IB program prepares local students for college
summit daily news
Editor’s note: This story is one in a multipart series on Summit School District’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Today’s story focuses on the IB Diploma Programme – an optional, advanced academic program
Summit High School offers to
FARMER’S KORNER – Eighteen-year-old Breckenridge resident Brandon Metzger took his last steps as a student through the halls of Summit High School this week. And though he will don his cap and gown Saturday, he has had no room for “senioritis” – the proverbial affliction that plagues many high school seniors in the final weeks of their secondary educations.
Right up to the finish line, this has been one of the most challenging years of Metzger’s academic career, and he credits much of that to his participation in Summit High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP).
“Junior year wasn’t too bad,” Metzger said. “But it was hard doing DP this year. We had all our internal assessments, a big history paper, a creative piece in English and in all our science classes we had to come up with all our own experiments and perform them. In one three-week period, I’ve had so much stuff to do. But I like it – I think it’s going to prepare me for next year.”
That, after all, is one of the ideas behind the IB Diploma Programme. DP is an optional, honors-style program that seeks to prepare high school juniors and seniors for the rigors of university life and beyond.
Like the IB programs for younger age groups – the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Primary Years Programme (PYP) – the DP experience promotes open-mindedness, critical thinking, participatory learning, an understanding of other cultures and the ability to examine problems from multiple perspectives. Unlike those programs, DP is elective: All elementary students and middle school students in Summit schools are taught under the principles and methods of IB, but DP is optional.
This year, students filled more than 840 seats in 11 DP classes at Summit High School (the number of actual students is smaller, as many students take multiple DP classes). Students receive certificates for successful completion of each DP class, and students who take all the available DP classes may become candidates for the IB Diploma. Some universities allow recipients of the IB diploma to begin their studies as a college sophomore. In Colorado, many schools, including the University of Colorado, the University of Denver and the Colorado School of Mines, award credit or placement for DP work on a course-by-course basis, depending on students’ scores on DP exams. In 2009, 12 Summit students received the full diploma.
DP draws heat from some parents and community members who wonder why the program is necessary when the high school already has other routes for ambitious students to get a jump on college credit, including Advanced Placement (AP) and the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Supergrad program. Furthermore, the school’s participation in DP requires payment of an annual fee of $9,600 that allows access to IB’s copyrighted materials, instructional methods and research.
“I think people see the expense and the fees as a downside, and rightly so,” Summit School Board President Jon Kreamelmeyer said. “I think the bottom line is to be able to provide opportunities to Summit High students to get a gain on their college education.”
Kreamelmeyer also acknowledged concerns over imbalances in classroom enrollment. In some instances, the number of students in a DP class in a given subject has been a fraction of that in an AP class. In response, the high school has combined AP and DP classes in subjects where the material is compatible. Teacher and DP coordinator Nanci Morse, for example, teaches AP and DP English in the same classroom: “They work beautifully together in the senior year,” Morse said.
That’s harder to do with other subjects, where AP requirements and content are too different from those of DP.
“In the sciences, DP wants more lab time. AP is for the kid who’s a superstar in science,” Morse said.
According to Morse, one of the biggest differences between AP and DP is that AP requires mastery of specific college-level content. DP, on the other hand, focuses not only on content, but also how to solve problems, conduct research, apply knowledge and make connections across subject areas.
“Another fundamental difference is that AP classes are designed for students whose best subject is that AP subject. IB is designed for students who want to challenge themselves in their weakest subjects as well as their stronger subjects. IB reaches a wider range of students,” Morse said.
SHS senior Lizzy Stasiowski, who has taken classes in both programs, said DP has a reputation for being more demanding, possibly contributing to lower enrollment in some of its classes. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, she said. She found that having a small group of motivated students willing to take on a big workload is conducive to getting the most out of a class.
Overall, Stasiowski said AP tests were more challenging, because they required mastery of more detail, whereas DP tested deeper understanding of broad concepts.
Metzger, who will graduate alongside Stasiowski Saturday, said he enjoyed the DP approach.
“The broad ideas stick a lot more. And in all the DP classes, you put everything you learn into context and connect it to the outside world – it makes it a lot more fun to learn,” he said.
Metzger said he feels confident heading to the University of Colorado for a chemical engineering degree, having devised and performed more than a dozen lab experiments in his DP science classes. Furthermore, he feels IB instructional methods have taught him how to problem-solve, ask questions and find his own answers.
“In chemistry, we would come in, and our teacher would tell us that we were having a discussion on something we had read, and he wouldn’t do much talking. We weren’t just sitting down and doing problems – we were reasoning things out by ourselves. I feel like we actually learned better that way. When a bunch of students are sitting around talking, we present some wrong answers and then talk through why they’re wrong. You get to understand something all the way around, rather than just listening to a teacher say, ‘This is how it is.'”
Julie Sutor can be reached
at (970) 668-4630 or
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