IB program to be removed from GHS in 2021

Yulia Burdak, Staff Writer

   On Thursday morning of Jan. 9, IB coordinator Alan Simpson entered the school solemnly, with Wednesday’s after-school meeting looming over his head. A meeting in which staff was told that the IB program, which has been running for 20 years, is no longer going to be offered after the 2021 school year, meaning the current juniors will be the last to class to be able to get the diploma.

   According to the school website, the International Baccalaureate program, is a “rigorous college-prep program which prepares students for the next level of their education, as well as challenging them in their high school experience”. 

    IB places great emphasis on creating well-rounded students with an understanding of the world. IB students and staff refer to the IB Learner profiler, a profile in which ten attributes valued by IB schools are listed, such as being open-minded, inquisitive, risk-takers, and caring.  

   “IB is a philosophy. It’s based on the learner profiler. It’s based on unified worldwide standards, as opposed to just an American based standard set that changes state by state. There’s a sense of internationalism there when teachers are trained in IB,” Simpson said. “They’re taught to teach, to include theory of knowledge in their class, and it gives you a deeper connection to what’s going on, so students get a more unified curriculum.” 

   Theory of knowledge is a class that focuses on the nature of knowledge, and how we know what we know. The class is taught by Ed Sage.

   A letter sent out to parents by the Assistant Superintendent of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, Lisa Riggs, said that the removal of the IB program “will provide more students opportunities for college and career readiness course work”.

  During the Wednesday morning meeting on Jan. 8, teachers were provided with data from the district to support the removal of IB. The data provided supported the reasoning that the program as a whole is not inclusive and diverse enough and that student participation has been dwindling. 

   According to the presentation given to the staff, “The racial demographics of those pursuing the full IB Diploma do not match those of  GHS as a whole.” They also said that the number of students “currently pursuing the full IB Diploma is the lowest it has been since the inception of the program.”

   However, Simpson disagrees with the data, saying that ten out of twelve full IB students are students of color this school year, which the data didn’t account for.

   Another reason for the removal of the IB program was that it can be expensive. 

   According to Dr. Katrise Perera, the superintendent, the budget for the Gresham-Barlow school district is about $160 million, which is based on the number of students in the district among many other things. Dr. Perera estimates that 85% goes toward “every adult that works in the district.” About 10% goes to keeping the lights on, as well as covering other basic expenses, and the 3-5% of the remaining money is flexible.

   Mr. Simpson approximated that IB is about a teacher’s salary every year, which is about $60,000.

   Principal Drake Shelton went to the school district to inquire about implementing IB into the middle schools. By doing so, it would have helped to ensure more success of the IB program at the high school level. 

   “To start an MYP, Middle Years Program, it costs a lot of money. They weren’t necessarily against it, they just don’t have the money,” Shelton said.

   In addition to that, Shelton said that the goal of having the IB program is to have 30% of the student body to graduate with the IB diploma. GHS has about 1600 students, with only 8-10 graduating with the IB diploma. 

   “The classes are great. The instruction is great. The teachers are great, but we’re just not doing our best of providing the best opportunity for our kids,” Shelton said.

   It is unknown what will take IB’s spot, but according to Shelton, students will still have the opportunity to get college credit. 

   Students have varying opinions on the issue. Senior Anne Holder who is in the full IB program expressed her frustration with the district’s decision.

   “The school’s decision to leave the IB program is based on a poorly veiled lie. While I could sadly understand the district’s decision to leave if it were only about the money, I cannot currently accept their choice. After all, this decision will be hurting the students more than it will be helping the district,” Holder said. 

   Sophomore McKenzee Manlupig thinks that the removal of the program might bring better opportunities. 

   “I heard IB is useless and that you would get more out of CAL with the hands-on experience and college credit, but I wouldn’t know. Whatever they put in place to replace it shouldn’t be that bad,” Manlupig said. 

   At the end of the day, the frustration lies less with IB being removed, but more with the lack of staff and student involvement with the decision, and the uncertainty with what will take its place. 

   “I’m shocked because of the way it came down. They’re kind of throwing it out without knowing where they’re going from here. I’m frustrated at the lack of staff inclusion in the process,” said Simpson.