By Sue Botos
Rocky River High School has officially added the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme to its menu of student course offerings.
Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, incoming juniors accepted into the program will participate in the two-year course of study, which will be hosted by Westlake High School. Students from Berea and Avon Lake high schools will also take part in the collaboration.
Rocky River Assistant Superintendent Elizabeth Anderson told the school board at its May committee of the whole session that current sophomores who have applied for the program were notified of their selection at the beginning of the month. She said the students are to have a tour of Westlake High School and meet with IB teachers this week.
Administrators have been working throughout the year to iron out the details of participation in the IB program, which, according to the organization’s mission statement, “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”
Founded in Switzerland in 1968, IB is a nonprofit educational foundation offering four different programs for students ages 3 to 19. For the diploma program, students will be required to choose one subject from each of five groups: English, an additional language, social studies, science and math. An optional arts choice is available, or students can take a second course from one of the first five groups. Currently, about 3,787 schools in 148 countries offer IB courses.
Westlake’s four elementary schools have applied for IB primary certification.
Anderson said that students will spend their entire school day in Westlake, but would still remain connected to Rocky River High, through extracurricular and other activities. “Westlake provides the venue and staff,” she explained.
Last fall, some school board members had expressed concern that the program would compete with Advanced Placement courses. While IB is similar to AP in rigorousness of coursework, studies are interdisciplinary, and students must write a thesis to receive the IB diploma. Students taking AP courses are tested in individual subjects. Anderson said AP won’t be affected. “AP is more subject-focused. All classes in IB are connected. There’s more of a global focus,” she stated.
Westlake Superintendent Dan Keenan has noted that AP courses, for which students can earn college credit, may be best suited to those planning on a major in a specific subject. He said that IB would be an excellent choice for students pursuing liberal arts.
Grants in excess of $150,000 have been received by the Westlake district to cover most of the cost of initiating the program. The district was one of 39 in the state to be chosen for funding out of 80 applicants. Much of the grant money was used for extensive training of staff in IB topics specific to their areas of expertise.
Westlake coordinator of gifted services and IB program administrator Carol Froelich has stated that an IB diploma stands out on a college application. She has noted that more schools are looking for students well-versed in cultural awareness and understanding.