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Expanding International Baccalaureate Opportunities

May 16, 2011

Mike Wilkinson in the Detroit News has written an article “More Metro Detroit districts start own International Baccalaureate programs” about nearby districts that believed not enough of their students could be served by the International Academy and have decided that their districts can rectify this problem.  Farmington, Southfield, Oxford, Walled Lake, Novi, and Clarkston have IB programs or are implementing them.  Rochester Community Schools is not and I do not know if it is still under consideration at all for our district.

I enjoyed talking with Mike while he was researching for this article and am thankful he has made known that there are advocates for the IB Curriculum in the RCS school district.  (Mike has more articles in the Schools section of the Detroit News.)

While Mike has focused on the IB Diploma Programme for high schools, he mentions that some districts, like Oxford, are working on a K-12 International Baccalaureate curriculum covering primary and middle years as well.  I still believe that a K-12 IB school for Rochester Community Schools would be of great benefit for our district and give a choice to families for education.

I also believe that “choice” and “families” are vital in this for its success.  The IB curriculum can be very rigorous and very demanding.  To populate an IB school with students who do not choose to be there is to doom it to mediocrity.  Students must be willing to put in the effort because they value the education.  Motivation to do hours of homework a night cannot be teacher-driven.  It requires student commitment.  And it requires family support.  A student will not succeed without the family support.  Of course, family support is a necessary component of all education, but a curriculum that requires longer days, a longer school year, and more homework requires the family to buy in.

A successful International Baccalaureate school also requires the commitment of the teachers and the administration.  Longer days, a longer school year, an intense and rigid curriculum, and dedicated students are not the right fit for every teacher.  Some may prefer the standard school year or flexibility in teaching a subject.  Others may have gone into teaching to work with at-risk students that need help with motivation.  For success, the right teachers need to be in place and be committed.  The administration will need to help in identifying these teachers, looking at funding options to support more hours, and implementing the curriculum correctly.

For all parties involved, there should be a commitment to its success.   We cannot treat the new IB school as just an experiment.  It would be a disaster to create a poorly implemented IB school for our students while they lose the opportunity to attend the International Academy.

To the Board of Education and the teachers of Rochester Community Schools: Our students and our families are ready to make a strong commitment to educational success through the International Baccalaureate programs.  Please join us by implementing IB schools for every qualified child who chooses this rigorous path to learning.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2011 10:03 AM

    Great article Mr. Raymond!

    Over 200 of our 8th grade students (about 15%, or 1 in six kids) applied to the International Academy back in January. They took their chances with a lottery for 25 open spots.

    There may be many reasons why 17% of eligible students choose to go to Private and Parochial schools instead of Rochester Community Schools. But after talking to several parents who send their kids elsewhere, one of the key items is always a much more rigorous academic program.

    Our district is hungry for a more rigorous academic curriculum. Their educational achievement shouldn’t be left to “hoping” they win the lottery.

    I agree with you 100% that our board should not only explore these opportunities, but begin plans to implement them now so they can be ready to go.

  2. statman24 permalink
    May 19, 2011 12:17 AM

    How can graduating 15-20 diploma candidates each year be considered a cost effective program? That’s what’s happening at many schools around the country. If you can get an accurate accounting of what schools spend on this program (which is hard, because costs are buried everywhere), you can easily see why many are questioning it’s implementation.

    It’s clear that the Academy path is the most cost effective way to implement this program. Instead, though, many school districts try to sell this program with many ridiculous promises and insist that those who take even one class will be greatly enhanced by it.

    BTW, in Novi, they’re running an IB Drama class with 8 or less students in it. How do you explain this to parents who’s kids are being asked to share a classroom with more and more kids?

    • May 19, 2011 9:08 AM

      Statman, for some districts having their own IB schools will not make sense. For other districts, it makes considerable sense. Rochester Community Schools is a large district that has many students apply to be in the International Academy’s IB program. RCS would not have a problem filling seats for its own IB academy.

      Whether it is IB or AP, there are some classes that will be small because of their advanced nature. However, it is the mission of a school district to educate each and every student appropriately.

      What I would like to know is how small advanced classes cannot be justified, but athletic teams of 12 players having three coaches, free transportation, and access to dedicated school facilities can be justified.

      • May 20, 2011 9:33 AM

        Not only is it incumbent upon our school districts to teach our kids appropriately;

        It’s a necessity that they encourage our kids to reach as high as they can go.

        That means pushing AP classes, and hoping next year we have 10% more kids applying for the IB/IA program. It means pushing our kids to take Algebra 1 or Geometry in 8th grade. It also means providing means of support, instead of the old “sink or swim” method and discouraging kids because “you might fail”.

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