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The International Baccalaureate program for more city middle schools?

Houston may not be alone in seeing an increase in schools using International Baccalaureate programs. New York’s Blueprint for Middle School Success, which identifies “key elements” of successful middle school programs, briefly mentions International Baccalaureate (IB), along with America’s Choice and Project Grad, as “protocols, programs, and/or school reform models” that school leaders should consider when developing a college prep curriculum.

According to the IB website, few city schools use IB at the moment — Mott Hall Bronx High School, Manhattan’s Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, Staten Island’s Curtis High School, and Queens’ Baccalaureate School for Global Education — and only Thurgood Marshall and the Baccalaureate School have the IB Middle Years Program.

What stands out about the Middle Years Program is not the range of subjects taught nor the five themes which unite the student’s learning experience, as shown in the diagram above, but the personal project, an in-depth study undertaken by each child, and other innovative approaches to assessment. Teachers develop their own course assignments and assessments, ranging from projects to exams and including opportunities for self-assessment and peer-assessment. Final assessments are not standardized tests or even standardized projects. Rather,

teachers administer appropriate sets of assessment tasks and rigorously apply the prescribed assessment criteria defined for each subject group. The type of assessment tools available to teachers include all forms of oral work, written work, and practical work.

A school can request that the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) validate students’ grades, a review process in which external moderators apply IB standards to samples of student work and compare their grades to the teachers’ grades, which helps maintain standards from school to school.

Of course, schools implementing the MYP program would not be exempt from standardized state assessments. One Houston principal interviewed in the Chronicle, however, found that the IB program pushes students far beyond what’s on the test:

IB also encourages students and teachers to go much deeper than what’s covered by state standardized testing. Schools don’t spend their time practicing test questions, he said.

“You can do that after school or on Saturdays. During the school day, you put all the energy on this,” Beringer said.

“This is real teaching.”

International Baccalaureate doesn’t come for free; the IBO charges schools a yearly fee of $6,620 to implement the Middle Years Program, with additional fees to become an authorized IB program, and for validation of grades.

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