You definitely could call East Grand Rapids High School sophomores Clara Luce and Keegan Sullivan avid learners.
“Just talking about learning, to me, is really very exciting,” said Clara.
“I think just thinking about thinking is interesting, and I’m willing to give up a little lunch time to do it,” added Keegan.
“It” is the International Baccalaureate program, and it’s official: Clara and Keegan’s school has been endorsed as an IB school. The designation has been nearly three years in the making; teachers have been preparing students in the Class of 2018 to sign up for the highly-regarded program. That means this year’s juniors will graduate with an IB diploma.
IB provides an opportunity for students to gain a more international perspective, said Principal Jennifer Fee. The program is exciting, she added, because research shows students who are graduates of an IB school are more prepared for college and persist in college at higher rates.
Like Advanced Placement students, graduates of the IB program can often start college courses at higher levels. And there are more scholarship opportunities for IB students.
Jeanne Glowicki, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said data shows the university acceptance rate for students educated in standard public school programs in 47 percent. “The acceptance rates for full IB diploma students is almost double,” Glowicki said, “because they know those skills lead to contributions at the college level.”
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. Schools that participate are visited every few years to ensure they are following the program guidelines.
According to IB by-state data, City High/Middle in Grand Rapids is the only other IB public school in Kent County.
EGR students will be able to complete the rigorous, integrated IB Diploma curriculum or pick and choose from its courses. The full, voluntary 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.
“It goes so far beyond development of an academic skill,” said Fee, the principal. “It’s much more intentional, the curriculum, in developing the ability to recognize that there are differences when it comes to cultural, ethnic, political and economic perspectives, and that those are not right or wrong, just different.”
Student Curiosity and Desire
While general education and AP courses will still be offered, Fee said every student and teacher in the high school will be involved in IB in some way, because the course of study will trickle down from the junior and senior years into the ninth- and 10th-grade levels.
And while Keegan, Clare and other students who choose to participate will have to give up two or three lunch periods per week to fit in the required work, Fee said there won’t be a dramatic increase in schoolwork.
“These are students who are going to do academics whether there is or isn’t an IB program,” Fee said. “IB is just something they are doing out of their own curiosity and desire. It’s something different, rather than something more.”