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Episode 65: Excitement Builds as the International Baccalaureate Program Returns

It is one of the most prestigious academic achievement programs available for high school students and it is coming back to Jordan School District. We are talking about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program which will be located at West Jordan High School.

On this episode of the Supercast, find out if your teen is a good candidate for IB and what the program can do for students determined to have a successful future after high school.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. It's one of the most prestigious academic achievement programs available for high school students. And it's coming back to Jordan School District. We're talking about the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which will be located at West Jordan High School. On this episode of the Supercast, find out if your teen is a good candidate for IB and what the program can do for students determined to have a successful future during and after high school. Let's start by finding out what IB is all about with Chandler Bishop and Natalie Nielsen. I'm very excited that we have this program coming back to Jordan School District. And I'm just going to ask Chandler to tell us right out of the shoot. What is International Baccalaureate?

Chandler:
Well, thank you for having me. The International Baccalaureate Program is a diploma program. So it's a diploma that you get in addition to your high school diploma that is both nationally and internationally recognized. It's an extremely rigorous academic program that takes place over two years. So your entire junior year and entire senior year, you'll be part of the program. And in addition to the classes that you take, which are very similar to AP classes, although they take place over the two year period, you also have the core of the IB program, which includes an extended essay that you research on your own. Over the course of about a year and a half, you have the CAS Program, which involves what we might think of as extracurricular activities, as well as a service component. You will put together a service project and the Theory of Knowledge class, which you don't get college credit for if you take individually, but if you want the diploma, you have to take the Theory of Knowledge class, and it's sort of the secret sauce of IB. It's the class that ties all of the other components of IB together. And it's a class where you look at what is knowledge, how does knowledge relate to me? And how do I understand knowledge in all the other classes that I'm taking? And that's sort of a brief overview of the International Baccalaureate Program.

Superintendent:
In other words, a very rigorous academic program, but a well-rounded program that prepares students for all kinds of opportunities after they've completed that diploma.

Chandler:
Yes, absolutely. It's actually the program that best prepares students for life in college. So, just a statistic here for you, diploma students have a higher graduation rate of 80% at a four year college. Compare that to the national average of 40%. So a student coming out of the IB program is graduating college at almost twice the rate of the average college student. And it's because the preparation is so rigorous in their high school that they have no trouble transitioning to college.

Superintendent:
Natalie, tell us about your perspective on what does the International Baccalaureate Program bring to West Jordan High School and anyone who wishes to participate, because it's a districtwide program.

Natalie:
Well, I think the neatest part with the IB program is the emphasis on global mindedness. So, it's reaching out into the community and West Jordan is a very diverse school, so we always have embraced diversity here. And we have an amazing staff that really pushes students out of their comfort zone, getting them to take risks. And that's what this program is all about. And so it would just be really neat to get to that next level.

Superintendent:
Natalie, tell me your role with the International Baccalaureate Program.

Natalie:
So I am the CAS Coordinator at Western High School. I'm over the creativity activity and service. I am also a teacher in the IB Program, would be dance career.

Superintendent:
So it really has a well-rounded program, obviously with all those components and Chandler, what is your role?

Chandler:
I am the IB Coordinator. I take care of registering students with IB and making certain that everything in the program is moving smoothly, in terms of assessments and making certain all our teachers have the proper workshops and credentials. I also teach theTheory of Knowledge class, which is one of the most important classes, as I said earlier, that connects all the different classes together.

Superintendent:
I've always been fascinated with that title, The Theory of Knowledge, and it makes me really wants to take that class. So I may have to drop by one of these days. I've talked with students about it that have taken that course over the years. And it really is, like you said, at the heart of things. It's thinking about thinking, it's thinking about knowledge and looking at things at a deeper level that students haven't maybe experienced before. What is the relationship between West Jordan High school and the International Baccalaureate Program?

Chandler:
First of all, this is open to students throughout the district. So it's not a West Jordan High sSchool centric program, but it benefits the school as a whole as well. So IB's approach to education is great and it's that our school has been moving towards anyway. And I think that's why we felt like it was such a good fit for our school. You know, one example is the Theory of Knowledge class really focuses on how do we know something and what does that have to do with me? Right? So we always learn things in isolation. And I think that IB does such a good job of that. We want to see this permeate throughout our school, making the connection between the knowledge that's presented in class and what that has to do with each individual. How do I think about this and how does this affect the world that I live in, right? To make those connections. I think through IB and the IB training that all of our teachers are going to have, we'd like to see that mindset really permeate throughout every aspect of our school, whether it's an IB class or not.

Superintendent:
Stay with us after the break, we'll talk about what this program can do for students hoping to attend prestigious colleges and universities around the country, the advantages of having an IB diploma.

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Superintendent:
First of all, what can a student expect as part of the International Baccalaureate experience? And then we'll come back and talk about what results they might expect after high school for an International Baccalaureate. Chandler, what can they expect as part of the experience?

Chandler:
Yeah, that's a great question. So, you know, our high schools have a lot of different options for earning college credit. You have AP classes, you have concurrent classes and now we'll have the IB Program. I think what sets the IB Program apart is that you get an entirely well-rounded education. So in AP you kind of pick and choose, and maybe your strength is in science. And so you want to take an AP science class and that's great. But with IB, all of your classes are in depth, broad, rigorous classes. And so you can get a very well-rounded experience in the classroom. Then, if you're going to try and get the diploma, you also get the other parts of the IB, where you're getting theTheory of Knowledge class. You're doing the research paper, the essay, that's on your own. And the essay is a self guided. You pick the topic, you create the research question and then you research it and write it on your own. And it's structured where you have support through an advisor, but you are doing that on your own.

Superintendent:
Natalie, from your perspective in your role, what experience would an International Baccalaureate student expect?

Natalie:
You know, we always want teachers to emphasize authentic learning, and that is what the experience and project is all about. It produces the well-rounded students. So the neat part with the CAS program, if you are focused on creative pursuits, something that you want to have interest in, you can go out and take an art class or go to a paint night and that would fall into the creative pursuits. Then you also have activities which focuses on healthy lifestyle and building this healthy lifestyle. If you want to go rock climbing and try that, or if you want to participate in a sport at the school, that's highly encouraged where you can use some of your basketball experience on the team for the activity portion. My personal favorite is the community service aspect because you're finding an authentic need inside your immediate community and really speaking to that need. So students are getting out into the community, getting involved as well.

Superintendent:
I love that approach that involves educating the total student. Chandler, you mentioned before that the University of Utah and other in-state colleges accept International Baccalaureate and will grant 30 hours of credit. What impact does International Baccalaureate have on admissions to prestigious universities?

Chandler:
Yes, that's a great question. It's incredibly impactful. So certainly our State colleges all recognize it, but throughout the entire country, they recognize it. In fact, IB students are accepted at Ivy league colleges at a very high rate and other prestigious colleges that may not be Ivy league like NYU, for example, because they all recognize that not only is the rigor in the academic classes very high, but what you're asked to do outside of class is also very high, right?

So Natalie talked about the CAS Program. I've talked about the extended essay. But in addition, they all recognize that the skills these students come out with are incredibly important. The critical thinking skills are the biggest emphasis in any of these classes, right? This is not rote memorization. This is, can you discuss this in written form in an intelligent, critical way?

Natalie mentioned the time management skills, right? This is one of the things that I think is the hardest transition for students moving from high school to college in high school. We have these very long classes. The majority of your classwork is done in class. And then you go to college and it's the exact opposite. You sit through these lectures and then you're asked to do all this reading and this work outside of class. Some kids are able to make the transition, but some kids who really excelled in the high school model have a hard time transitioning to that college model. The kids don't because they've been asked to do all of this stuff outside. So they learned that time management skills. So I think that's one of the main reasons that colleges really recognize IB as important. Not only are you doing all this stuff in your community, but they recognize that you have all these skills and you've been through very rigorous classwork as well.

Superintendent:
What would you say to someone who's wondering whether this program would be a good match for them or for their children?

Chandler:
I think IB sometimes gets a bad reputation, that it's an elite program, right? And certainly students who are coming out of ALPS or coming out of honors classes, or maybe you've taken an AP class prior to the junior year, they're going to do well. The IB grades on a 1 - 7 scale. Only 1% of the students in the world get a seven, right? So there's a high ceiling to do well and to be challenged in IB. But you don't need to be an academic superstar to get the diploma, right? If you get straight fours on your exams, you get the diploma. I've looked at the rubrics and I've seen examples and a typical student can get a four. If they're willing to work hard to learn the skills that their teachers are teaching, you can get a four, right? So this is not necessarily an elite program. Regular students coming out of regular classes can definitely do well in IB. Having said that, elite students also will get a lot out of this. Like I mentioned, the time management skills, and there's a lot of skills beyond just your typical academic skills that IB offers.

Superintendent:
In other words, no one should count themselves out because of some preconceived notions about IB.

Chandler:
Yes, that's definitely right. Now, you will have to work hard. And there is a heavy workload in terms of the classes and in terms of the core requirements with the extended essay and the service and activity hours. But you can do it.

The program is the also encouraged students whose primary language is not English to get involved. They have tests in other languages. And so even if you're a secondary language learner, you still have the opportunity to thrive in an IB program.

Superintendent:
Natalie, tell me, what are some of the misconceptions about the International Baccalaureate?

Natalie:
There's a myth that you can't be as involved with the school because of the academic rigor of the program. And that's not true because again, it's focusing on the well-rounded students, so you can still do football or basketball.

One thing I think is kind of interesting is this is something that the military does now. They have a different term for it. They call it a cultural competency, right? So this idea is that you need to understand the world in order to excel in the world, whether that's in business, whether that's in government work, that is right. And it's not to diminish your own culture in any way. It's to understand your own culture and its place in the world. And to understand this idea that my culture can be right, but other cultures can also be right. Just understanding that. One of the fascinating things about one of the lessons I saw was, there are 30 foreign words that have no English translation, right? You would have to put together an entire sentence to explain what this word means in this other language. So that's one concern. I think people need not worry about is this idea of international mindedness. Really it is something that is a very positive thing. And it's no way meant to diminish our own culture, or have a skewed view of our own culture. It's just to understand our culture's place in a global world.

Superintendent:
If someone is interested in being part of the IB Program, how do they go about doing that?

Chandler:
You can go to ib.Jordandistrict.org for more information on how to contact the school. If you're outside of the West Jordan High School boundaries, there's also information there on how to permit into West Jordan for the IB Program.

Superintendent:
It's been great talking with Chandler and Natalie about the IB Program. It will begin pending final approval in the fall of 2021. And we're just really excited to bring this experience back. Chandler and Natalie, thank you so much for spending time with us.

Chandler:
Thank you very much.

Superintendent:
Thanks for joining us on the Supercast. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there.

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