percent graduation rate and last year, WTMC students completed 11,000 college credits with a grade point average of 3.5.

According to Covert, WTMC is a publicly funded institution that gets its funding directly from the State of Michigan’s “foundation grant” for K-12 schools. He adds that a small amount of federal education funding helps with students who have special needs. As a Public School Academy chartered by the college, WTMC receives state funding on a per-pupil basis, just like every other school in Michigan.

Because WTMC is its own school district, students must first apply to get accepted into the middle college. Afterward, they must take four 80-minute courses during the first semester to assess their skills in math, science, English, and critical reading and thinking. Students attend classes Monday through Friday for 15 weeks in the fall and winter and seven weeks in the spring.

The curriculum focuses on skill development rather than credit completion, emphasizing both hard (academic) and soft (life management) skills. The students, when they have learned and demonstrated college skills, transition into college courses.

Covert emphasizes that having a college class schedule allows students to develop other skills. “In addition to classes, our students are highly involved around campus and within the community itself, so they learn how to prioritize and successfully balance multiple responsibilities,” he said. “When they graduate from WTMC, they’re leaving with lifelong skills.”

WTMC graduate Hannah Metler, who works as a website designer at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor and owns her own photography business, first learned of WTMC through her brother who graduated from the program.

“My experience at WTMC was everything I needed it to be. I wasn’t getting what I needed from my high school, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without WTMC,” Metler said. “The knowledge I’ve gained and the opportunities I was afforded is something I will always value.”

As the largest middle college in the U.S. and the second oldest in the state, WTMC has set the bar high for the past 19 years. The relevant programs of study and realistic preparation for college can’t be beat.

“The quality of education here is superb,” Covert said. “We have a talented, compassionate cohort of teachers and staff and our students overwhelmingly feel fortunate to be here. This is a great opportunity for students.”

To learn more about the Washtenaw Technical Middle College at WCC, visit themiddlecollege.org.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

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