For a lot of busy adults, memories of the often grueling day-to-day high school process known as “learning” can be hard to recall. In the quest for providing “job skills” it’s easy to forget that “learning” can’t always be measured by a standardized test and may not provide benefit to the student until many years after the lesson itself is long forgotten. Even so, governments that provide education services have the difficult role of determining where and how limited resources can best benefit constituents and choices can be difficult.
At Monday night’s school board meeting there was complete agreement on one fact regarding the challenges facing CCHS’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. “It’s complex and there are no easy answers!”
In an attempt to engage the community in the broader discussion about how Clarke County kids are being educated, Clarke Daily News asked Clarke County Public Schools Director of Curriculum and Instruction Lisa Floyd to provide answers to some IB program basics.
Lisa Floyd in her own words:
CDN: Student performance in CCHS’s IB Program appears to be in decline on a number of levels. Should the county consider jettisoning the program or are there things that can be done to improve the results? Why or why not?
Floyd: Clarke County Public Schools are always concerned with student performance and we continue to review options and look for opportunities to improve lives of kids. Participation in IB testing has declined, but we still have a healthy number of students registered in IB classes.
Our goal is to offer a high quality instructional program designed to serve ALL of our students.
CDN: If CCHS keeps its IB program what would be required to see improved success and participation in the diploma program?
Floyd: We will continue to keep the focus on teaching and learning. Improvement comes through a systemic approach to train teachers, analyze student performance, and design instruction to meet student needs.
While enrollment in IB classes is open to all students, seeking the IB diploma is optional. We plan to increase public awareness through various means. For example, we are working on a partnership with a community organization to produce informational DVDs to be distributed to middle school parents that would provide an overview of the IB program. We will be enhancing the division website and we plan to include a more user friendly page as an information resource. The high school and middle school are also working together to coordinate workshops that provide middle school students access to high school staff as a means to encourage student participation and enthusiasm.
CDN: Are there other solutions for students, like the students currently in IB, who need more challenges that we need to consider?
Floyd: We are continuing our post-secondary linkage to maximize offerings to students. We presently partner with Lord Fairfax Community College, James Madison University, and Shenandoah University to offer dual enrollment opportunities. The school division is continuing to gather information from community partners, businesses, and parents to ensure course offerings meet student needs.
CDN: Do you see AP as a good alternative for replacing IB? Why or why not?
Floyd: The focus of CCPS is to meet the needs of ALL students. Our vocational offerings, arts programs, honors courses, athletics, dual enrollment, IB, and AP offerings are available to that end. IB and AP are not mutually exclusive and are valid paths that students may choose.
CDN: If someone were to propose doing away with CCHS’s IB program how would you respond? Why?
Floyd: The Division would respond the same way we would if the proposal was to eliminate French, Latin, or even football. The first question would be “why” and the second question would be “is this decision (to eliminate French, Latin or football) good for kids. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table about the value of public education. Asking “why” and then bringing together folks to discuss the issues and implications is paramount (e.g., Ms. Alger’s idea about a work session). All too often decisions are made without the facts and misconceptions tend to influence our decision making process. The facts are critical, as well as considering the needs of our students, both now and in the future. IB offers so much more than a diploma; whatever we do as a division we need to do well, consistently, and with our students in mind.
CDN: Are there IB student performance / benefits that aren’t reflected in the IB performance stats?
Absolutely!! Consider this listing from Chesterfield Public Schools:
Benefits for the students:
- IB students become active learners. All courses, especially the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), encourage students to understand how they learn, how they connect learning, and how they apply learning.
- IB ensures a world-class education through a standardized curriculum and a balanced array of assessment methods.
- IB offers a comprehensive curriculum. Many programs of rigor for gifted and motivated students focus on one or more select academic areas, while IB gives students a solid base in all areas of knowledge. IB is a “full service” curriculum and teaching philosophy aimed at developing a student as a whole.
- IB attracts motivated students, and when introduced in public schools and used like many magnet programs, it promotes access for underprivileged students.
- The community service component throughout all IB curriculum fosters a sense of responsibility and involvement in the students’ communities.
- In addition to an internationally oriented curriculum, IB gives students first-hand experience of being part of an international community and of having a common bond with students all over the world.
- The rigorous curriculum and inquiry-based approach to learning prepare students to move to the next level of their education, and eventually, for college level work.
- IB diplomas and certificates are widely respected by colleges and universities. Participation in the Diploma Program signals a student’s hard work and dedication and often leads to acceptance to competitive universities and advanced college placement.
Gains for the school and staff:
- IB provides a unified, coherent approach to learning without stifling the creativity and unique talents and perspectives of teachers and students.
- IB involves ongoing professional development of teachers and administrators.
- Ultimately, the curriculum is tailored to meet the requirements of the state and/or school district. This means that students receive an education steeped in their own culture and history, as well as one that provides an international perspective.
- IB has a 30-year track record and network of schools worldwide; it is offered in almost 1400 schools in 116 countries.
- Teachers are also supported through the Online Curriculum Center, a professional development and resource website with a panel of subject area experts, as well as an online forum for communicating with other IB educators around the world.
- IB updates its curriculum regularly based on the latest developments in learning theory and pedagogy.
- When parents understand the strengths of the curriculum, they help teachers create a positive learning environment.
Gains for the community:
- The availability of a quality educational program gives a community a new meaning: Many parents choose neighborhoods based on the strength of the school system and opportunities for education of their children. Happy parents support the school, as they know that the school administration and staff are doing their best for their children. It is also important for the students to see that their parents are involved in their education.
- Offering an IB program in local schools is a way of assuring expatriate workers that their children will receive a quality education with transferable credits and entry qualifications for schools and universities around the world.
- Well-educated students will be willing to come back to the communities where they grew up, knowing the opportunities they had in their local school system helped them get an excellent education.