International baccalaureate program poised to replace AP classes at Dexter High
There are a plethora of new technological changes at Dexter High School this year.
Today, classrooms are enhanced with eno boards, and new security cameras have been placed in the hallways.
All these tangible changes are ones that students witness every day. However, physical changes are not the only differences in store for future students.
Tentatively, in the fall of 2011, juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to either enroll in International Baccalaureate classes or enter an IB program and eventually receive an IB diploma.
“IB is an integrated program with a philosophy of internationalism which is reflected in everything a high school does,” social studies teacher Susan Walters said. “IB has a mission statement, a philosophy and a learner profile which cross curriculums and are student-centered.”
The International Baccalaureate program is recognized around the world and consists of a lot student-taught material, according to Walters, who has led the high school’s effort to explore adopting an IB program.
“My favorite sentence in the (IB) mission statement is, ‘These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right,’” Walters said. “That’s pretty powerful. It is an internationally-respected program and makes a statement about international-mindedness and student-centered learning. I am certainly enthusiastic about it.”
To become an IB school, there is a two-step application process. According to Superintendent Rob Glass, the first part of the application involves stating interest in the program as well as sending teachers to workshops.
“Application A is mostly showing your commitment to the program,” Glass said. “We passed Application A, and we are currently working on Application B. (Application B) mostly consists of asking ourselves if we have the time, staff, money and resources to successfully become an IB school.”
Dexter High School currently offers Advanced Placement (AP) classes to upperclassmen, but, according to Walters, there is a definite difference between the two.
“In terms of students, IB classes offer an opportunity for them to earn college credit, just like AP. There’s a philosophical difference in the testing, though, as AP tests are half multiple-choice, half essay, and IB tests are all essay,” Walters said. “Also, the more challenging and greater variety of courses we can provide for students, the richer our curriculum will be.
"Students who take individual IB classes can test for college credit; students who only take IB classes during their junior and senior years can earn enough credits to enter college with sophomore standing or close to that.”
Besides a different approach to the test, IB and AP classes differ in price as well.
According to Pam Bunka, an English and journalism teacher at Fenton High School, the price is not the only negative of the program. Fenton recently adopted the IB program and has seen elective enrollements fall because of this adoption. In addition, Fenton will eventually replace AP classes with IB classes.
Fenton High School’s student enrollment is about the same as Dexter High's.
“We have offered AP classes for some time - at least 10 years - but are replacing them with the IB classes as the students make their way through the system. This will be the last year for all AP classes,” Bunka said. “Our school does not have the population to support both programs. Both programs offer a test for college credit, but only certain schools will accept credit from IB classes. The IB test is approximately $224 dollars, which is significantly more than the AP test.”
The IB program at Fenton High School has also limited students to what electives they can take, according to Bunka.
“The IB program allows students no room for electives,” Bunka said. “The electives a student in the diploma program has to take must be IB-approved classes. This means they can not take a band class; they have to take a band theory class instead. This applies for art classes as well. A student would have to take an art theory class instead of a regular art class. (The IB program) allows for no journalism.”
The IB diploma program forces students to take only IB classes.
But according to Principal William ‘Kit’ Moran, there are benefits to this.
“IB classes are meant to challenge thinking but not to scare students,” Moran said. “The classes offer different academic challenges and are challenging in other ways than a regular course. The questions asked of students in the IB program are open ended. It makes the course harder, more engaging and rigorous.”
And Glass and Moran both agree that IB classes are beneficial for even the average student.
“IB works using a universal standard,” Glass said. “They have an expected quality that comes from all IB classes. The program is meant for students who are college bound and will work hard, which is not necessarily a super student. IB actually works with understanding the life-long pursuit of knowledge. When you approach a class, you are not focused on learning the stuff, but it is more of asking yourself, ‘What does it mean and what do I want to answer?’ The work mostly consists of long- term projects, reflecting and writing.”
Regardless of the potential benefits and drawbacks from the program, whether DHS will become an IB school is still up in the air.
Walters said, “If we do decide to become an IB school, teachers will begin to develop individual classes, and they will be described in the curriculum book and available for students to take. IB by itself won’t change DHS other than perhaps a philosophical shift and in increased choices for students. It is exciting during this time of financial insecurity to be involved with a district that asks, ‘What can we do?’ rather than ‘What can’t we do?’”
The Squall is the student newspaper at Dexter High School.