+ International Baccalaureate (IB) Program Catches On

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There is now a competitor to the Advanced Placement Program, the curriculum for the college-bound which offers a long menu of single subject courses in high schools. 

It is the International Baccalaureate, or IB, and it is growing in popularity, according to an article by Tamar Lewin in the NY Times.

The lesser known IB is a two-year curriculum developed in the 1960s at an international school in Switzerland.  It first took hold in the US in private schools.  But it is now offered in more than 700 American High Schools, more than 9  percent of which are public schools.

Almost 200 more have begun the long certification process.

To earn an IB diploma, students are required to spend their entire junior and senior years of high school following this rigorous and internationally focused curriculum. 

They are required to study English as well as another language, math, science, social science and art, along with a course on the Theory of Knowledge. 

They are expected to write a 4,000 word essay, deliver oral presentations, and perform community service.

Many parents, schools and students are seeing the IB degree as a rigorous preparation for university and the world of global economics — as well as a way to impress college admissions officers.

In Cumberland, Maine, Greely High School adopted IB this year as a way to make students more aware of the world beyond the United States. 

Greely’s IB coordinator David Galin says, “When our grads would visit from college, they’d tell us that while Greely gave them great academic preparation, they had no idea there was a big wide world out there.”  

And so this year, Greely’s 11th graders read literature from India (“God of Small Things“),  Africa (“Master Harold… and the Boys“), the now Czech Republic (“The Metamorphoses”), Chile (“The House of the Spirits“), Egypt (“Midaq Alley“), and Colombia (“Chronicle of a Death Foretold“).

IB programs are used in 139 countries. 

Its international focus has however drawn criticism and been called “anti-American.”  Objections have been raised, calling it too tied to both the United Nations and “radical environmentalism.”

Others have objected to the cost; the organization charges $10,000 a year per school, as well as $141 per student, and $96 per exam. 

Many feel it is neither as effective as AP nor as likely to reach as many students.

Opponents have created a Web site, http://www.truthaboutib.com, which serves as a clearinghouse for their opposing views.  

But Pamela Ott, an admissions officer at Brown, says “I don’t think there is anyone who does not respect the IB.”

Fewer colleges give credit for the IB than for AP.  However, dozens give students with an IB diploma sophomore standing.  Some offer special scholarships.

Some struggling urban schools are offering the IB; educators say it helps put low-income students on a par with their richer peers.

Last Fall, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave the program a three-year $2.4 million grant, to prepare low-income and minority students to participate in the IB.

California and Florida have the most IB programs.  New England has the fewest.

At Cumberland, Greely’s principal Chris Mosca told Tamar Lewin

No question, the people who founded the IB were sitting in Geneva, post-World War II, thinking about how to ensure world peace, so the clear philosophical bent is that by integrating learning,  and understanding issues from multiple perspectives, we can promote global thinking.

But what sold me on the program was that it’s good pedagogy, that it really shows kids how things go together.

No parents at Greely complained about content; the objections raised were simply about cost, he said.

And Mr Mosca will keep the school’s AP offerings.  He says 

AP is great for content-based traditional learning.  It’s great for kids who like to memorize.  But for more creative kids, who want to make those connections, there’s nothing like the IB.

Since the IB is so rigorous, it’s not for everyone.  At Greely, three of the 21 juniors who began the program shifted to a mix of IB and regular classes.  But those who stuck it out seem enthusiastic. 

Says Maggi Bauer, “It’s like a little club of scholars.  It seems more real-world than how we used to learn, and it’s changed how we look at the world.”

At neighboring Kennebunk High School, IB graduates say they feel well prepared. According to Michael Tahan,

In our Theory of Knowledge class, when we debated health care, my role was to take Rush Limbaugh’s position, which couldn’t be further from my own. 

IB taught us how to think through a position and support it.  And while I understand why some parents might worry that the program is international-based, I think it’s good for America — for students to learn how other nations think. 

sole source : Tamar Lewin’s article in the NY times on 7/3/10 —     http://tinyurl.com/32dwem6.     

For information on the IB Program, visit  http://www.ibo.org

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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