Coming Face to Face With IB

Posted on 05 February 2011


By Claire Walla

Over the summer, administrators at the Sag Harbor School District began discussing the possibility of implementing a new program, called the International Baccalaureate (IB).

Founded in Switzerland in 1968, IB was created as a global education initiative meant to bring writing, critical thinking and worldly perspectives to the forefront of elementary and high school education.

Currently, over 3,000 schools use the program worldwide, including six here on Long Island.

“For me, IB embodies the best current practices in education,” said Pierson Middle/High School Principal Jeff Nichols, noting its emphasis is project-based assessments rather than multiple-choice tests.

But as a program that seems to encourage more questions than answers, many are still wondering what it’s really all about.

Robin Caltri, an independent consultant who promotes what he sees as the benefits of IB, came to Pierson two weeks ago to talk with parents and staff about the program. For Calitri, former principal of South Side High School in Rockville Centre, the value of IB is that it surpasses traditional ways of measuring intelligence.

“A gifted kid is one who reads well, thinks logically, does what the teacher wants and can do well on an exam,” Calitri said. “Others of us don’t have the gift of that intelligence. It takes us other ways to show what we know.”

IB draws from the teaching methods of Howard Gardner, a widely influential educator who proposed a method of education based on multiple intelligences: visual, spatial, kinesthetic, musical, logical, etc. And in an IB classroom, as many of these perspectives are drawn upon as possible. This may require teachers to assign more group assignments, skits and art projects, or even take more field trips.

“Students should not passively take notes and then regurgitate [that information] on a test,” Calitri added.

There may also be some change in content. But, while IB offers its own list of courses, it won’t exactly require teachers to reinvent the wheel.

For example, New York State requires eleventh graders to take U.S. history. In order to meet the state standards as well as IB requirements, diploma students would take an IB course called “History in America.” While it covers the United States, Calitri said this IB course also challenges students to think beyond their own borders, to consider a wider scope of American history that includes Mexico, Canada and Latin America.

“There may be some teachers who will have to redo their curriculum, and sometimes that’s a difficult thing for some teachers,” Calitri added. “They will have to broaden the scope of what they teach because a lecture course just doesn’t work.”

Representing the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH), Pierson math teacher Jim Kinnier addressed IB at last Monday’s education forum by reading from a statement drafted by TASH, essentially stating that teachers are open to exploring new ways of enhancing the curriculum.

“There’s some thought that teachers here are not open to improvement, and that’s absolutely not true,” he said later.

As for how IB would affect his classes, Kinnier was “intrigued” by learning about new ways to improve students’ abilities to think; but, he added, “I can’t make a decision myself as to whether or not IB is good until I go to the training.” Kinnier will be attending a seminar later this month in Houston, Texas.

Pierson history teacher Frank Atkinson-Barnes, who has already been through the three-day training program, said he still favors AP.

“I really like my AP World class,” he said. “I just wish we could tweak it a bit.”

Atkinson-Barnes did admit that there are some things IB does well.

“It’s not always a matter of apples and oranges,” he added.

The two-year IB format, for example, would allow teachers to teach more in-depth writing and research methods, which currently “I just don’t have time to do.”

However, he believes AP courses, which tend to survey a wider range of information, often better serve high school students. In his opinion, the school should keep AP classes, but spice them up with IB principles.

“Whether or not we go to IB, these [IB training] days weren’t wasted,” he said.

Even though the number of IB diploma and certificate students should roughly equate to the number of students currently taking AP courses, the idea — should the diploma program be a success — is for IB principles to trickle into many Pierson classes, and for the school to eventually grow the amount of IB participation.

And while many parents are enthusiastic for this change, some are still on the fence.

“You’re talking about changing the whole curriculum. This is going to be something that’s going to affect everyone in this school,” said Laura Matthers, whose twin daughters are currently freshmen at Pierson.

The school is considering implementing the program in fall 2012, so Matthers’ daughters will be among the first Pierson students eligible to receive IB diplomas. But, she added that as a parent of two children with different passions, she is concerned that IB might affect one child differently than the other.

For her daughter who is more artistically inclined, Matthers said IB pedagogy might suit her needs well. She welcomes the opportunity to enrich standard-level courses with more activities and to emphasize different ways of learning.

On the other hand, her other daughter is on-track to take Advanced Placement (AP) scholar courses, a track she worries might get bumpy should IB get in the way.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” she said, including whether or not IB credits will transfer over to university, or even whether IB would make it more difficult for her daughter to qualify for a merit-based scholarship. (Administrators have said that many schools do recognize and give credit for IB coursework.)

According to Nichols, should IB get introduced to the curriculum, AP options would not diminish, in fact AP courses might even be taught alongside IB. He also reiterated IB’s claim that any student who has completed IB coursework will do well on an AP exam in that same subject — the reverse is apparently not true.

Though it’s a hot topic at Pierson, elementary school parents have IB on their radars as well.

As her fifth-grade daughter nears her transition from Sag Harbor Elementary School to Pierson Middle School, Joan Dudley said she actually started considering moving back to Westchester County and sending her daughter to a private school in the city. She wondered whether a move to the private sector might give her children the more challenging curriculum she feels they need.

She’s since reconsidered.

“The thought of IB coming has made me stop thinking about other options,” she said.

Dudley is excited for the prospect of introducing IB to the curriculum not just for the opportunity students will have to receive an IB diploma, but for the work ethic that goes hand in hand with the program’s ideals.

“Whether they’re [teaching for] the diploma, the certificate, AP or regular courses, teachers will be teaching at a higher level,” she said.

Julie Hatfield, another fifth-grade parent at Sag Harbor Elementary School, also attributes her success to IB. Hatfield was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, and ultimately earned her masters degree in architecture from Harvard.

One of only two students who participated in the IB program in its inaugural year at South Side High School, Hatfield praises IB for bringing the idea of critical questioning to the forefront of her education.

“I don’t even think I knew that was an option before,” she said.

Hatfield is sometimes frustrated by her daughter’s assignments — like “mad-minute math,” meant to test her ability to recall information quickly — and hopes the district will continue to explore IB, which hinges on more critical thinking.

“I have noticed that there are some teachers who are comfortable differentiating between students’ abilities, and some who aren’t,” she said. “And the ones who are, do more project-based learning. They are the ones my children are most engaged by, and I think IB is an extension of that.”

Nothing is set in stone, but the district will continue to consider the IB program for fall 2012. Principal Jeff Nichols will give a presentation on IB at the next board of education meeting on Monday, February 7.

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10 Responses to “Coming Face to Face With IB”

  1. I see Mr. Calitri is still being paid consulting fees to spread his IB propaganda. In 2004, Calitri stood before a gathering of Locust Valley parents and swore up and down that, “ALL of the TOP schools on Long Island are CLAMORING for IB!” I conducted a survey of ALL of the TOP schools on Long Island (Jericho, Syosset, Wheatley, Manhasset, Cold Spring Harbor, Roslyn) and it would appear Calitri told a big fat lie because NONE of those TOP schools were even considering IB. In fact, Jericho, Wheatley and Oyster Bay-East Norwich had investigated IB and decided to reject it in favor of retaining a large selection of AP courses. Since 2004, Glen Cove and Garden City have also rejected IB and only W. Islip and the city of Long Beach have gone IB (hardly TOP school districts).

    Gaining IB authorization is nothing to brag about. In fact, in the seven years I have been investigating IB, I have yet to come across a single American school which has failed to receive IB authorization, as long as the checks are good.

    Why waste over $200,000 a year on this divisive, elitist, anti-American program in this terrible economy? Nothing may be “set in stone” but your district is spending your hard earned taxdollars on the IB application process and expensive IB teacher training. Demand to know how much has already be wasted being sent to Geneva, Switzerland and put a stop to this indoctrination NOW!

  2. “According to Nichols, should IB get introduced to the curriculum, AP options would not diminish, in fact AP courses might even be taught alongside IB. He also reiterated IB’s claim that any student who has completed IB coursework will do well on an AP exam in that same subject — the reverse is apparently not true.”

    Let’s debunk this specious claim right now, shall we? First of all, AP course WILL be either completely minimized or eliminated altogether. In a small HS such as Sag Harbor’s, you simply do not have the student population to run BOTH AP and IB, nor the resources. IB insists on “transforming the culture” of the entire school, so any talk of combining AP with IB is just that, talk. It will be the proprietary (not free) IB syllabi which will be followed. In other words, if parents want to know what will be taught to their children, they must PURCHASE the IB course guides from the IB Store. This is in contrast to AP courses which are available online for free.

    Secondly – the only reason IB encourages students to also take the AP exam is to buttress IB’s inferior recognition of its SL (standard level) exams by universities for college credit. Most U.S. universities do not recognize IB SL exams at all. Even some of IB’s HL (higher level – 2 yr.) exams such as its History of the Americas are only given “elective” credit at universities because the course does not align with college-level U.S. History.

    Thirdly, why would any parent force their child to sit through 8 hours of exams in a single subject? Does that make any sense? Why should you pay $182 per subject, instead of $86 for just AP?

    And if you want proof of how IB eliminates AP, just take a look at photo #2 from your nearby neighbor East Hampton’s recent IB presentation or look at Locust Valley’s course offerings:

  3. Ibeenthere says:

    Why is this so hard to understand?

    Why are we giving our precious children and our tax dollars to what amounts to an indoctrination of an archaic educational format….how is it working in countries with outstanding educational standards…why put your child through something that is not valued at the college level as it once was….the colleges look at AP more because they are getting wise to the fact that the IB programs are vastly diverse, county to county, state to state. AP is graded in America, created in America, and taught in America……can this be said for IB material….Simply, go ahead and give your child to the IB program and you have lost your rights. The IB Coordinator rules stick no matter what…..if you disagree with the program so be it. But would you let any school take your child’s rights and your rights away….the American rights….don’t buy into this….colleges are looking at SATs, grades, difficulty of cirriculum, AP, IB, financial need, and ethnicity……IB is not a guaranteed credit program. Different colleges have different rules.

    My theory…old but proven…..Begin with the end in Mind….so if the colleges aren’t valuing the IB program drastically and it is just a component….how will your child have time to get the SAT scores that are
    needed…..don’t fool yourself….2400 is expected….and when all the applications come in for an admitting class…..the SAT scores are averaged.

    The best advice I can give is to get an appointment with a college admissions officer and ask the questions you need to. Then, ask the admissions advisor, what you should have asked that you didn’t. I have watched the colleges be disenchanted with IB over the last 5 years.

    Good luck Long Island…..why does your real estate taxes look like the national debt now? What will it be after you implement the IB program?

    So frustrated that people would join in and drink the IB juice when there are so many of us who have walked the walk and lived to tell about the abuse.

  4. MOMwithAbrain says:

    Don’t do it!! I live in an IB district and it’s done nothing but divide our community. WHy? Because IB partners with the United Nations. Within the program you will find a political agenda courtesy the UN. THis has caused many parents to voice anger and opposition over the program. We are now spending far more money on this program and could have saved it and just kept AP. Now in order to justify IB, they diminish the AP classes and push IB on the students.
    However our students are not doing well on receiving college credit for IB courses. They will sell it, but I can tell you that many students never receive any credit for the IB courses.

    Watch these two videos!! Make sure you fight this BEFORE it comes into your school.

  5. Guest Who says:

    MOMwithAbrain, TruthaboutIB, and Lisa McLoughlin seem to post on every IB related thread. Just google IB and read virtually any discussion and the same people with the same right-wing, teabaggy, fundamentalist views rail against IB. Who are these people? Certainly not members of the Sag Harbor community – or the hundreds of other communities where they post. They just show up frothing at the mouth and attempt to inject their politics into communities they are not a part of. Am I the only one sick and tired of the fear-mongoring? I will not be paying attention to their posts.

    By the way, I prefer AP over IB simply because it allows kids to study subjects they are most interested in at a greater depth.

  6. Dear Guest Who,

    Why, we are American parents and taxpayers, Guest Who! And no, we’re not paid by the government to troll articles, like some of the IB trolls who show up all over the place.

    “Teabaggy fundamentalist views”? As compared to Libtard Communist views?

    Glad at least you have the common sense to realize that AP provides a college-level opportunity for students in their areas of greatest strength and interest.

  7. TAXPAYER says:

    What is going on in with this district! First they give out huge raises behind closed doors, they fight with teachers for years and then give them pretty much what they asked for, talk about 2% tax freeze and if that happens it will mean cuts across the board and bigger class sizes and less class offerings but……………lets spend hundreds of thousands of dollars looking at and starting a new program because the one we have ALREADY works. Oh and lets just keep giving people more money and then have those same people say we have to cut…Please its a joke! Make what you have better and stop giving the bank away. We are not a private school, stop treating it like one.

  8. “For example, New York State requires eleventh graders to take U.S. history. In order to meet the state standards as well as IB requirements, diploma students would take an IB course called “History in America.”

    Actually, the course is called “History of the Americas”. It appears to be offered mostly at the HL (2 yr) level in U.S. IB schools and I challenge any public school administrator to demonstrate how this course meets NYS standards for Economics and U.S. Government, both 12th Grade requirements for graduation in NYS.

  9. Ivy grad says:

    I think the IB curriculum would be a disservice to our students because:

    1) It does not provide the solid, in depth subject knowledge that students need for today’s competitive world, which AP courses can provide, and
    2) Students can earn college credits for AP courses, enabling them to shorten time to degree and preserve precious tuition dollars for graduate school if so desired, while IB college credit can be elusive.

    In an era of limited resources, I doubt that both the IB and AP curriculum could be fully supported; in my opinion the AP curriculum is vastly more valuable to students. I went to a “progressive” high school with an admired curriculum, but no AP program. I would have been better served had I had the hard knowledge from a few AP courses under my belt before freshman year.

  10. thanks for blogging, i really enjoy reading your posts

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