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Before the Board: International Baccalaureate

March 7, 2011

On Monday, March 7, I spoke before the Rochester Community Schools Board of Education regarding implementing the International Baccalaureate program in the Rochester Community Schools.  While this is not a substitute for advanced and gifted education, the outstanding curriculum offered is a great start to making rigorous standards available to students who want strong, well-disciplined schools.   The text of my speech is below (click Read More):

My name is Joshua Raymond.  I am the parent of a student at Meadow Brook Elementary School and the founder of Rochester SAGE – Supporting Advanced and Gifted Education.

I wanted to start by giving two board members a chance at about $600,000.  (Drew names and Marty Sibert and Barb Cenko won.)

Congrats!  You get to attend the International Academy!  With the rigor of the curriculum, you will raise your ACT score by 2 points.  This will allow you to go to Cornell University instead of the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  This will raise your annual salary by $15,000 or give you about $600,000 more over your working career.  You will live in a nicer home and drive a nicer car.  Imagine what you could do with an extra $15,000 per year right now.

To the rest of you, I’m sorry.  You will still get a good education, but even if you are in the top 20% of your class, you will not have as rigorous a curriculum, you will not learn as much, your ACT scores will probably be lower, you may not get into the college you could have, and your earning potential will be less.  If you apply to the University of Michigan, admissions will focus more on which high school you went to than your GPA or standardized test scores.  Your ‘A’ at the Rochester high schools will be approximately equivalent to a ‘B’ from the International Academy.

While this lottery was just pretend, it is all too real for a few hundred of our students every year.  The lucky few get to attend a school that has quickly risen to the top in academics, provides an incredibly strong curriculum, better prepares their students to succeed in college, allows them to go to better colleges and obtain better scholarships, and probably to achieve higher levels of success in life.  Only a few get to attend, but every student who is willing to put in the work required should have the opportunity for this robust a curriculum.

I know the Board has considered having an International Baccalaureate high school in the district.  I believe this is a phenomenal idea and should be acted on immediately. I also encourage the Board to convert one or more elementary schools and a middle school to the IB curriculum as well.  The IB curriculum has proven results in all levels of education and would be of great value to the students in our community.  It would also help attract families that value education to our cities and help raise home values.

I realize the IB curriculum has additional associated costs, but one way to make it more feasible is to not have athletics at these schools, just as the International Academy has done*.  A more concentrated and limited curriculum could also help save money.  But I hope the Board will look beyond just additional costs and see the value and bang for the buck that the International Baccalaureate curriculum brings.  Rochester has great schools and moving to the IB Curriculum should be the next step in our evolution.

Thank you.

* Students at the International Academy can participate in sports in their home district.  By having students at our IB schools do sports at their local elementary, middle, or high school, money can be saved by not having fixed athletic expenses associated with the IB schools including coaches, stadium maintenance, and support facilities.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 10:15 AM

    Dear Mr. Raymond,

    Please cite a source for your claim that the IB raises ACT scores by 2 points. Thank you.

    • March 15, 2011 11:28 AM

      Ms. McLoughlin,

      Thank you for your interest. I see from your website that you oppose the IB Curriculum for a number of reasons. I welcome informative dialogue on Rochester SAGE as long as both parties remain civil, so please take this opportunity to let us know what you find troubling about IB.

      My comparison was specifically between the International Academy and Rochester Community Schools. There is no doubt that the International Academy has implemented the IB curriculum extremely successfully compared to many other IB schools. It has been consistently ranked among the best schools in the nation. I recognize that many IB schools have not been implemented as well.

      The Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum for Rochester Schools presented a series of facts about the top 20% of Rochester high school students compared to International Academy students. The top 20% of Rochester high school students averaged a 27 on the ACT. The entire class at the International Academy averaged 29. She apparently considers the top 20% of Rochester Community Schools academically equivalent to the class at the International Academy. As the spots at the International Academy are allocated by lottery and require only the passing of a math test to enroll, I would say her estimation is fairly accurate although it may be more appropriate to compare to the top 40% of Rochester Community Schools students as I understand that is the approximate percentage of students who apply for IA admission. In this case, the gap between Rochester Community Schools and the International Academy would probably be larger. Based on her numbers, the relatively same group of students who attended the IA scored two points higher on the ACT than those who remained at Rochester schools.

      Rochester Community Schools are very good public schools, but when the chance to imitate a very successful program and improve our schools comes along, we should examine this opportunity thoroughly. Doubling the amount spent on education in the past 30 years has not raised academic performance. The IB program appears to be a cost-effective way of raising academics, often substantially. There should be public discussions about its successes, failures, costs, and adoption in the Rochester community.

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