New Alternative School Already Producing Graduates

Friday, August 31st 2007, 8:20 pm
By: News On 6

School is already out for several students at a new Tulsa alternative program. It’s located in an unusual place, and has only a part-time schedule, but it is boasting success. Tulsa Learning Academy, or the school in the mall, is one of Doctor Zolkoski's new programs. The idea is to recapture those students who only have a little bit of high school left to finish, but are at risk of dropping out. The News On 6’s Ashli Sims reports with three graduates already under its belt, the program seems to be working.

Tucked away in the corner of Tulsa's Promenade Mall is a storefront that's not selling shoes, but futures. Before Elizha Whitney heard about Tulsa Learning Academy, he was considering not going back to school.

"No, I was just gonna find another way to get this half a credit, because I didn't want to have to go back to East Central and take seven classes for a whole semester, when I just needed one half a credit of English III," Tulsa Learning Academy graduate Elizha Whitney said.

Whitney was working with the company that moved Tulsa Learning Academy into its new home and he became one of its first students. Now, the program is full, with 20 more kids on the waiting list. The program runs more like an office, than a school. Students attend for half a day, working at their own pace, just on the classes they need to graduate.

"I thought it was easier because I could work at my own pace,” said Whitney. “And I didn't have someone over my shoulder telling me what to do constantly."

Like all schools, the coursework is linked to Oklahoma state standards, and three certified teachers are on hand to work one on one with students. Just like a business, students have to fill out timesheets, chronicling their work. And they have to pass 80% of their final exams.

"It is not going to be an easy time in here, if the kids are just barely working,” said Jean Keeton, principal Tulsa Learning Academy. “It's going to be hard, because when they come up to that master test, they won't pass it."

Tulsa Learning Academy already seems to be passing with flying colors. In less than a week, three students finished a semester's worth of work. And now they're Tulsa Learning Academy's first graduates.

"I was real excited,” Whitney said. “I didn't think it would be no where near this soon."

"It's a quiet place, it's a business like place, you come here to work and I really think that helps them," said Keeton.

Now this program is not for everyone, at least one student dropped out of the program. It requires a lot of independence and you need to have at least an eighth grade reading level to succeed. But it's obviously working for some students; Elizha is going on to college to become an athletic trainer. Another student will start her training as a medical assistant next week.

Related Story:

3/28/2007 New Plan For Tulsa’s Alternative Schools

6/25/2007 Going To School At The Mall