Education goes international
The Clarke County School District is implementing the International Baccalaureate program to further students’ education in an international manner.
To expand the limits of learning, the Clarke County School District has chosen to implement the International Baccalaureate Middle Years program, curriculum for grades sixth through tenth, at schools including Clarke Central High School.
“IB brings relevance to the learning, which almost gives more freedom to the learner and makes them think, ‘I want to know more about that.’” CCHS foreign language department teacher and IB coordinator Meri Blackburn said. “To hear about this exploratory learning you want, as a teacher, the freedom to always allow this.”
The IB program is a method of teaching curriculum for courses in all academic, fine arts, physical education and foreign language areas, bringing an international perspective to the classroom by including certain global aspects in the lessons and units. Schools including CCHS, Clarke Middle School, Burney-Harris Lyons Middle School, Hilsman Middle School and W. R. Coile Middle School are currently in the process of becoming official IB schools
Teachers must use IB methods for at least two units and present those methods to the class as a trial of IB curriculum. CCHS and CMS are farther along than other schools and plan to become an official IB school within the next few years.
Before schools become official, they must go through several phases. These phases include the consideration phase which is when the school interested in becoming an IB school is required to complete a “School information form” to show IB their interest. Following the consideration phase is the request for candidacy phase, which is when the school makes the decision to continue the authorization process by requesting to become a candidate school.
Once the consideration phase is complete the school must have complete an application and receive acceptance to become known as an IB school. CCHS is currently in this phase, known as the candidacy and request for authorization phase according to the official International Baccalaureate website, www.ibo.org.
The candidacy process, which is where CCHS is currently, for the Middle Years program typically takes three to five years to complete. Once the process is finalized, the school will be recognized as an official IB school.
“(Being authenticated is) a lengthy process. But this is a district initiative. So that means that all of our middle schools and both of our high schools will be Middle Year schools if we’re authenticated,” Blackburn said.
Teachers are required to attend instructional meetings held at CCHS by Blackburn in order to learn the IB teaching methods.
“Well basically it’s a lot of information that’s all new to us so I guess it’s a lot of information they’re giving to you in a short amount of time. I had to do a lot of research online. (The teacher training sessions) were very helpful when it came to giving us assistance,” fine arts department teacher Jeff Barnett teacher said.
After confirmation, CCHS plans to continue the IB program by applying for the Diploma Program. This enables certain IB classes for eleventh and twelfth grades because the IB program only goes through the tenth grade. DP classes are similar to AP classes already offered at CCHS.
Once students apply for these classes, they have the potential to receive an internationally recognized diploma for the completion of the class.
“(The) DP program opens a lot of doors for those students,” CCHS Principal Dr. Robbie P.Hooker said.
As a part of initiating IB at CCHS, teachers have been asked to pick a word describing them to post on a picture outside of their classrooms. The purpose of adding the IB program to CCHS is to promote rigorous learning and to push the expectations of students, similar to the intention of Advanced Placement courses.
“(Articles) mention AP and IB in the same sentence when you’re reading about something like No Child Left Behind. But when you’re talking specifically about IB, NCLB and about creating higher expectations for students they’re almost synonymous in that context,” Blackburn said. “They’re very different but when AP and IB are (considered) it’s about challenging students more.”
In order to create international themes, the courses follow lenses taught at instructional meetings. The lenses are health and social education, community and service, human integrity, approaches to learning and environments.
“The teachers develop the unit looking at the unit through a lens. There are five different lenses, one of them being community service– (if you) choose the lens of community service, you’d write the unit with that in your mind,” CCHS Assistant Principal Sheila Dunham said.
For example, with direction from an IB coordinator, Clarke Middle School classes took a day to focus on potato chips as an international focus which applies to the IB method.
“My class looked at international chips and we talked about the ones they thought were interesting. So, I had my kids write letters to Pringle either requesting samples or suggesting a new flavor. And we’re starting persuasive writing so I had them write persuasive letters,”
Clarke Middle School English teacher Meghan McNeeley said. As a part of the Middle Years program, students in tenth grade are asked to complete a final project, intended to show the students’ characteristics, skills and lessons gained from the IB classes.
“(The final project is) a personal project and it can be on absolutely anything and you have an adviser who goes through the steps with you,” CMS foreign language teacher Erin Tuggle said.
Although the final project can be optional, students are encouraged to complete it. By completing the final project, Hooker feels that students will gain more from IB.
“I think it’s going to be good for kids who take advantage of it. There are a lot of opportunities given to our students, you just have to take advantage of them,” Hooker said.
Marietta High School student Andrew Judd has already experienced IB courses. Judd takes classes offered by IB such as Theory of Knowledge.
“I would say that there is a big difference (between IB and regular classes); the IB grading scale is much more subjective. It’s not if you get a certain amount of things right. The curriculum is more (about) the quality of the work,” Judd said.
CCHS Principal Dr. Robbie Hooker hopes IB will provide opportunities and advantages for CCHS.
“I think for our students it’s going to take academics to a different level. When you talk about the IB program, it’s not going to put you just (in a local mindset) but internationally,” Hooker said. “Because I think, (with) jobs now you don’t just look locally, you look globally.”
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