As the IB Conference in New Orleans comes to a close, I would be remiss to leave without taking on the question of “Why IB?” As the Head of an established IB World School that offers the Diploma Programme to students in grades 11-12, I still find myself in discussions with members of our school community on this very topic. As a school leader, it is critical to remain objective and open-minded when evaluating any program to ensure that the needs of all students are best served. During my two years of closely examining the Diploma Programme as the “Head of School,” I have seen countless benefits from both a student and a systemic perspective and fully believe that the IB should at least be explored by high schools who are currently offering the more traditional “college-level” programs.
Five reasons for a school to offer (or at least consider) the IB Diploma Programme are as follows:
1) It Promotes International Mindedness: The curriculum and pedagogy of the IB focuses on international perspectives while emphasizing the importance of having students explore their home culture and language. All IB Diploma students enroll in a core Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course and examine all core disciplines from multiple perspectives and respective “ways of knowing.” The world that students are now entering is radically different from only a few years ago as this generation will now compete for jobs and services in a global market that is fully interdependent. The IB Programme was ahead of its time from its inception and is now “taking off” due to the ever-changing demands and skills that students now need in order to succeed in college, the workforce, and beyond.
2) Connection to the Common Core (CCSS): The CCSS have now been adopted by 45 states in support of a nationwide effort to promote college and career readiness in all schools. In taking even a cursory look at the IB standards for learning, one would notice that the goals and core values of the IB are in genuine alignment with the aims and desired outcomes of the common core. In fact, the IB was one of five programs that the developers of the CCSS looked to as an example of exemplary learning standards. Both the IB and the CCSS are aligned in that both focus on inquiry, text complexity, evidence-based arguments, real-world application, and deep conceptual understanding. As such, the transition to the CCSS is a smooth one for all IB World Schools.
3) The Program is Fully Inclusive: Perhaps the greatest quality of the IB Diploma Program is that all students receive meaningful and equitable access to the curriculum. At our school, for example, all students enroll in at least one IB course with some pursuing the full IB Diploma. In addition, the qualities that are outlined in the IB Learner Profile are embedded in all classes in grades 9-12 and are central to the mission of our school. Some of the ways that the IB accomplishes this is by offering courses at both a Standard Level (SL) and a Higher Level (HL) and by using a varied and ongoing approach (internal and external) to assess student understanding. This is radically different from other “college-level” programs that assess (and score) students based exclusively on one culminating exam at the end of the course.
4) The Research is Growing: A great deal of research has been conducted by the IB and outside agencies to determine the degree to which students are prepared for success in the more competitive colleges and universities in the world. Findings repeatedly show that IB students are not only accepted at higher rates, but graduate within four years at a higher percentage and with higher overall grade point averages. As such, the “Common App” that students complete during the admissions process now has a section which asks if a student attends an IB school and whether they are candidates for the full IB Diploma. College admissions counselors have repeatedly reported to us that they actively recruit students from IB Schools due to the findings noted above.
5) The IB Community: IB teachers are members of a special community of educators from around the world. As such, teachers are able to network and collaborate with colleagues that are both local and overseas. In addition to traditional “training,” all IB teachers participate in roundtable discussions with colleagues from local schools and have access to the Online Curriculum Centre (OCC). This resource provides IB teachers with resources, updates, support areas for special education, access to online subject specialists, and an opportunity to connect with other IB teachers.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or if your school is considering the IB Diploma Programme. I have connected with many teachers and administrators over the past year on Twitter (johnfalino1) and am more than happy to help in any what that I can.