By Kevin Kelley
Westlake High School recently achieved candidate school status for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
International Baccalaureate (IB) is an educational program established by a foundation based in Switzerland. The organization’s three programs – for primary, middle and high school levels – are designed to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to its website.
“It’s a rigorous program similar to AP (Advanced Placement),” Superintendent Dan Keenan said. IB courses are interdisciplinary in nature and revolve around a written thesis that is required for the student to receive the IB diploma, he said.
Advance Placement courses, through which a student can receive both high school and college course credit, may be best for those planning to major in technical subjects, Keenan said. The IB program, the superintendent explained, would be excellent preparation for students interested in pursuing the liberal arts.
The plan at the high school is to offer IB courses beginning next fall to students in their junior year. The school’s IB courses would be evaluated over that year, with IB certification anticipated in April 2015, Keenan said.
Through a shared services partnership, IB courses taught at Westlake High School will be open to students from partner districts in Avon Lake, Berea and Rocky River. The Westlake district has received more than $150,000 in grants that will cover the majority of costs associated with launching the IB program, Keenan said.
Carol Froehlich, the district’s coordinator for gifted services and administrator of the IB program at the high school level, said teachers will be developing curriculum for IB courses during the coming school year. Staff members will also be visited by IB program consultants in coming months, she said.
The IB high school program focuses on six areas, from languages to math. Participating students will be required to take a total of 13 IB courses, including a philosophy course entitled “Theory of Knowledge,” during their junior and senior years to receive the IB diploma in addition to the standard high school diploma, Froehlich said. In addition to writing a 4,000-word research-based essay/thesis that encapsulates the IB experience, students are required to perform community service that incorporates creativity, she said.
The benefit of the IB program, Froehlich said, is that participating students will receive an education that looks at “the big picture” from an international perspective. The IB courses, she added, provide what businesses say they are looking for in employees – individuals who are inquisitive and can get along with other cultures.
Participation in the IB program also looks good on a college application, Froehlich said.
“More and more colleges are looking for this,” she said.
The Westlake City Schools’ four elementary schools have applied for IB certification at the primary level and are awaiting approval.