The International Baccalaureate program as a way to save struggling schools

30 Apr

In The International Baccalaureate program and vocational students, moi said this:

There is an “arms race” going on in American Education. More people are asking whether college is the right choice for many. The U.S. has de-emphasized high quality vocational and technical training in the rush to increase the number of students who proceed to college in pursuit of a B.A. Often a graduate degree follows. The Harvard paper, Pathways to Prosperity argues for more high quality vocational and technical opportunities:

The implication of this work is that a focus on college readiness alone does not equip young people with all of the skills and abilities they will need in the workplace, or to successfully complete the transition from adolescence to adulthood. This was highlighted in a 2008 report published by Child Trends, which compared research on the competencies required for college readiness, workplace readiness and healthy youth development. The report found significant overlaps. High personal expectations, self-management, critical thinking, and academic achievement are viewed as highly important for success in all three areas. But the report also uncovered some striking differences. For instance: while career planning, previous work experience, decision making, listening skills, integrity, and creativity are all considered vital in the workplace, they hardly figure in college readiness.

Click to access Pathways_to_Prosperity_Feb2011.pdf

There is a reluctance to promote vocational opportunities in the U.S. because the is a fear of tracking individuals into vocational training and denying certain groups access to a college education. The compromise could be a combination of both quality technical training with a solid academic foundation. Individuals may have a series of careers over the course of a career and a solid foundation which provides a degree of flexibility is desired for survival in the future. See, Why go to college?

Claudia Rowe has written the Seattle Times article, Can more rigorous academics help Rainier Beach?

Rarely have the stakes been so high at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School:

Student enrollment continues to plummet. Test scores continue to droop. And whispers of imminent closure abound.

But with 1,700 teenagers in Rainier Beach’s attendance zone, most of them now traveling out of the neighborhood to get their education, Seattle needs the beleaguered South End high school to succeed as never before — and in a big way.

The answer?

Parents at Rainier Beach believe it lies in a rigorous academic program created in Switzerland for the children of diplomats. And if they earn the necessary certification, Rainier Beach will become Seattle’s next International Baccalaureate World School, a place where college-bound students take a rigorous slate of advanced courses and test their performance against some of the most privileged young people on earth.

You could call it a Hail Mary pass for survival.

The IB program, as it is known, has a track record of saving schools previously written off, using teens’ natural impulse toward challenge and questioning to ignite an interest in education on their terms. This has worked in places like inner-city Chicago and in the poorer areas of California’s Central Valley, where teachers have seen many once-struggling students blossom as school leaders.

Closer to home, the IB has already effected similar turnarounds in Tacoma, and in Seattle, at Ingraham and Chief Sealth high schools.

But the high-minded, internationally focused program also forces confrontation with uncomfortable realities: IB’s college-prep focus tends to attract whiter, more affluent families; it requires academic skills that many students entering Rainier Beach do not possess. And at a high-poverty school like Beach, its price alone could be a deal-breaker — no matter how talented the students.

“When I saw that it cost over $700 to take the tests, I was like, ‘Whoa!’ ” said Kaeleabe Teferi, 17, a senior at Ingraham, which has been offering the IB for a decade. “I don’t qualify for free-and-reduced lunch, but it was still kind of a hard-sell with my parents.”

Kaeleabe is one of the few black students in line for an IB diploma at Ingraham this year, a fact he shrugs off and attributes to the dearth of black youth enrolled in honors classes, which act as a feeder system for the program.

But an image of elitism clings to the International Baccalaureate and remains a concern for parents at Rainier Beach, well aware that their students are — in numerous ways — not typical IB kids.

“It’s a predominantly white program — that’s what you see when you look at the literature, all white faces,” said Carlina Brown, president of Beach’s parent-teacher-student association.

“So I was like, ‘How am I going to present this to parents who are almost entirely black?’ ”

Other Seattle schools who have started International Baccalaureate programs have had some success according to Rowe.

Tamar Lewin has a great article in the New York Times which describes the International Baccalaureate program. In International Program Catches On In U.S. Schools Lewin reports:      

The alphabet soup of college admissions is getting more complicated as the International Baccalaureate, or I.B., grows in popularity as an alternative to the better-known Advanced Placement program.

The College Board’s A.P. program, which offers a long menu of single-subject courses, is still by far the most common option for giving students a head start on college work, and a potential edge in admissions.

The lesser-known I.B., a two-year curriculum developed in the 1960s at an international school in Switzerland, first took hold in the United States in private schools. But it is now offered in more than 700 American high schools — more than 90 percent of them public schools — and almost 200 more have begun the long certification process.

Many parents, schools and students see the program as a rigorous and more internationally focused curriculum, and a way to impress college admissions officers.

To earn an I.B. diploma, students must devote their full junior and senior years to the program, which requires English and another language, math, science, social science and art, plus a course on theory of knowledge, a 4,000-word essay, oral presentations and community service….

“Our students don’t have as much diversity as people in some other areas, so this makes them open their eyes,” said Deb Pinkham, the program’s English teacher.

The I.B. program is used in 139 countries, and its international focus has drawn criticism from some quarters.

Some parents say it is anti-American and too closely tied to both the United Nations and radical environmentalism. From its start in 1968 until 1976, the program was financed partly by Unesco. It is now associated with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and until recently it endorsed the Earth Charter, a declaration of principles of sustainability that originated at the United Nations.

“When there is a program at the school with a specific agenda, which in this case is the United Nations agenda, I have a problem with it,” said Ann Marie Banfield, who unsuccessfully opposed the adoption of the I.B. program in Bedford, N.H.

Others object to its cost — the organization charges $10,000 a year per school, $141 per student and $96 per exam — and say it is neither as effective as the A.P. program nor likely to reach as many students.

We have 337 kids, and 80 of them take at least one of our 16 A.P. classes,” said John Eppolito, a parent who opposes the planned introduction of the I.B. in Incline Village, Nev. “If we switched to the I.B., the district estimates that 15 kids would get a I.B. diploma in two years.”

I.B. opponents have created a Web site,, to serve as a clearinghouse for their views.

Many schools, and many parents, see the I.B. partly as a way to show college admissions offices that students have chosen a rigorous program, with tests graded by I.B. examiners around the world. …[Emphasis Added]

One of the educators interviewed in the Lewin article observed that the IB program might be better suited for kids who are more creative and either are not as good or do not like to memorize. There shouldn’t be a one size fits all in education and parents should be honest about what education options will work for a particular child. Even children from the same family may find that different education options will work for each child.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

3 Responses to “The International Baccalaureate program as a way to save struggling schools”


  1. The IB Career-related Certificate (IBCC) « drwilda - June 28, 2012

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  2. drwilda - June 5, 2013

    […] The International Baccalaureate program as a way to save struggling schools                                                                 […]

  3. Cambridge International Exams trying to make inroads into AP and International Baccalaureate turf | drwilda - December 11, 2013

    […] The International Baccalaureate program as a way to save struggling schools […]

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