Guest column: IB discussions trigger good questions
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Few innovations embraced by our public schools in Summit County have garnered as much excitement and consternation as the introduction of the IB Program.
Considerable confusion exists about what the IB Program is, what it brings to Summit students, and why the school district has latched onto it.
Summit School District first implemented the IB Program with the introduction of the Middle Years Program (MYP) in grades 6 and 7 at Summit Middle School in the 2001/2002 school year. The MYP (a grade 6-10 program) expanded into the next grade level each subsequent year, guiding students choosing to continue with the Diploma Program (DP) in grades 11 and 12 to become part of Summit High School’s first DP graduating class last June.
What began as an option for students seeking an academically challenging middle school Honors class experience has resulted in the expansion of the IB Program into our elementary schools through the Primary Years Program (PYP), expansion of the MYP to include all classrooms and all students attending the middle school, and discussions at the high school about how to include more than Honors class students in grades 9 and 10.
As members of our Board of Education, staff, parents, and students developed a deeper understanding of all three IB programs (PYP, MYP, DP), awareness began to build about the potential of the program in supporting our school district mission, vision, and goal of developing caring learners.
Knowing that our aim is to achieve these hopes for all of our students, we have come to realize that it is not acceptable to offer these experiences to only selected students attending our schools. And, although the DP is the only selective program of the three, we work hard to encourage all students to take at least one DP level class in grades 11 and 12. Currently, more than 75 students are taking advantage of this opportunity.
The IB Program originally began as an international schooling option for families stationed overseas seeking a program of study to prepare their children for higher education no matter where they happened to live.
Since then, the program has grown to include an internationally monitored standard of excellence and quality to assure that students participating in the programs any where in the world can compete with their international peers. Considering what our students will face in the competitive world arena in the 21st century, this aspect is very appealing.
While the IB programs inspire international-mindedness, this happens by grounding students at all levels in an understanding of who we are as individuals, communities, Coloradoans and Americans.
Although each of three IB programs are unique and have different characteristics, themes that run through each include high expectations for student achievement and character development ” a direct fit with developing caring learners.
Each of the programs asks our students to be involved in making a difference in their community, to hold themselves accountable for behaviors that demonstrate character, to think creatively and deeply about big questions and concepts, to gain a worldly perspective on issues facing our planet, and to produce evidence of their learning. These are values we hold in high regard in our schools.
Instructionally, the IB programs ask that our teachers plan units of instruction together, develop measures of student success together, and participate in professional development together.
All of these practices are important aspects of the development of Professional Learning Communities in each of our schools – teams of educators working hard to establish greater consistency and quality of teaching and learning in all classrooms for all students. Partnering with IB provides us with the blueprint, a common vocabulary, and universal assessment standards to elevate the level of our professional learning communities.
With the IB Program comes support for these efforts and accountability to make sure that our program meets the international standard. There is a cost associated with our participation that we are working hard to minimize as we trim our budget for next year.
Currently, the District spends approximately 1 percent ($278,659) of our general fund budget in coordination, dues and fees, and professional development related to the program. Considering the positives we stand to gain through the IB program, we believe the benefits and the positive impacts for our students outweigh the costs.
At the May 14 Board of Education meeting, the Board approved the recommendations from the high school MYP Task Force to implement the MYP practices and assessments into 9th and 10th grade classes and to continue to explore the idea of offering the full MYP program for all students including community service requirements and personal projects.
Additionally, the Board re-committed to the District’s plans to implement the PYP in all elementary schools, to continue offering the MYP for all students attending Summit Middle School, and the DP at Summit High School. These items received approval from the Board with these assurances: teachers will receive the support and resources to successfully implement the programs; IB programs will be evaluated annually; and attention will be given to educational programming options for non-DP students in grades 11 and 12.
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