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2/15/2011 1:53:00 PM
Grand Canyon School takes hard look at IB program
Many teachers frustrated, test scores remain unchanged
Clara Beard/WGCN
Grand Canyon School Board members from left Clarinda Vail, Pete Shearer, Bess Foster, Erin Noojibal and Katie Morris listen to testimony from teachers and community members regarding the International Baccalaureate program.
Clara Beard/WGCN
Grand Canyon School Board members from left Clarinda Vail, Pete Shearer, Bess Foster, Erin Noojibal and Katie Morris listen to testimony from teachers and community members regarding the International Baccalaureate program.
What is the International Baccalaureate program?
The IB mission:

According to the program's website, International Baccalaureate (IB) aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

The programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

IB at a glance:

• Offers a continuum of education, consisting of three programs for students aged 3 to 19.

• A reputation for high quality education sustained for over 35 years.

• Encourages international-mindedness in IB students. To do this, IB promotes developing an understanding of their own cultural and national identity.

• Encourages a positive attitude in learning by encouraging students to ask challenging questions, to critically reflect, to develop research skills, to learn how to learn and to participate in community service.

• Programs are accessible to students in a wide variety of schools-national, international, public and private.

IB works in four areas:

• Development of curriculum

• Assessment of students

• Training and professional development of teachers

• Authorization and evaluation of schools

Clara Beard
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - "The workload is crushing," said Laura Kelso, Grand Canyon School (GCS) fourth grade teacher.

When the International Baccalaureate (IB) program was adopted, no one could predict those words would eventually echo the sentiment of most teachers at the school, who, after six years of implementing the program, are showing signs of strain.

During the Grand Canyon School Board's Feb. 8 regular meeting, IB was both challenged and supported by teachers and community members. The board's current status review marks the official beginning of an already ongoing debate to either scrap the program or forge ahead.

According to many GCS teachers, the IB program expects educators to go above and beyond their already demanding schedule, which poses questions among some, who wonder whether the extra paperwork and late hours have been worth their efforts.

"I've worked in other schools, I've taught gifted and talented, I've had 72 students," Kelso said. "Never in my life seen the kind of workload that teachers have now. I've been here many mornings at five a.m. and I'm not the first one here. I'm here at ten at night and I'm not the last one here. Something's wrong."

Art teacher Amy McBroom agreed.

"I was a wholehearted believer in the beginning, but as it has continued on every year it becomes more of a nightmare rather than a simplistic idea. It is meant to be flexible, but sometimes I feel like this flexibility is really breaking my back," McBroom said.

The training and planning that teachers must do in order to effectively teach IB methods has cut into valuable time many teachers consider better spent with their students.

"As I am trying to learn IB, I'm finding that it's requiring me to do things two and three times that I'm already doing," McBroom said. "It's frustrating to me because it's taking away from time I would like to spend doing things with my class because I'm trying to get planning done for IB instead."

School board member Bess Foster voted against adopting IB in 2006, mostly due to th size of Grand canyon School and the program's cost. When researching the program's success in other schools of similar size, she was concerned with her lack of findings.

"One of the biggest challenges I had was just finding a school our size," she said. "The few schools I did find did not share the same classroom dynamic as us."

The IB program statistically attracts schools in densely populated areas, where there is more than one choice for parents to send their children, not the case at Grand Canyon.

IB Coordinator Deb Godrich said it is hard to compare student achievement at IB schools and non-IB schools.

"If you look at a lot of other IB schools, they are pulling from a very different demographic than we have here," she said. "Not that our children can't achieve that level, but I think you are looking at very different student populations."

Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) testing scores have remained steady at the school over the years, but IB's promise of improvement has not transpired.

Former GCS employee Peggy Houghton said her observations over the years have led her to wonder if the students are benefiting from IB, and if test scores reflect it.

"I answered the phone for years, and I know there were lots of parents that didn't even know what the hell it was. IB. Two letters. What is it? I don't understand what it is; I don't know what it is doing for my kid," Haughton said. "I hear teachers complaining about it, I hear that it is supposed to be great, but what is it and how much does it cost. And why are they still doing it if it doesn't seem to be working."

Houghton went on to say it is obvious that staff at the school is frustrated with the program.

"You are thinkers, you are independent people," she said. "You are communicators. That staff is terribly frustrated. Where is it getting us? Do you hear what you are saying? It is not getting you where you want to get. I just see treading here."

One "benefit" of IB, according to music teacher George Haughton, has been the round about way the program has brought GCS staff closer together.

"In the hallways and during private moments, dislike of IB has always been a topic of discussion," he wrote in comments submitted to the board.

In a summary of IB responses by GCS classroom teachers, the positive aspect of IB has been the increased collaboration between teachers in terms of feedback and support. The program "demands that teachers continuously reflect on their practice" and brings more structure to their curriculum.

"I think that IB has provided us with an idea of how to 'frame' our teaching. It has given us general aims and objectives, which is a good springboard toward creating our more critical, specific objectives for our lessons," Spanish teacher Terri Tobin commented.

The board took no action on this matter at last week's meeting. The next GCS School Board meeting will be held March 8.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2012
Article comment by: MOMwithAbrain :-)

IF you are looking for an academically based program, look at Core Knowledge. This is American and it's academically based. IB is a values based program that pushes IB values (not parental or community values) with political baggage.

Teaching methods do not improve academic excellence, curriculum and textbooks do.
IB is a scam and the sooner you abandon it and focus on academic excellence, the better your students will be.
Think...The Emperor Has No Clothes!!

Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Article comment by: Anna K

This hits on what has been bothering me. What is good about this program other than what those selling it or buying into it "Believe" it to be? Where are the numbers? Where are the facts? Back it up.

Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Article comment by: John Eppolito

Any idea how much money has been spent on IB at GCS?

Posted: Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Article comment by: Truth About IB

IB is the Emperor's New Clothes. When ushered into the halls of our public schools, oohs and aahs precede cries of "Isn't it grand?!? Isn't IB wonderful!?!" Strip away the glossy marketing and the superfluous assignments and ideology, and IB has no clothes.

IB is a drain on American public schools. IB is elitist, expensive and superfluous. Sold on hearsay, when challenged, IB relies on emotional pleas to keep it as a "choice" since it cannot provide proof of actual student academic improvement as a result of its programs.

You gave it a chance. This is what happens when you allow a non-profit corporation affiliated with the UN in your doors. Please don't subject more students to being globalist guinea pigs.

Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011
Article comment by: Bruce B

The article was fine Terri. What's wrong is that there is no agreement from anyone on whether the program really is successful. And, no one has been able to convince the school board one way or another yet either. Typical academic slog.

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Article comment by: Terry Tobin

I don't mind being quoted in the newspaper, but my preference would be to have the reporter include enough of my quote so that my intentions are accurately portrayed. Yes, I did say that IB provides a general framework of aims and objectives that serve as a springboard to more specific aims and objectives. (That is a positive for me.) However, I also said that if we are thinking of eliminating, changing, or retaining the IB program, then we should be looking at actual data that addresses student achievement, teacher workload, and cost, not just random opinions for or against the program. The slide presentation given by one of our teachers, absolutely did NOT prove that IB is increasing student achievement. (Yes, more seniors than last year are taking college level courses. Their achievement was not mentioned. Yes 100% of 7th graders (3? years in a row) participated in an academic competition as opposed to 10% of our students in OM. That would mean that all of about 15 students competed and that was because they were forced to compete. It was part of their class. How many students K-12 have shown interest each year (13 years running) in participation in the pre-IB OM competition? How many try out? Probably 30 or 40 school wide at least double the amount of 7th graders whose particiaption was mandated in the "moon-based" competition. It was also stated that ALL middle school teachers agree that their students' "skills" have increased. Not true. The type of "skills" that apparently have increased was not even mentioned.) My point is that if we want to make a change here, can we please be honest about what data we have, what it really shows, and how many teachers and students really feel there has been an improvement academically in our school? And one last comment....Why are we NOT pursuing vocational education here? Research has shown that most student scores increase across the curriculum when enrolled in vocational education courses. Whether our students are on track to go to university, community college, military, or directly into the job market, money spent on vocational education at our school would most likely help our GC students on the road to success.

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Article comment by: Another Parent

This is wonderful to hear that teachers and parents are stepping up to the plate and saying the comment above me..FINALLY!

Posted: Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Article comment by: A Parent

Finally! Our experienced teachers can tell it like it is please listen to them.

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