Parents are key for IB success
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Parents organized to push for an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in Highlands County and now a formal IB parent organization is being developed to help the program grow.
Published: January 26, 2013
Published: January 26, 2013
The Sebring High IB program started in 2010 and graduated its first class of students in June, with nine of the 15 IB seniors being awarded the prestigious IB diploma.
The program underwent an interim review recently, which was conducted by Paul Gallagher, who was the chairman of Sebring High's IB authorization committee.
Secondary Programs Director Ruth Heckman said Gallagher offered ideas on how to improve the program, which they are working on.
Heckman noted that Gallagher recommended easing the environment to increase the enrollment, retention and the number of students that complete the diploma program
Gallagher said Friday that the Sebring High IB program is in a predictable stage of modifications and growth, which comes after about three years when statistics are compiled and reviewed to see how everything is going.
"I think they are going to lean more heavily on their wonderful parent involvement and support to get involved in some task forces to see how they can tweak some of the assessments and expectations of kids," he said.
They should celebrate the accomplishments of the students a little bit more and hopefully enhance recruitment efforts, Gallagher said.
As recommended by Gallagher, a formal IB parent organization is being formed to provide improved communications between the school and parents.
Reed Bowman and his wife, Charlotte Wilson, whose son is a freshman in the pre-IB program, will be heading the IB parent organization.
Bowman said the IB program is moving forward, though it has some glitches that Gallagher identified, but the district seems committed to addressing those glitches.
Since the program started, there hasn't been a way for parents to be involved in its evolution, so that is why they are starting a formal IB parent's organization, he said.
"Unfortunately, parents and teachers seem to have developed a little bit of an adversarial relationship, which I think we can completely diffuse with a parent organization," Bowman said. Everyone should be cooperatively working toward the same goal — having the best possible IB program.
Wilson noted that parents were fundamental in starting the IB program in the district, which is a bit unusual because typically it's the district that establishes the IB program not the parents.
"So we came into the situation with a lot of expectations and in the middle of all this the principal changed and a lot of the people who were involved with the inception of the IB program were no longer involved in the implementation of the program," she said.
The personnel changes slowed the growth of the program for a while and that didn't mesh well with the expectations of the parents, Wilson said. Nobody dropped the ball; it was just the circumstances.
Parent Diane Juve said the IB teachers are working to be more efficient with the assignments that they give the students.
"Sometimes you end up with more quantity and you have to be more efficient with the number that you give," she said.
The teachers received very good reviews, but there are growing pains in determining how to best support the students to enable them to stay in the program, Juve said.
"We expect the program to grow next year," she said. "We just need to be more organized."
Bowman said parents can help market the program by telling others how it has helped their children, he said.
"In part, providing our students with new and better opportunities is going to depend on the growth of the program," he said. "If the program stays small it is always going to have somewhat limited opportunities."
Sebring High IB Coordinator Joanna Cochlin said the program currently has 97 students — 30 freshmen, 36 sophomores, 15 juniors and 15 seniors.
"Our IB school evaluation is not slated until 2015, but as with any program, to be successful it is necessary to constantly assess effectiveness and adjust for continuous improvement," she said. "Since we just graduated our first group, we thought this would be an ideal time for some program evaluation activities."
Gallagher recommended an examination of the extended essay timeline and guidelines to reduce student stressors and for the program to more clearly specify for parents and students the main study topics, Cochlin said.
IB and pre-IB classes will have more flexibility in accepting late class work and homework due to the students' demanding workloads, she said. School administration and the IB coordinator are looking at ways to expand participation of students outside the program through the certificate option of taking selected IB courses.
International Baccalaureate bills itself as a nonprofit educational foundation founded in 1968 to help students develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills for a rapidly global world.
Based in Geneva, Switzerland, IB has 3,501 schools in 144 countries.