Hopkins Takes First Step Toward Junior High IB Program
The school board gave preliminary approval on Thursday to set aside $109,000 to pursue International Baccalaureate candidacy.
A proposed International Baccalaureate program at the junior highs received tough questions and two dissenting votes Thursday, but the Hopkins School Board voted to preliminarily approve $109,000 to initiate candidacy with the program and further explore whether it’s a good fit.
Board Vice Chair Warren Goodroad praised the way the program could expand on recent additions to enhance rigor at the junior highs—including new schedules and the addition of more-challenging courses.
“I think we have an opportunity right now to look at one more thing we can do to really make this a complete transition,” Goodroad said.
IB’s Middle Years Programme provides an enhanced curriculum for grades six through 10, although Hopkins would only offer Middle Years at its junior highs. Started in Geneva, Switzerland, the program emphasizes “global mindedness” and a broad curriculum with eight components—including requirements for all students to take arts courses, physical education and a second language.
The Middle Years Programme is separate from—but complementary to—the better-known IB Diploma Programme that prepares high school students for college coursework, potentially earning them college credit.
Unlike high school IB, the Middle Years Programme is for all students, not just those who elect to enroll.
“That really, to me, is a super plus,” Goodroad said.
Too much change at once?
But board Treasurer Wendy Donovan and Director Irma McIntosh Coleman—who both voted against the proposal—worried about piling too many changes onto the junior highs at once. McIntosh Coleman questioned whether initiating the IB process would undermine the changes already started.
The district is also still awaiting a $25,000 study that will evaluate how those changes are working.
“It’s hard for me to approve something when we don’t have that study yet,” Donovan said.
Diane Schimelpfenig—the district’s director of teaching, learning and assessment—said delaying approval until the district knows more would affect the application process. Paperwork is due in April, and missing out this year would force staff to redo training they went through earlier.
The challenge of lining up studies with funding requests is a recurring one. The issue came up during last year’s debate over whether to approve elementary AVID. The funding proposal was up for approval in March, and an elementary study that could have provided additional details wasn’t due until April.
The same pattern even happened again in Thursday’s meeting prior to a vote on the district’s technology plan—which includes the purchase of more than 3,000 digital devices, such as iPads, over the next three years. When McIntosh Coleman asked whether teachers are fully utilizing existing technology, the district’s technology head told her a study about that is coming in April.
A continuing process
Thursday’s vote does not guarantee the Hopkins junior highs will become IB schools. The board will have to come back later in the year to grant final approval for the 2012-13 budget.
Once that happens, the $109,000 will pay for application and candidacy fees and a part-time teacher leadership position. During the initial 2012-13 candidacy year:
- Curriculum development would begin,
- Staff would receive training and
- Officials would explore whether student and staff schedules mesh with the program.
The latter point is the biggest concern among staff—although Schimelpfenig and the junior high principals noted that teachers all accept the value of the program and are willing to investigate IB further.
The program has also had widespread community support. A survey last year found that more than 70 percent of parents favored an IB program in the district.
The candidacy process can take as long as three years. If the district decides the program is not a good fit, it could choose not to pursue IB further.