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It’s a go for IB program

District approved to offer at Oakmont, Granite Bay highs
By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press-Tribune
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School officials have planned for it, students have studied for it and teachers have trained for it. But until last month, the International Baccalaureate program has been just a twinkle in the eye of the Roseville Joint Union High School District. Not anymore. After three years on the drawing board, Oakmont and Granite Bay high schools have been authorized to offer the elite program. District staff received the go-ahead from the International Baccalaureate Organization earlier last month to offer IB, a two-year academic track that stresses international awareness and critical thinking. We are thrilled, just really, really excited, said Ron Severson, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district. The teachers put in so much time and energy, the schools invested so much, it's just rewarding see it all come together. The approval follows an extensive application process that included a visitation by an IBO delegation to both schools, where officials examined the district's readiness to offer the curriculum. They just want to make sure your school is up to the challenge of doing this, Severson said. We got great reviews about the visits and everything. The endorsement means the first crop of students “ who have already been accepted into the program “ will enter IB-sanctioned classes next year as juniors. Students who remain in compliance with the program's guidelines would graduate in 2010 with an IB diploma in addition to their standard district document. Our teachers are in full force getting curriculum neat and tight and ready to go, said Michelle Mahoney, IB director at Oakmont. We've got meetings scheduled to meet with parents and the juniors next year, and setting up a boosters club. While the classes will be open to non-diploma candidates on an exploratory basis as well, the IB diploma certifies students have taken a battery of externally administered tests, completed volunteer work, and finished a high school curriculum some say is the most rigorous in the world. IB began as a program for the children of diplomats in 1968 and today exists at 1,800 schools worldwide. Only two high schools offer it locally “ Mira Loma and Luther Burbank, both in Sacramento. We talk a lot about preparing kids for a global world, but the reality is with standards-based instruction we don't do a lot of things to prepare kids for a global marketplace, Severson said. With IB, he said, ¦the whole curriculum is structured that way. So we don't just teach American and European authors, we're teaching literature from around world. Students enrolled in the IB diploma program take courses in six subject areas and complete three additional core requirements, including the program's theory of knowledge course, an extended essay and community service. The district is spending about $175,000 to establish the programs at both Oakmont and Granite Bay, where currently 30 students each are enrolled in the diploma program. Severson said those numbers double for the following year's juniors. We've got a stronger group right behind (next year's juniors), and we've got a ton of incoming freshman interested in the program, he said. Still, the district is actively looking to boost those numbers and officials said spots are still available for those who meet entrance requirements “ including those from outside the district. We're looking for the well-rounded student who wants to learn about all areas and want to be risk takers in those areas as well as students who are involved in school and the community, Mahoney said. Both schools will offer similar programs, at least to start. Japanese will be offered at Granite Bay, but not at Oakmont, while Oakmont will offer a higher-level math course to start, with Granite Bay following a year later. Officials say IB is not meant to compete with the district's other educationally rigorous program: Advanced Placement. That program, too, consists of external testing and boasts strong academics. It's also less expensive. Completing IB costs about $650 per student in testing and other fees, versus $84 per exam for AP classes. We believe in AP, Severson said. They have different functions. AP is college courses taught on your campus; IB is designed to teach kids to be successful for college work when they arrive. Anyone interested in more information can visit www.rjuhsd.us.