Students in the East Grand Rapids High School Class of 2018 may have the option of graduating with a global diploma. The district just finished the first year of a three-year process to start an International Baccalaureate program for high school juniors and seniors, and recently was approved as a candidate for the Diploma Program. Authorization is scheduled in 2015-2016 and implementation in 2016-2017.
The IB program, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, focuses on developing intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Founded in 1968, it works with 3,718 schools in 147 countries and offers four programs to more than 1 million students.
“I am excited about IB and believe it will enhance learning opportunities for East students by providing a curriculum and instructional practices that are rigorous and focused on developing the 21st-century skills our students need to compete and succeed in the global environment,” Principal Jenny Fee said. “Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills will be developed through the IB curriculum.”
Jeanne Glowicki, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and a team of staff and community members focused on extensive training and site visits to prepare for the application.
Glowicki said IB fits in perfectly with the vision and mission statement of East Grand Rapids Public Schools, including global-mindedness and a focus on development of the whole child.
“In the IB we are really hoping students see they can focus on strength areas but still have a really rich background,” she said.
Giving Students Another Option
An IB diploma also provides students a competitive advantage for college admissions and to achieve more success while in college, according to a 2012 study by i-graduate, a United Kingdom-based research consultancy.
If authorized as an IB school, EGR high school students would be able to complete the rigorous, integrated IB Diploma course of study, or pick and choose from IB courses. Current eighth-grade students would be the first to benefit.
City High/Middle School, West Ottawa Public Schools and Portage Northern and Central high schools offer IB programs.
IB is set up as three programs: Primary, Middle Years, and Diploma. The course of study is school-wide in elementary and middle schools, and students opt into the diploma program in high school. EGR currently is only applying for the Diploma Program.
Some advanced placement and IB courses could potentially be taught together. Most staff members already have completed some training.
The Diploma Program requirements consist of six subjects taken concurrently over two years. In addition to English, foreign language, science, math and arts, they include courses on Theory of Knowledge; Creativity, Action and Service, which involves activities alongside academics; and a 4,000-word essay.
The cost to the district of implementing IB will depend on the number of students interested because of student registration and student subject fees. There are about $23,000 in initial costs, and an annual school fee of $10,600. Each student would pay a $151 registration fee to take one or more examinations in a particular session and a fee of $104 for each subject taken.
Glowicki said funding could come from district money set aside for innovation, and through collaboration with the EGR Schools Foundation, private donors, and corporate and community sponsorships and partnerships.