1/31/16 IB program aimed at providing options

IB program aimed at providing options
Williams looking to start curriculum in fall of 2017
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 1/31/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

International Baccalaureate is not a different kind of Advanced Placement classes.

“AP are courses, independent college-level courses. What IB gives us is a program, a system,” said Freebird Mckinney, a Williams social studies teacher who taught IB in another school district. Students choose the college-level AP classes they want to take, and those classes don’t have much to do with each other.

Originally created for the children of diplomats and other international professionals, IB is an advanced curriculum in which students can earn college credit in an integrated program in the last two years of high school. Students are required to take a certain number of classes at different academic levels, and finish a set of independent projects to graduate with an IB diploma.

Williams will submit its application to become an IB school this spring, aiming to start teaching the classes in fall 2017. Students from Western Alamance and Cummings high schools would have the option to transfer to Williams to join the program.

Graham High School aims to start its own IB program a year later, which would be open to students from Eastern and Southern Alamance high schools. Then IB would be available to students across the Alamance-Burlington School System.

This is part of the ABSS strategic plan’s goal of having special programs at all schools to draw students and make education more equitable from school to school.

THE IB PROGRAM also would give students intimidated by AP a chance to take higher-level courses, said laurie Calder-green, a Williams English teacher who taught IB and teaches AP.

“This is going to reach the students that don’t always have the self-confidence to challenge themselves at the highest level, and that appeals to them in different ways,” Calder-green said. “They don’t have to come ready; they don’t have to come in top dog.”

To do well in AP classes, Caudle-green said, students have to be “linguistic learners,” meaning they learn best hearing someone talk or by reading, and be good, very good, at multiple-choice tests and short essays. Not all students are like that, she said.

“They don’t have to be linguistic in that they can answer 60 multiple-choice questions in 55 minutes; that’s a purely strong linguistic person,” Calder-Green said. “If that’s not your strength, you’re not going to do well on AP.”

Instead, an IB exam could be choosing two essay questions out of 20, and spending hours on them, McKinney said, giving students the chance go in depth on a subject that interests them and that they have studied.

“So we get their best shot,” McKinney said.

Students get the chance, and sometimes have to, show what they learned with something like an art project, though they have to be able to explain what it shows. Service projects and athletics also are part of the program.

IT’S STILL A tough program. To graduate with an IB diploma, students have to write a 4,000-word essay on a topic of their choosing, which is something McKinney said he didn’t do until his sophomore year of college.

“They know how to prioritize; they have to prioritize; they have to be able to do these things to do well in the IB program,” Calder-Green said. “They know they have challenged themselves in every subject.”

All this has made IB graduates appealing to colleges, she said.

“If I’m getting an IB diploma, I’m getting in pretty much anywhere I want,” Calder-Green said.

Colleges are more generous recognizing college-level credits from IB than AP. UNC Chapel Hill, for example, expects perfect scores on AP exams, but not on IB.

They were at pains to say IB would not be replacing AP classes, but it could draw students from AP classes, Calder-Green said. But IB students can still take AP classes, and not every student in an IB class is working toward a diploma.

“One of the fears is that this will somehow replace AP, or this will somehow diminish an elective,” McKinney said. “There are places for AP classes, for electives.”