By JAMES SAOUD
Washtenaw Technical Middle College was ranked seventh in the 2014 edition of “Newsweek” magazine’s “Top High Schools” list.
The magazine also ranked WTMC at 35th on its “Beating the Odds – Top Schools for Low Income Students” list.
“This is great,” Karl Covert, dean of WTMC said, “it shows what happens when students are given opportunities.”
Covert is the school’s only administrator and is in charge of academics, disciplinary action and budgeting. The magazine gave WTMC a college readiness score of 99.54 out of 100.
“We were really surprised, really humbled and really proud,” Julee Boland, critical thinking instructor at WTMC said. “It was certainly really nice to be recognized that way.”
Covert credited the success to the educators and, of course, the students.
“When students challenge themselves, they excel,” he said.
The high school has a curriculum heavily based around soft skills: reading and critical thinking.
“Critical thinking is a class, but critical thinking is all across our curriculum,” Boland said. “In every single class students are talking about argument and evidence, what they notice and what they wonder.”
Boland believes these types of skills are crucial for students to learn to make them prepared once they move on from their high school classrooms.
And the students agree.
“The soft skills they teach us, like public speaking and organization, really help you get prepared,” said WTMC student Madison Berlinger, 14, of Saline.
Theo Babbitt, 14, of Ann Arbor and Michael Mishler, 13, of Ann Arbor mentioned the inclusion of organizational skills and career planning as some of the things that are unique about the high school’s curriculum.
“We’re not only making sure our students are college-ready, we’re making sure they’re college successful,” Covert said. “We have a very well-defined mission.”
Covert also credited the resources provided by Washtenaw Community College as a major factor in WTMC’s success.
“For students to be on a college campus changes the way that they see themselves, and the WCC faculty are so welcoming to our students.” Boland said. “And also all the other resources, like the Writing Center, the Math and Science Center and LSS (Learning Support Services) and all those things we’re able to use.”
First place on the list was Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia, with a college readiness score of 99.93.
One other Michigan high school made the top ten – The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, which ranked fifth place with a score of 99.67.
The ranking system and college readiness score was based on data including enrollment rate, graduation rate, counselor-to-student ratio and weighted SAT/ACT composite, according to the magazine.
Additional Reporting by Natalie Wright