What’s all the hype about International Baccalaureate? And what makes it so great?
These were questions that I asked myself as I witnessed the ceremonies held for the up-and-coming IB program, which started my junior year. As a senior now, I’m deemed “too old” to join, so I vented my frustration in the form of this article.
Why did my own Roosevelt get the program much later than other Minneapolis schools, like Southwest or Patrick Henry? And what exactly is IB anyway?
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Eduardo Sanchez, a sophomore and program participant, was able to shed some light on this topic. “I would not say I know a lot, but that there are six classes you have to take. It takes two years to get the diploma, so teachers can prepare you and get you on track,” said Sanchez.
Chris Hoskyn, a Roosevelt senior expressed similar views, saying how he didn’t know much about the program “except it’s a lot harder than AP classes or honors classes.”
But is IB really harder than Advanced Placement classes? Mr. Gilman, Roosevelt’s principal, seems to think so. “Look it this way: AP is a class and IB is a program. The student is getting a more comprehensive, holistic education than you would with the AP program, which is more like college. AP is just about teaching a college class. IB is a much broader, more comprehensive, look to how students should be educated on an international scale.”
I wasn’t satisfied by that answer alone. No one would know more about the rigor of the IB program as compared to its competitors than Ms. McPartlin, Roosevelt’s IB coordinator. According to McPartlin, although both programs aim to make students college ready, the success of the IB student compared to the AP student is in the flexibility of their test. McPartlin states, “A broader range of students will be successful in the IB as compared to the AP because it has more flexibility in assessment. For example, students in IB English perform oral and written assessments. In IB Science, the assessments include, written essay tests, written lab work (that can be revised), multiple-choice tests, short answer and graph analysis.”
Ms. McPartlin also stressed the programs other strengths, “A program offering college credit while developing skills of a life-long learner and concerned citizen, what’s not to love?”
If the IB program is so great, why are there so few? According to Mr. Gilman, now all Minneapolis public high schools were accredited, minus South. “It’s a three year authorization process. It’s a lot of time and money invested, even though the money comes from the district; you just have to be willing to spend the money. It’s the most challenging to bring into the schools,” said Gilman.
Why do some schools get IB before others? For example, Henry and Southwest had the IB program before any other Minneapolis school. Gilman said that community involvement, as well as money was a deciding factor for accreditation. “Henry and Southwest are two very different schools. With that difference, I can’t say that programs were placed in support of a certain ethnic group or income group, because the whole range is covered between the two schools. However, I would say that IB got placed in Southwest first before the other south side schools because the Southwest part of town is the highest socio-economic part of town and the parents in that area had the highest interest in IB.”
The problem of money before education is often associated with IB schools outside of the US, but the IB program is “trying to put a higher emphasis on the international, and making it such an exclusive program, as it is perceived in the US”, said Gilman.
Roosevelt students remain undeterred by the daunting facts. As Eduardo says, the program “Increases your thinking capacity. If you want to challenge yourself, go for IB. It’s amazing!”