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District Takes Next Step in International Baccalaureate Program

Year Two of a Three-year Application Process

East Grand Rapids High School is moving closer to becoming endorsed as an International Baccalaureate school. In the meantime, teachers are preparing students in the Class of 2018 to sign up for the highly-regarded program.

English teacher and IB coordinator Heather McKinney is preparing eighth-graders and freshmen for eventual entry into the program. Those who complete it, beginning as juniors in 2016, will graduate with an IB diploma in 2018.

Heather McKinney
Heather McKinney

“IB provides an opportunity for our students to gain a more international perspective,” McKinney said. “They will graduate with a global knowledge and ability to interact mindfully with a diversity of people. This program is exciting, because research shows students who are graduates of an IB school are more prepared for college and persist in college at higher rates.”

The Geneva, Switzerland-based program 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 nearly 4,000 schools in 147 countries to develop and offer four programs to more than 1 million students.

Freshmen Lydia Hoff, Kate O’Connell and Katherine Donnelly said they are excited to get started as juniors.

“I really like how you are learning what other schools are learning (across the world),” Kate said. “The classes connect with each other to improve your learning experience.”

“You can go deeper into different subjects than just hitting the surface,” said Katherine. Added Lydia, “It opens different doors to the future.”

The district plans to submit its application for authorization by April, said Jeanne Glowicki, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Once authorized to take the next step, administrators will prepare for course implementation, and IB representatives will conduct a site visit next fall. The district will be notified in December or January and, if approved, begin classes in fall of 2016.

Katherine Donnelly said she is excited to get started with the IB program
Katherine Donnelly said she is excited to get started with the IB program

The district is well into its second year of the three-year application process. A consultant met last semester with administrators, board members and teachers who have been working on curriculum implementation.

Students would be able to complete the rigorous, integrated IB Diploma curriculum or pick and choose from its courses. This full program consists of six subjects taken over two years. Besides the usual subjects, it includes courses on Theory of Knowledge; Creativity, Action and Service; and an extended essay.

IB will ‘Trickle’ Into All Classrooms

While general education and Advanced Placement courses will still be offered, Principal Jenny Fee said IB would impact the entire school.

“Every single student and teacher in the high school will be involved in some way, because the curriculum will trickle down from the junior and senior year into the ninth- and 10th-grade level,” Jenny Fee said. “You will see IB approaches and IB practices in non-IB classes.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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