3 Mesa schools could go international
Arizona Republic
Nov. 16, 2007

Ray Parker

Mesa Public Schools educators want to introduce an international curriculum at Rhodes Junior High and International Baccalaureate programs at Hendrix Junior High and Frost Elementary schools.

The proposals would likely go before the school board within the month, and if approved, begin next school year.

Teachers will incorporate material about cultures across different classes, said Mary Ann Harriman, a Rhodes family and consumer sciences teacher.

Students, for example, could explore the Cold War in their social studies class, then in their English class write a persuasive essay on the topic, while in science study the atomic bomb.

"We're going to really focus on language, culture and global issues," Harriman said. "This would be an opportunity to go a little deeper with students who are also taking a foreign language."

International schools have become increasingly popular.

At Rhodes, educators presented the initial concept to parents and school board members last school year. The school could be the first Mesa school to offer an international curriculum at an existing school.

Districts around the country have already done this at existing schools, said Jeannine Kuropatkin, a Rhodes social studies educator, but it usually involves a school-within-a-school configuration.

"It's a growing movement around the nation now," she said.

Rhodes could have the entire school transformed with an international focus, while Hendrix and Frost would undergo the complex process of being accredited to offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum, a rigorous program that emphasizes the arts, service to the community, and teaching through discussion, not lecture.

The IB program exists at Westwood High, but the program would look different at the elementary and junior high level.

"The main difference is the way you're going to train the teachers, so that the tide is going to rise and lift all the boats," said Paul Wright, the district's development director, whose job involves creating alternative programs.

He said students who go through the international focus at Rhodes could continue the same type of education with Advanced Placement and foreign language courses at Dobson High, while those in the Hendrix IB program could continue at Dobson or Westwood.

The district chose these schools because enrollment has declined there, making more space available.

An IB program at Frost means students could take a foreign language from kindergarten on.

"Increasingly, our community is global," Kuropatkin said.


The 3 IB programs

Here are the three programs offered by the International Baccalaureate Organization, a non-profit foundation based in Geneva, as described on its Web site at ibo.org.

 The primary years program for ages 3 to 12 focuses on the development of the whole child in the classroom and in the world outside.

 The middle years program for students 11 to 16 provides a framework of academic challenge and life skills through embracing and transcending traditional school subjects.

 The diploma program for students 16 to 19 is a demanding two-year curriculum that meets the needs of highly motivated students and leads to a qualification that is recognized by leading universities.



Key questions about the proposed international curriculum at Rhodes Junior High.

Q: Is the proposed program patterned after the International Baccalaureate Program?

A: No. Unlike the International Baccalaureate program with its set curriculum and school-within-a-school structure, the international school provides opportunities for all students. It promotes a second language and will be set up to integrate the lessons that teach the state standards with current topical world matters, making learning come alive and preparing kids to be ready for what comes their way in the global marketplace.

Q: How will this program improve test scores?

A: Educators will continue to teach to the standards and provide support programs and gifted programs now in place. Studies have shown that students who study a foreign language do better on standardized tests.

Q: Why is having more students considered a benefit as opposed to a smaller class size or individualized attention?

A: The district sets class size, so it will not change as a result of starting the international program. When a school's population drops below a set number, it may lose some of its elective courses.

Q: How can seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders evaluate other cultures when they are not yet well-grounded in their own culture and form of government?

A: A fundamental technique in teaching is comparing and contrasting. By looking at similarities and differences, educators can really hone in on students' own culture in an evaluative way.

Q: How does this model affect elective curriculum, especially the fine arts, like orchestra?

A: To maintain elective offerings, educators plan to implement a seven-period day. This will enable students to take their core classes, have one hour of language, and up to two hours of electives. This will maintain or strengthen the fine arts and performing arts programs.

Q: Will there be a less American history education?

A: No, the American history program will conform to the Arizona State Standards and will actually be enriched by comparisons with world cultures and events.

Source: Mesa Public Schools