A selective college prep program may soon be offered at a few Topeka schools for $501.

But the reservations of a few members of the Topeka Board of Education suspended the application process for the program for a few weeks.

The board is considering applying for and purchasing the International Baccalaureate program, a curriculum framework that emphasizes teaching students critical thinking skills and global perspectives.

What is the IB programme?

The Swiss organization behind the IB program started it in the late 1960s to provide a standardized curriculum for the children of diplomats and other world travelers that they could then use as proof of preparation for university in applications.

The framework offers programs for elementary, middle and high school, although the high school program – also known as the IB diploma program – is the most common in the United States.

Of the eight programs in Kansas, including one at Washburn Rural High School, all are at the high school level. Most colleges across the country award some level of college credit to students who graduate from the IB, based on their test scores for each of the program’s eight core classes.

IB programs could be piloted at schools in Topeka West, McClure and Scott

The Topeka USD 501 proposal would bring IB programs to the district for the first time, with pilot programs at Topeka West High School, McClure Elementary and potentially Scott Dual Language Magnet Elementart.

District officials said the schools were chosen because their principals and staff had shown a strong interest in continuing IB programs, and because their strong track records of academic achievement would allow them to lead. programs with more success.

None of the district middle schools or Topeka High School are yet interested in launching IB programs, officials said, but the two elementary school programs would be the first of their kind in the state.

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Even with school board approval, IB programs are on demand and by selection, and district officials believe that if the board were to approve the continuation of IB programs this summer, those programs could be put on hold. online in 2023, January 2024 being the last estimate for a start of the program.

The district will pay an application fee of $8,500 for each program, an annual fee of $12,000 until approved, and an annual program fee of approximately $9,000 per program once approved.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson said this is similar to other fees charged by existing programs like AVID, though the district would also have to pay a $119 per lesson fee for each student taking IB classes.

Former Topeka school boards decided not to follow IB programs

While previous school boards had considered adopting the IB curriculum, they ultimately decided against the program as they decided the programs cost too much for the value they would have added to the district.

They had also found that the program would have left students little time for extracurricular activities and that IB programs would compete with several other offerings in the district, including similar advanced placement, although this is mostly self-contained classes that do not require students to take a course. complete program.

While students in AP classes can pay to take a college credit test at the end of the year, the exams are usually quite difficult, and in the USD 501 experience, few students achieve high enough scores. elevated to be awarded the equivalent of an A. grade by colleges that accept AP test scores for credit.

Instead, many AP students pay fees to take classes for concurrent college credit, which means they can leave the class with credit at the grade they earned.

Fees are generally much lower than taking the same hours for credit in college, and it’s generally much safer for students to receive credit than trying their luck on the AP tests every May.

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With the IB diploma program, however, students would not be allowed to take courses for concurrent college credit, per the organization’s regulations.

The curriculum also prohibits teaching the same class for IB and AP, and former school boards found that AP classes were ultimately better suited to the district.

IB Elementary Curriculum Could Rival Scott Dual Language Magnet

On Thursday, however, most of the current school board seemed ready to at least try the IB diploma program at Topeka West.

What stymied some board members, however, was starting elementary school programs, known as elementary school programs, that could rival Scott Dual Language Elementary Magnet School, since those programs require schools to adopt a secondary language to learn.

Board member Melanie Stuart-Campbell, a former English language learner teacher who has championed bilingualism for students, noted that the elementary school has made great strides in educating students about bilingualism and even won a national award for his efforts.

But many parents in the district are still unaware of this opportunity for their children, she said, and a competing school could hinder the growth of Scott Dual Language Magnet.

While the district is also considering asking Scott to become an IB school, Anderson said principals weren’t yet sure the school’s existing Gomez and Gomez bilingual teaching model was right. compatible with the IB elementary curriculum.

Stuart-Campbell said she was definitely in favor of an IB diploma program for Topeka West, especially as a district pilot that “if it doesn’t work, we’ll let it go.”

“Elementary, however, I’m only in favor if it’s not Spanish,” she said. “In fact, I vehemently object if Spanish is the chosen language because of competition as we try to grow our bilingual program.”

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She suggested that a potential elementary IB curriculum could instead focus on French or Mandarin Chinese, two of the other most widely spoken languages ​​in the world.

However, Anderson said she understands elementary school officials would prefer to teach Spanish, though district officials aren’t yet sure if they’ll be required to list a language on their application.

With Board Chair Lalo Muñoz also on closing the programs, the Board has tabled a vote on the application for IB programs until its next meeting, when it will hear more details on the programs, the application process, and what 501 USD officials think the programs could do. for the neighborhood.

Rafael Garcia is an education reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.