International Baccalaureate and Local Control



IBInternational Baccalaureate (IB) is harmless right?  It just helps students gain an appreciation for the world around them and diversity, right?  It promotes rigorous international educational standards that will help American students catch up to the rest of the world doesn’t it?

IB is a non-profit educational foundation which was helped to launch by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland.  It doesn’t belong to any particular country.  It has been implemented in 3,464 schools both public and private in 143 countries.  They offer programs to over 1,045,000 students from age 3 to 19 years of age.

It is certainly celebrated in the Des Moines Public Schools as it is the only school district to adopt the IB program among a growing number of  school districts across the country that that have adopted this program with public dollars.  In Des Moines, Merrill Middle School, Goodrell Middle School, and Gateway Secondary School are the only Middle Schools has the MYP (Middle Years Program).  Meredith Middle School is currently applying to become an IB World School as well.  So out of the 12 Middle Schools (excluding the Montessori School – don’t get me started there) three, soon to be four middle schools has this program.  No individual High School in Des Moines has it, instead it is housed at Central Academy where students from around the district (and outside it) can attend to receive an IB Diploma.  There are several elementary schools within the DMPS that have implemented the IB PYP (Primary Years Program) program.  Hubbell Elementary School was the first IB World School in Iowa.  Park Avenue Elementary School, Stowe Elementary School, and Walnut Street School also align with the IB PYP.

I contend that IB is not harmless.  In a series of three posts I want to point out three major problems with the IB program:  1. It is anathema to local control.  2. It’s focus and mission is not about academic achievement.  3.  It promotes indoctrination, not education.  This post will deal with the first problem:

The IB program is anathema to local control.

In order to become an IB World School a school must align itself with with the IB mission and philosophy, its staff has to demonstrate an understanding of that philosophy.  From IB’s Programme Standards and Practices..

The school’s educational beliefs and values reflect IB philosophy.

  1. The school’s published statements of mission and philosophy align with those of the IB.
  2. The governing body, administrative and pedagogical leadership and staff demonstrate understanding of IB philosophy.
  3. The school community demonstrates an understanding of, and commitment to, the programme(s).
  4. The school develops and promotes international-mindedness and all attributes of the IB learner profile across the school community.
  5. The school promotes responsible action within and beyond the school community.
  6. The school promotes open communication based on understanding and respect.
  7. The school places importance on language learning, including mother tongue, host country language and other languages.
  8. The school participates in the IB world community.
  9. The school supports access for students to the IB programme(s) and philosophy.

IB dictates how the school is organized.

The school’s leadership and administrative structures ensure the implementation of the IB programme(s).

  1. The school has developed systems to keep the governing body informed about the ongoing implementation
    and development of the programme(s).
  2. The school has developed a governance and leadership structure that supports the implementation of the programme(s).
  3. The head of school/school principal and programme coordinator demonstrate pedagogical leadership aligned with the philosophy of the programme(s).
  4. The school has appointed a programme coordinator with a job description, release time, support and resources to carry out the responsibilities of the position.
  5. The school develops and implements policies and procedures that support the programme(s).
  6. The school has systems in place for the continuity and ongoing development of the programme(s).
  7. The school carries out programme evaluation involving all stakeholders.

It dictates resources and support:

The school’s resources and support structures ensure the implementation of the IB programme(s).

  1. The governing body allocates funding for the implementation and ongoing development of the programme(s).
  2. The school provides qualified staff to implement the programme(s).
  3. The school ensures that teachers and administrators receive IB-recognized professional development.
  4. The school provides dedicated time for teachers’ collaborative planning and reflection.
  5. The physical and virtual learning environments, facilities, resources and specialized equipment support the implementation of the programme(s).
  6. The library/multimedia/resources play a central role in the implementation of the programme(s).
  7. The school ensures access to information on global issues and diverse perspectives.
  8. The school provides support for its students with learning and/or special educational needs and support for their teachers.
  9. The school has systems in place to guide and counsel students through the programme(s).
  10. The student schedule or timetable allows for the requirements of the programme(s) to be met.
  11. The school utilizes the resources and expertise of the community to enhance learning within the programme(s).
  12. The school allocates resources to implement the Primary Years Programme exhibition, the Middle Years Programme personal project and the Diploma Programme extended essay for all students, depending on the programme(s) offered.

IB dictates how planning is done:

Collaborative planning and reflection supports the implementation of the IB programme(s).

  1. Collaborative planning and reflection addresses the requirements of the programme(s).
  2. Collaborative planning and reflection takes place regularly and systematically.
  3. Collaborative planning and reflection addresses vertical and horizontal articulation.
  4. Collaborative planning and reflection ensures that all teachers have an overview of students’ learning experiences.
  5. Collaborative planning and reflection is based on agreed expectations for student learning.
  6. Collaborative planning and reflection incorporates differentiation for students’ learning needs and styles.
  7. Collaborative planning and reflection is informed by assessment of student work and learning.
  8. Collaborative planning and reflection recognizes that all teachers are responsible for language development of students.
  9. Collaborative planning and reflection addresses the IB learner profile attributes.

Most importantly IB dictates the curriculum:

The school’s written curriculum reflects IB philosophy.

  1. The written curriculum is comprehensive and aligns with the requirements of the programme(s).
  2. The written curriculum is available to the school community.
  3. The written curriculum builds on students’ previous learning experiences.
  4. The written curriculum identifies the knowledge, concepts, skills and attitudes to be developed over time.
  5. The written curriculum allows for meaningful student action in response to students’ own needs and the needs of others.
  6. The written curriculum incorporates relevant experiences for students.
  7. The written curriculum promotes students’ awareness of individual, local, national and world issues.
  8. The written curriculum provides opportunities for reflection on human commonality, diversity and multiple perspectives.
  9. The written curriculum is informed by current IB publications and is reviewed regularly to incorporate developments in the programme(s).
  10. The written curriculum integrates the policies developed by the school to support the programme(s).
  11. The written curriculum fosters development of the IB learner profile attributes.

IB dictates pedagogy and how learning takes place.

Teaching and learning reflects IB philosophy.

  1. Teaching and learning aligns with the requirements of the programme(s).
  2. Teaching and learning engages students as inquirers and thinkers.
  3. Teaching and learning builds on what students know and can do.
  4. Teaching and learning promotes the understanding and practice of academic honesty.
  5. Teaching and learning supports students to become actively responsible for their own learning.
  6. Teaching and learning addresses human commonality, diversity and multiple perspectives.
  7. Teaching and learning addresses the diversity of student language needs, including those for students
    learning in a language(s) other than mother tongue.
  8. Teaching and learning demonstrates that all teachers are responsible for language development of
    students.
  9. Teaching and learning uses a range and variety of strategies.
  10. Teaching and learning differentiates instruction to meet students’ learning needs and styles.
  11. Teaching and learning incorporates a range of resources, including information technologies.
  12. Teaching and learning develops student attitudes and skills that allow for meaningful student action
    in response to students’ own needs and the needs of others.
  13. Teaching and learning engages students in reflecting on how, what and why they are learning.
  14. Teaching and learning fosters a stimulating learning environment based on understanding and respect.
  15. Teaching and learning encourages students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways.
  16. Teaching and learning develops the IB learner profile attributes.

And IB dictates how assessments are done.

Assessment at the school reflects IB assessment philosophy.

  1. Assessment at the school aligns with the requirements of the programme(s).
  2. The school communicates its assessment philosophy, policy and procedures to the school community.
  3. The school uses a range of strategies and tools to assess student learning.
  4. The school provides students with feedback to inform and improve their learning.
  5. The school has systems for recording student progress aligned with the assessment philosophy of the programme(s).
  6. The school has systems for reporting student progress aligned with the assessment philosophy of the
    programme(s).
  7. The school analyses assessment data to inform teaching and learning.
  8. The school provides opportunities for students to participate in, and reflect on, the assessment of their work.
  9. The school has systems in place to ensure that all students can demonstrate consolidation of their learning through the completion of the Primary Years Programme exhibition, the Middle Years Programme personal project and the Diploma Programme extended essay, depending on the programme(s) offered.

All of this is determined and assessed by a group based in Geneva, Switzerland.  I’m not saying everything with the points I’ve mentioned is inherently bad, but it’s directed by this group, not the local elected school board or even the state.  I’ve been part of an accrediting process when I served as the Dean of Students in a Christian school.  It was a rigorous process, but even the ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) didn’t lay out requirements like this to be followed.  While I don’t have first hand knowledge, I think it would be safe to assume the State of Iowa accreditation doesn’t even require this much.  Actually the state has said numerous times when adapting standards for the state has said it doesn’t dictate curriculum, and certainly not pedagogy.  Not so with IB.

Also, the matter of school choice comes into play.  In Des Moines, at least parents do have the option of doing inter-district transfers if they don’t want their child to be part of an IB World School.  Not so in every school district as sometimes it is the only public option in town.  Also those who complain about privatization of education via tuition vouchers and charter schools.  Somebody tell me how this is any better?

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