Forum addresses IB progress within Grand Canyon district

More than 50 residents turned out on Tuesday, Jan. 24, to to hear about progress on implementation of the International Baccalaureate Program.

The tone was generally positive with Primary Years Coordinator Bob Kelso and Middle Years Coordinator Becky Crumbo providing an overview of their respective programs and explaining the IB vocabulary.

Teachers, most from the elementary school, were also there to talk about their IB experiences.

First-year teacher Wendy Horner called the program "beneficial."

"It's been a huge weight off my mind as a first year teacher," she said. "I don't have to think, 'how do I organize all this stuff?'"

"The IB program opens doors for achievement and accountability," said Middle School teacher Lori Rommel. "It's helped me to be focused and organized, inspired and motivated. Before, we had to re-invent the wheel each time we started a new subject."

Not everyone spoke out in support. High school teacher Marcus Jacobson wanted to know why the district felt it had to spend as much as it did and to go overseas to find a good program.

"Couldn't we have looked at hiring a curriculum coordinator from NAU?" he asked. "Why do we need Europeans to come and tell us how to do it? We are the lowest paid teachers in Arizona and the lowest paid IB teachers in the world."

Parent Laura Harner also questioned the decision to go with IB.

"There are lot of great curricula," she said. "IB is not the only way."

She also objects to the fact that IB is being implemented district-wide without an alternative non-IB program.

"You find IB schools in large cities and districts that have multiple schools," she said. "I have yet to find a school where IB is the only choice. It concerns me that people in our community passionately said they opposed this program. We have removed any option for them to attend other school within their local community."

Kelso said that the administration preferred IB over going "ala carte" and building a framework. He said other programs, like Dimensions of Learning, are no longer being produced.

"It was really good stuff, but they don't sell it anymore," said Kelso.

Kindergarten teacher Cyndi Moreno described the evolution of the process, which started in March of 2004, with all teachers attending an introduction to IB in Salt Lake City.

"We came back with an overwhelming amount of information," Moreno said.

One of the early struggles, she said, was in not understanding where each element of the program fit. They started writing planners ­ essentially lesson plans ­ and then realized they first had to build a program of inquiry ­ a curriculum framework with standards of learning for every subject in the elementary school. The elementary school as a whole worked on it.

Crumbo added that teachers this year have 10 in service days dedicated to curriculum writing.

The presentation also included how much money has been spent on IB so far and where it went.

Kelso said the district has spent $158,780 to implement the program so far, with the bulk of the money ­ about $93,000 ­ going to pay for training and extra work days for the teachers. The funding came from a source known as 301 money, which is earmarked for teacher training and incentives, as well as Title 1 money.

Crumbo said there is a big difference between how teachers got training before and how they get it now.

"We always did teacher training," she said. "But it was really no more than drive-by training. We had to come up with a professional development plan that was continuous."

Kelso and Crumbo said that the PYP implementation is further along than for the MYP.

"We're not quite there, getting (MYP) standards correlated and units together," Crumbo said. "We are starting to see the big picture."

IB has three levels ­ Primary, Middle Years and Diploma. The high school program was developed in the 1960s to provide uniformly high standards for international schools serving children of diplomats and other mobile populations abroad.

Initially the district was eyeing all three programs but after high school teachers raised concerns about the rigorousness of the Diploma program, that was dropped.

Grand Canyon School is working toward implementation of the Primary Years program for grades kindergarten-five and the Middle Years program for grades six-10.

Health teacher Dan Lopez, however, said that some people are confused about when and if the program was explicitly approved.

"There is a lot of confusion among our own staff," he said. "We were told that it was approved when we got back from Salt Lake (in March of 2004). We've heard 'yes, it's approved, no it wasn't."

That question will be answered at the School Board meeting to be held next Tuesday, when the board makes a formal vote.

They meet at 6:30 p.m. in the school library.

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