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Posted on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Ypsilanti middle school program gives students opportunity to prep for IB education track

By Chelsea Hoedl

This fall, Ypsilanti Community Schools will offer fifth- through eighth-grade students the opportunity to partake in a four-year program to help prepare students for the 11th and 12th grade International Baccalaureate program offered at Washtenaw International High School.

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Ypsilanti Community Schools will offer 5th- through 8th-graders the opportunity to partake in a four year program located at Washtenaw International High School.

WIMA, one of four Small Learning Communities being offered to middle school-aged students by Ypsilanti Community Schools, will take a holistic approach to learning through critical thinking and collaboration.

“We want the students in this program to be in the position to take full advantage of the IB program available to them at the high school level,” said Lambert Okma, principal at Washtenaw International High School. “The program has been very carefully structured to provide sequenced instruction, connect subject matters and utilize mastery assessment so we know where each student stands.”

The program is open admission and will accommodate between 200 and 220 students. Capacity for the program ultimately will be determined by physical space. Also, there are no plans to require students to apply to the program or meet any prerequisites.

WIMA will operate out of its own wing in WIHS at 501 Emerick St. All other Small Learning Communities will be held in the Willow Run Complex at 235 Spencer Lane.

Okma said the goal is to prepare students for ninth and 10th grade IB preparatory courses that eventually will lead to the 11th and 12th IB program, but students are not required to follow the IB track.

WIMA is not officially an IB program, but Okma said the program will begin the application process in the fall of 2014.

According to Okma, the application is a three-year process that incorporates fifth through eighth grade students and the preexisting ninth and 10th grade preparatory program into one program called The Middle Years.

“It’s a challenging program,” Okma said. “But the benefits are both short-term and long-term. Students will build the habits necessary to succeed later on and in the short-term, the curriculum will be enjoyable, satisfying and meaningful.”

The curriculum is meant to be engaging, Okma said. Students will work on projects, conduct research and interact with the material on a daily basis.

“The standards are high, but we help our students over the bar,” Okma said. “It’s engaging, satisfying work and they will get a lot out of it.”

The nine teachers set to instruct the program will work with administration to create an environment conducive to learning.

“It’s all about building culture,” Okma said. “That’s really the success of our program. The environment a student works and learns in has a huge impact on his or her ability to learn. When the environment is a positive one, learning can take place.”

Okma said WIMA will offer students a unique opportunity to garner the skills necessary to succeed and embrace the rigorous course work offered in the IB program at WIHS.

“We’re really happy to bring this program here to the Ypsilanti-Willow Run area,” Okma said. “We feel like it’s a great opportunity for the community and for students to build skills that will help them succeed in the future.”

Chelsea Hoedl is an intern reporter for She can be reached at



Sat, Jul 27, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

seems many colleges do enjoy the IB.... also, why can't you all just agree to disagree. Some people really enjoy the IB and some people don't. Like him or not, Mr. Okma has clearly done great things for several schools in this area and continues to help around the country and world.


Mon, Jul 29, 2013 : 4:08 a.m.

Well, there's a reason many of us can't agree to disagree. In parts of the U.S., IB is imposed on a school district by ideological administrators, against the will of many parents and teachers, at great expense to taxpayers.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 4 p.m. appear to be very sour about IB. You compare it to AP but it is my understanding that IB and AP are different. Maybe some students want a full curriculum as opposed to a select few AP classes. I have no problem with AP classes but see significant value in the IB program.


Fri, Jul 26, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

Correction: "Summation: with my child, and looking back..."


Fri, Jul 26, 2013 : 1:44 a.m.

@a2roots. As I have a child that completed the middle school IB program (as in prep for high school) and begins her junior year in IB, I'll provide you "our road" for comments. The Good: Joining the IB prep in middle school was good. Exposure of learning concepts and study skills learned there served her well. The Bad: examining the benefits of the full program as she continues to her senior year, and most importantly what colleges accept finds significant advantages for AP courses, and a more "normal" high school life (to include the arts or sports). The Ugly: I would not call it "scams", but there is a pattern - especially in areas of troubled school districts, to turn to "magnets" or IB like programs. Understanding that this may be seen as a "solution" to problems, that even the creation of these programs may, or may not address. Consider it akin to an advertised public alternative to private charters. Summation: with my chilweans looking back at our selection process; we would not have had her in IB beyond Middle School. First, your comment on "select few AP" is incorrect. Check the listings for "AP" credit programs, they cover almost all areas. Second, there are sub-set programs like "AVID", that expand learning and organizational skills that could cover skills in Pre-IB and IB without the additional baggage. Third and most important, college credit and acceptance is not there for IB. It is for AP.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

NO advanced credit for IB SL exams:


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 11:50 a.m.

Bert Okma is an IB change agent and "distinguished" member of the IB Board. He even helped create a "playbook" for IB to help[ overcome "common objections" to the program: IB is an outrageously expensive, non-vetted "framework" of VALUES education. It is grossly inferior to AP at the 11th and 12th Grade levels, less college creditworthy and affiliated with UNESCO. Wake up to what IB REALLY is, not what Mr. Okma claims it is.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

@Hugh Giariola - I have a student in the inaugural class at WIHI and I have been very impressed with the high school curriculum and the teachers. One unique element of the IB curriculum is the perspective from which the classes are taught. They have a much stronger focus on world history and culture than on American history and culture. Additionally, students are required to take 4 years of a foreign language and a year of culture associated with that language (i.e. French culture or Spanish culture). Science is also more involved than in the Michigan curriculum. One year each of Bio, Physics and Chemistry are taken in the first two years. Then in the junior year students select which one of these they will take for an additional 2 years. WIHI has another major point going for it - I don't know if it is common across the IB or unique to WIHI. The student body is incredibly diverse (race, religion, socio-economics, personal style, etc), and the students interact without the "clicks" that are so common in high school. My husband and I have often been impressed with what our student is learning and the conversations we overhear between students as we carpool or chaperone events. We often find they are learning about things we studied at university. We have no doubt that our students will be ready for college in a few more years. Regarding the comment about AP vs IB for college credit, they are pretty much the same at any university. However, I feel there is more than college credit to gain from the IB program at WIHI.

Chelsea Hoedl

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

Thank you, EngineeringMom, for detailing the difference in curriculum. Your perspective as a parent is very helpful in understanding what the program actually focuses on.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Most U.S. Universities do NOT award any credit for IB SL (Standard Level) exams. Furthermore, less than 10% of any graduating class actually pursue the full Diploma. An IB Certificate is nothing more than a grade report. IB Certificates are "awarded" to any student who pays the fee to sit the exam, whether they earn a grade of '1' or '7'.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

I wish Dexter would have bought into the WISD IB program instead of trying to develop their own, expensive version.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 5:03 p.m.

Dexter's experiment has been and will continue to be costly. Hard to imagine they will stick with it but the new Dexter Superintendent is supposed to be a big backer of it. I can see it being a huge issue down the road.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 2:11 p.m.

I have said it before and will say it again...WIHI will surpass all area schools in test scores and graduation rates once it is firmly established. The upcoming school year will be only its third. Dexter will find out soon enough that they should have become part of the consortium. Also, any thoughts Ann Arbor has of starting an IB program ought to be put to rest. The program is not for every child but those that take on the challenge find it very rewarding.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

Just going by what has occurred at the International Academy which was also started by the same principal. These kids want to learn and work hard. It would appear you are anti IB so no amount of discussion or facts will alter your stance.


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : 11:56 a.m.

Considering IB has been around for 45 years, where is the "proof" that IB increases student test scores and graduation rates? *****crickets*****


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Finally a better and more academically challenging program alternative to the area private schools.

Hugh Giariola

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 11:21 a.m.

What does the International Baccalaureate program. I read the fluffy quote that says "The program has been very carefully structured to provide sequenced instruction, connect subject matters and utilize mastery assessment so we know where each student stands." But what does it accomplish? (not being snarky, just curious since I have never heard of it before)


Thu, Jul 25, 2013 : noon

Hugh, First of all, IB is NOT a curriculum. IB is a philosophy and a "framework" of international ideals and values incorporated into its Learner Profile. U.S. Public schools are still required to administer State grade level curriculum/standards and the IB "themes" are incorporated into and layered on top of those. Even at the Diploma level, teachers still have to write the curriculum (and taxpayers are charged a hefty fee for them to do so). IB is a scam.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 10:51 p.m.

@sooth, well... Sorta... They end up with a high school diploma and an IB certificate. The latter is "impressive" to most colleges but is not well understood or an accepted associates degree equivalent. In fact at most IB programs, the core structure is already established Advanced Placement studies and taking the AP exams, followed by an individual study of some sort. The "credit" you get for the AP exam (if scored high enough) is what the colleges accept. Been there, done that with a daughter. And if done over again, we would have stayed with AP courses vice full jump to IB - at least until IB becomes better recognized and rewarded in the US.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Google International Baccalaureate first results . It's an internationally developed curriculum program. Students meet the relatively weak US high school diploma requirements in the first 2 years and then work on IB which is akin to an associates in the next 2 so they end up with both certificates at graduation.

Hugh Giariola

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 11:22 a.m.

**achieve? should be last word in first sentence.


Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 10:42 a.m.

Mr. Okma developed and lead the International Academy programs which are still ranked as the top schools in Michigan and the country. We are lucky to have hime and his expertise. Hopefully, students and families will take advantage of this once in a life time opportunity