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SCASD Moving Forward with International Baccalaureate Programs

by on March 27, 2018 12:05 AM

State College Area School Board on Monday approved submitting applications to implement International Baccalaureate Diploma and Career-related Programmes at State High.

In 2017, the district applied for candidacy with the nonprofit International Baccalaureate foundation and now will seek authorization to begin offering the two programs for 11th and 12th grades beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

International Baccalaureate's curriculum is offered in hundreds of schools, providing a focus on student-driven personal development. 

“It’s very student-centered, particularly with core components where students get to develop their own creative project or community service project,” State High IB Diploma Programme Coordinator-Designee Jennifer Schreiber said in a story about the program on the district's website. “There are a lot of student-initiated pieces where teachers are there to support it but not drive it.”

For the IB Diploma Programme, students take at least six courses during their junior and senior years in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and art. If approved, State High’s initial offerings will be Literature and Language; Language Acquisition B for students with at least two to three years experience in French, German, Latin and Spanish;  Business and Management; Economics; History; World Religions; Physics; Environmental Systems and Societies; Sports, Exercise and Health Science; Mathematics (Applied); Mathematics (Theoretical); Music; Film; and Visual Arts.

Courses are graded from 1 to a top score of 7 and diplomas require a minimum of 24 points. Students also must complete an interdisciplinary Theory of Knowledge course that explores ways of thinking and draws from the six curriculum groups. A 4,000 word essay on a topic of choice and an individualized project, worth one point each, also are required.

IB students can earn college credits from the courses. Advance Placement courses, which also are offered at State High, offer the ability to earn college credits. Jacque Martin, director of curriculum, said that though enrollments may fluctuate, the district does not intend to eliminate any AP courses and the IB program provides another option.

“This is an opportunity for students in our district to have a choice in their education,” Martin said.

Martin said it's also possible for students to take a few IB courses with out pursuing the diploma.

The IB Career-related Programme includes professional and personal skills, language development, a service-learning project and a project exploring an ethical dilemma in a career studies area. It requires a chosen Career and Technical Center pathway and two IB Diploma Programme courses.

The Career-related Programme "aims to teach personal development, intercultural understanding, effective communication, thinking processes and applied ethics,' according to the district.

State High will not create a separate learning community for IB students, but rather will keep them integrated with other students. Martin and Associate Principal Kathy Pechtold said that was a recommendation the administrative team received when it visited other schools where the IB program had already been established.

Board member Lori Bedell said she expects that just as students involved with sports, music or drama develop connections but are still part of the rest of the school community, so too would IB students.

"They have a bond but they’re very much involved with other activities," Pechtold added.

Since receiving permission from the board in September 2016 to begin exploring the IB program, district administrators visited an IB Diploma Programme at McCaskey High School in Lancaster and a Primary Years Programme in Montgomery County. Community and faculty presentations were held and the district conducted surveys among parents and students.

Of the 514 parents and guardians who responded to a survey, 78 percent supported offering IB programs as a choice in the district. Twenty-four State College Area High School students met with students from the IB program at McCaskey and half said they would be interested in pursuing the IB Diploma Programme. A third said they would take more than one IB course.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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