District 97 Implementing International Baccalaureate at its Middle Schools
August 8, 2012
In May 2012, District 97 sent a team comprised of teachers, parents/guardians, board members, administrators and a representative from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation to Shaker Heights, Ohio to learn more about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and help assess whether it was a model we could use to enhance the educational experience for the children of our community. During this visit, the members of the team witnessed firsthand how this program can provide a framework for rigorous curriculum, creative problem solving, hands-on learning and global awareness; offer a unified, consistent and focused approach to professional development; and create a system for instruction that teachers can use to effectively overcome challenges and thrive in today's demanding academic environment. They also learned how IB will help ensure that our middle school students are ready for high school, college and an ever evolving job market in which many of the positions they will hold have not even been invented yet.
On the recommendation of the Communityworks Partnership Advisory Board, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation awarded District 97 a grant totaling $40,000 per year for the next three years to help fund the implementation of an IB Middle Years Program (MYP) at our two middle schools. We have begun the initial phase of implementation, which will continue throughout the 2012-2013 school year. Full implementation of the program is scheduled to be completed following the 2015-2016 school year.
The IB MYP will offer our middle schools a variety of benefits, including:
- Focus on interdisciplinary units.
- Meaningful, real-world connections.
- Alignment with international standards of excellence.
- Unique, sustained professional development opportunities for teachers with a focus on creative and inquiry-based instruction.
In addition, it will:
- Impact all middle school students.
- Provide a focal point for teacher training that is linked to social-emotional learning, higher expectations and academic success.
- Provide a pathway to success at the secondary and post-secondary levels.
- Support 21st century skills and positive behavior.
- Emphasize community service, hands-on projects and inquiry-based learning.
- Help us remain a school district of distinction.
The IB MYP will not replace the existing curriculum at Brooks and Julian, but rather enhance it and help foster greater creativity for both students and teachers. It will also provide an “enrichment for all” approach to education in our district that will help us effectively meet or exceed the ever increasing expectations for student performance, address the need to lessen the variance between master teacher and those still striving to reach that status, and make our schools even better.
During the past few weeks, members of our staff have participated in professional development training sessions related to the implementation of the IB program, including middle school teacher Linda Koplin.
“I left the training feeling inspired, excited and energized to start a new school year,” said Koplin. “IB not only emphasizes best teaching practices, it also focuses on creating global citizens. I see a better future for our world through IB.”
Jennifer Galant, another one of the district’s middle school teachers, also experienced the benefits of the training.
“The IB training was one of the most professionally rewarding experiences I've had as an educator,” said Galant. “The IB philosophy doesn't focus on what to teach students, but rather how to make them better thinkers in this global economy. I left the conference feeling inspired and looking forward to incorporating IB into my classroom lessons this school year.”
Todd Fitzgerald, the new principal at Julian Middle School, believes the IB program will be a great fit for the district.
"The philosophy of IB runs parallel to what we are trying to accomplish in District 97,” said Fitzgerald. “There is a strong emphasis on teaching the whole child and using best practices to improve instruction and student achievement.”
While several of the activities described above are currently taking place in some form or fashion in our middle schools, the IB MYP will provide the intellectual support and resources and professional development opportunities we need to more effectively incorporate them into our every day practices and build on our schools’ existing strengths.