Schools expanding international program
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 12, 2007

Ray Parker

Hoping to broaden students' knowledge of the world, Mesa Public Schools will expand the demanding International Baccalaureate program from kindergarten to senior year.

School board members Tuesday reviewed the IB launch next year into Frost Elementary and Hendrix Junior High, linking study from the primary and middle school years into the established high-school program at Westwood High.

Officials outlined a three-year process for becoming IB-authorized, which will be about $60,000 in start-up costs.
"It's the best thing I've seen for students and staff," Frost Principal Tim Moe told the board.

IB focuses on teaching students critical-thinking skills, favoring the question-and-answer format over teacher lectures, along with an emphasis on foreign languages.

The most popular IB program in the United States involves the high school Diploma Program, where students must test successfully at the end of their senior year in each of six subject areas, including a foreign language.

There's one big advantage to having an IB diploma: Many universities accept students as college sophomores because of the college credits earned in the program.

Now, Mesa educators will offer all three main segments for a seamless K-12 IB education - primary school, middle school and high school.

Some school board members expressed some concerns about the IB program at Frost Elementary, where all students would be included.

Member Rich Crandall asked how teachers would be monitored for bias when teaching controversial subjects to elementary students. Superintendent Debra Duvall replied that question could be asked of any Mesa classroom, where principals are responsible for monitoring teaching.

Member Mike Hughes wondered if some students could be set up for failure since the IB program will be offered to all.

Associate Superintendent Mike Cowan replied Frost Elementary would use the existing district curriculum, while adding the IB program themes. For example, teachers normally cover the Founding Fathers, but with IB, there would be more depth to the subjects.

At Hendrix Junior, the IB program will start out as a school-within-a-school approach, similar to the high school IB program, therefore not all students will be involved.

Principal Carlos Alvarado said the middle school IB program would be a great advantage for the students, helping them gain a broader knowledge of the world around them.

Elementary and middle school students won't necessarily face the same intense types of assignments as students in Westwood High's Diploma Program.

Nevertheless, all IB programs share the same philosophy and approach - one that appeals to many families.

The district chose the two schools because enrollment has declined there, making more space available. Both schools are in Chandler: Frost Elementary, 1560 W. Summit Place, near Dobson and Elliot roads; and Hendrix Junior, 550 W. Summit Place, near Arizona Avenue and Elliot Road.

Principal Alvarado said Hendrix Junior could draw around 200 extra students because of the new program.

Superintendent Duvall added, "It takes several years to become an IB school."

Parent meetings will be held in the middle of January to go over the new IB programs.