By Carolyn Marnon – Amid cuts by the Wayne Westland Community School District to adult education last summer, Tinkham Educational Center moved from where they were located on Venoy Rd. to a wing of Wayne Memorial High School. Since the move, Tinkham’s alternative high school has been able to increase enrollment from 60 students to about 180. Two teachers were added to help keep the class sizes small at approximately 20 students.
The 18-week semesters like the regular high schools have were reduced to 9-week quarters. During those 9 weeks, students at Tinkham take four classes that are 1 ½ hours long each.
Kim Doman, Director of Tinkham Educational Center, has found the school now has a higher success rate for the students. During the 2nd semester last spring under the old system, 29% of the Tinkham high school students passed zero classes. Zero! None! Nada! Says Kim, “We had students that last year passed zero classes and this year passed all four classes.”
Students come to Tinkham because they are referred by either John Glenn or Wayne Memorial. Often, it is because they are in jeopardy of not graduating on time. Attendance issues would account for most of that. Students were having difficulties at school, weren’t getting the help they needed, and eventually would just give up on going to school. If it is found that a student is not attending while at Tinkham, educators reach out to the students to find out how they can help. Whereas there had been a cap of age 20 on being able to work toward a high school diploma, the new system allows a student up to age 22 to get a diploma. A student must be age 16 to attend Tinkham. It had been discovered that most behavioral issues were coming from 14 and 15 year old students who weren’t mature enough to handle the alternative setting.
Students at Tinkham are not given a special curriculum to graduate. They must adhere to the Michigan Merit Curriculum, the same as the regular high schools. What helps these students is that because of the smaller class size, there is more one-on-one time with the teachers. Teachers are better able to tell when a student is struggling with the material. Classes start at 9:15 a.m.; school is out at 4:05 p.m.
Tinkham has a youth mentorship program. Students who are participating in this program spend ½ the day attending classes at Tinkham and the other ½ of the day at Greenfield Village where they do a work/study program. To participate in the mentorship program, students have to interview with the director. Currently, four students are in the program.
Adult education classes were eliminated at Tinkham. The only general classes available now are GED preparation and English as a Second Language, both taught out of John Glenn.
Tinkham has open enrollment which means you can begin attending at any time. However, most students start with the beginning of the quarter. They practice a blended learning technique. Half of a student’s time is spent learning online while the other half of learning is through their books. Tinkham has the most up-to-date technology in the district. They have smart panel flat screen TVs, google chromebook carts (which are carts with laptops) and a computer lab with chrome stations. Homework is more embedded into the classroom setting, so a student, if they use their time wisely in class, would have minimal outside homework.
There can still be drama with the students like what is found at the regular high schools. However, that is reduced by not having the 14 and 15 year old students.
A student council group was started recently. The school is also looking into getting into an alternative athletic league.
Seventeen year-old Trontay Byrd is finding success at Tinkham. He was introduced as an honor roll student, but he was quick to add “and student council!” He had come to Mrs. Doman’s office to drop off a paper showing that he had completed his U.S. History class for the 2nd quarter period. The 1st quarter had recently ended on November 4.
Trontay enjoys his English class. He likes to make music. English has shown him the different ways he can manipulate words. “English is just talking,” he says. He has found that he has no trouble bringing up his grades in this environment. That particular day, the first meeting of the Community Café/Spirit Week awards had been held. Trontay received recognition for his efforts. The school has helped him become more focused and disciplined. He went to the college and career fair that was held several weeks prior and was impressed with Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield. He would like to major in graphic design and minor in filming. What motivates him to keep moving forward with his education is seeing the happiness on teacher’s faces. “This school helps you find your identity,” said Trontay. “If anyone puts in effort, you’re going to see results.”
“I’m seeing a lot of good change in kids,” especially in their maturity, says Kim. After the first quarter, ten students made the honor roll with 3.0 or higher GPA. Eight students took more than the required four classes. 53 students passed all four of their classes. Eight students had excellent attendance, and eight students were able to graduate.