With summer vacation quickly becoming a fleeting memory, many Clarke County High juniors and seniors are already embarking on their college journeys by the way of school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. While IB allows a student to either obtain an internationally recognized IB diploma or simply earn college credits while still in high school, the program’s real value may be producing progressive thinkers and well rounded adults able to compete in the ever-more prevalent world economy.
“International Baccalaureate focuses on forming world-class learners and citizens” said Clarke County High School Principal Dr. John Werner. “IB is the only educational program that I know of that does that.”
According to the program’s website, http://www.ibo.org/diploma/, IB coursework “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
CCHS’s encourages any student interested in a rigorous and challenging education journey to consider participating in the IB program.
And many students accept the challenge.
In the 2010 – 2011 academic year CCHS will offer classes, also referred to as â€˜sections”, in 19 IB-subject areas. This year students occupy 704 seats in 49 separate sections.
“There is no application process for our IB program” said program director Thom Potts. “How well a student performs depends on the student. We welcome any student that wants to take the challenge.”
CCHS students participate in the IB program in two ways;
The first, and less often exercised, option allows the student to obtain an IB diploma by demonstrating a well-balanced blend of academic achievement, creativity, action and service.
IB diploma curriculum consists of completing six courses from six different subject areas, writing an Extended Essay of up to 4,000 words, taking part in the Theory of Knowledge(TOK) class, and fulfilling a requirement of 50 hours in each of the Creative, Active and Service (CAS) pursuits. Grades are awarded from 1 to 7 in each subject, and up to three ‘bonus’ points may be awarded depending on the grade results of the EE and TOK. Thus, a total of 45 points may be obtained by the candidate for their final diploma. In order to receive an International Baccalaureate Diploma you must receive a minimum of 24 points.
If a student successfully consistently obtains scores of “4” or higher on an IB tests (grades are assigned by international graders using a 7-point scale) the student will receive not only college level credits, but an IB high school diploma recognized by academic institutions around the world.
The International Baccalaureate organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programs and maintain rigorous assessment. The programs are intended to encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.
However, only a small number of CCHS students actually choose to pursue an IB diploma, opting instead to participate in IB courses but not taking the IB graded exams.
A big part of the reason for the small number of IB diploma seekers may be cost.
“Our number of IB test takers has gone down” said to Dr. Werner. “A major contributor to the decline is that students now have to pay to take their IB tests.”
In 2008 the Clarke County School Board elected to stop automatic funding for IB testing, effectively transferring much of the cost of the program to individual families. Now, since all IB courses also qualify for “dual enrollment” credit from Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) provided that the student pays tuition costs, students are faced with an economic decision of where to best spend their money; Dual enrollment offering a high likelihood LFCC college level credits, which are mandated by law for automatic acceptance at Virginia colleges throughout the state, versus IB courses that only translate into college credit if the student scores well enough on an internationally assessed test.
A student electing to pay for both dual enrollment credit and IB credit, often amounting to hundreds of dollars of costs per class, creates a difficult challenge for many families given the economic climate.
After weighing the costs and benefits many students elect to pay only the dual enrollment fees.
Even though earning dual enrollment credits may be well suited to students intending to enter Virginia’s excellent college system, the IB diploma and coursework carries more weight with national and international colleges and universities because of the IB’s rigorous standards and international assessment system according to Dr. Werner.
Potts and Werner say that IB helps students develop an understanding of their own cultural and national identity and a positive attitude to learning by encouraging challenging questions, critical reflection, research skills development and participation in community service.
“IB students are taught to develop higher order thinking skills” Werner said. “The program encourages kids to look at a subject and think about how it integrates with the world around them. Instead of just learning about “genetics” as a science, an IB student is asked to demonstrate how genetic research interacts with politics, philosophy, morality and ethics in addition to science.”
Even if a student elects not to pursue the IB diploma or the IB sanctioned testing, Werner and Potts agree that the quality of learning in the IB classes is not diminished. That’s because approximately 10% of CCHS’s instructional staff qualify to teach dual enrollment courses and the majority of dual enrollment courses are also IB certified.
Both Potts and Werner, are strong advocates of the IB program and hope to see IB enrollment rise this year even if students don’t opt to pursue the IB testing or diploma.
“I championing the goal that as many kids as possible try for an IB diploma” Werner said. “But the opportunity to take rigorous classes and challenge themselves is the most valuable thing.”
Potts echoed Werner’s statements; “The IB diploma curriculum offers an outstanding education for both excellent careers and producing excellent citizens. I strongly encourage as many students as possible to pursue the diploma.”
CCHS students interested in IB courses will be asked to attend a registration session in the high school cafeteria on September 9 at 9:00 am. Students seeking to register for Lord Fairfax Community College dual enrollment credit must do so by September 13.
For more information please contact Thom Potts at PottsT@clarke.k12.va.us
Additional information about IB from Thom Potts, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator:
Receiving high grades on IB exams or earning an IB diploma does not automatically result in receiving college credit. That depends on the individual colleges and universities that students attend. Some schools are very generous in awarding credit for IB test scores, others less so. It is our experience, though, that as IB becomes better known and more widespread in the United States, more American colleges and universities are willing to grant credit for it. In any case, on the IB website athttp://www.ibo.org/diploma/recognition/<http://www.ibo.org>, there is a University Recognition Directory that provides details about the IB policies of higher educational institutions located throughout the world, including charts showing the policies of colleges and universities in every state of the U.S.
Not all CCPS IB courses are dual-enrolled with Lord Fairfax Community College. Teaching IB courses in a high school and teaching classes under the auspices of the Virginia Community College System are two different things with two different sets of requirements. So while some IB courses are also dual-enrolled, not all of them are. Likewise, we offer a number of dual-enrollment classes in career and technical fields which are not IB courses. While there is some overlap between the two, IB and dual-enrollment are completely different programs.
We feel that pursuing an International Baccalaureate diploma or certificates is a very worthwhile academic endeavor, and we’re pleased to share information about the program with the community.