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Director's Dispatch: International Baccalaureate Update

Goal number three of the ISD Strategic Plan is for students to succeed in the International Baccalaureate Program. One of the objectives for this goal was to assess the feasibility of adding both the IB Primary Years Program (PYP), for grades pre-K to 5, and the IB Middle Years Program (MYP), for grades 6 to 10.  In 2017, based on feedback from the parents and the educators, the Board of Trustees approved applying to be a PYP candidate school, and in 2018 the Board approved applying to be an MYP candidate school.  The implementation of both programs is well underway, while our IB Diploma Program, for students in grades 11 and 12, is in its sixth year and continues to grow and thrive.

The process to become authorized to offer an International Baccalaureate Program generally takes 2-3 years. The first step is to apply to be a Candidate School. The school administration must show there is significant support from both the parents and the teachers for the IB Program.  The application must also be approved by a vote of the Board of Trustees.  Once the IB approves the application, the school is assigned a consultant to guide the school through the process.   At one point in the process, the consultant will visit the school, meet students, teachers, and parents, and provide feedback to the school’s administrators.  When the school feels it is ready, and the consultant agrees, the school can request an authorization visit.  

The authorization visit is done by a team of IB educators.  They visit classrooms, observe lessons, and meet with students, teachers, and parents.   To become authorized, a school must demonstrate to the team’s satisfaction that the school has the following standards and practices in place or in progress.

  • The school’s educational beliefs and values reflect IB philosophy.

  • The school’s leadership and administrative structures ensure the implementation of the IB program.

  • The school’s resources and support structures ensure the implementation of the IB program

  • Collaborative planning and reflection support the implementation of the IB program.

  • The school’s written curriculum reflects IB philosophy.

  • Teaching and learning reflects IB philosophy.

  • Assessment at the school reflects IB assessment philosophy.

The team then compiles a report and sends it to the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), who will notify the school if they have made sufficient progress to offer the IB Program.  Once the school is authorized to offer the program, they must complete a comprehensive review of the program and submit the findings to the IBO every five years.

Our Elementary School was approved to be a candidate school during the summer of 2017.  The implementation phase started in August of 2017, and we planned on it taking three years.  Based on the teachers’ significant progress in the first year, we decided to go for authorization a year ahead of schedule. The Consultant Visit for the Elementary School took place in August this year.  Based on what the consultant observed and the positive feedback from the community, the consultant approved us applying for our authorization visit.  The PYP Authorization Visit was in mid-March. The Visiting Team was impressed with the progress the elementary school had made, and we are hopeful the school will receive the official authorization by the end of this school year.

The Middle and High School was approved to be a candidate school during the summer of 2018.  The implementation phased started in August of 2018, and the action plan calls for a two and half year implementation.  The administration chose to have the consultant visit earlier in the process. The consultant was on campus last week. He noted the implementation plan was on schedule, gave a number of commendations as well as areas that need to fully implemented. The implementation plan calls for us to apply for the authorization visit in spring of 2020 with the authorization team coming to campus in fall of 2020.

Our IB Diploma Program for students in grades 11 and 12 was authorized in the summer of 2013.  The high school enrollment has grown by 60% since we started offering the IB Diploma.  The IB Diploma is very well respected worldwide by universities and has helped many of our students be accepted to their first choice colleges.  This past May, our students had the highest pass rate on their exams and the highest average score of any ISD class. 

The number of students who participate in the IB Diploma Program continues to grow each year. This fall, we completed our five-year review, a self-study completed by the IB teachers and administration with input from high school students and parents.  The IBO approved our review with “no matters to be addressed” which is the highest rating.

Becoming an IB school has fundamentally changed teaching and learning at ISD.  It has increased the academic rigor of our program while emphasizing student inquiry over teacher lectures.  While a school can become authorized to offer the IB PYP and MYP in two to three years, it will take five to seven years for a school to implement the programs fully.   As a result, implementing the PYP and MYP will continue to be the main focus of our teachers and administration. The teachers, IB Coordinators, and principals have worked hard to make these programs successful. Based on the stories from students and parents, the changes has been a positive one. 

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