“What I learned was that rapid implementation of the diploma program will not work here. The message is clearly to slow down on the diploma program,” Breen said at last week’s School Board meeting.
International Baccalaureate, which was developed for schools serving children of diplomats and international workers, offers three levels – primary years from kindergarten to grade five, middle years from grades six to 10 and diploma level for grades 11 and 12.
Teachers raised concerns that the diploma level, which brings students at graduation to the international standard of 13 years of school – the equivalent of a high school diploma and a year of college in the United States – might be too rigorous for students unfamiliar with IB.
“A lot of us are concerned with this program,” said high school English teacher Diane Williams. “There’s overwhelming support for the middle school program, but with the diploma program, we have a lack of resources. We won’t even have the clientele until the middle years program is on its feet. It should be more like five or six years before we reexamine it and see if we have the clientele and the staff.”
Breen agreed that working at the middle school level would bring needed vertical alignment to curriculum and instruction for both lower and upper grades and prepare up-and-coming students for the rigors of the diploma program later on.
“We need to slow way down and focus on grades six to 10,” she said. “We’ve got a big group in the middle. We can push out from there.”
She said that the diploma program could be in place within three years – soon enough for this year’s eighth graders – but believed that was too ambitious and that it would likely take longer.
“We can take our time with the diploma program. We may even decide not to do the diploma program,” Breen said.
One obstacle would be the cost of providing facilities required for IB certification at the diploma level.
“We can’t take that too lightly,” said high school social studies teacher Marcus Jacobsen. “It would require a new library because the students require constant access to a university-level research library and the nearest one is 80 miles away. We would need science labs. It would be a huge outlay of money. We need to take it slowly and talk to the taxpayers about where the money will come from.”
To begin implementing the middle and primary year program next year, school officials must notify IB by May 1.