Farm teams to groom high achievers for IB

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Upon learning of CPS’ plan to launch IB programs in 14 high schools, administrators faced a dilemma: Where would they find enough high-achieving students to fill the seats?

CPS offered a solution. Team up with one feeder elementary school and apply to the International Baccalaureate Organization for a Middle Years Programme, an intensive course of study for 6th- through 10th-grade students that prepares them for the rigors of IB.

“It’s really benefited our kids,” says IB coordinator Leslie Hayden of Marsh Elementary, which is partnered with Washington High School. “We kind of feel like pioneers.”

So far, 16 elementary schools are undergoing the complicated, multi-year application process. “It’s not an overnight program,” says Evelyn Rodriguez-Perez, IB coordinator at Morton Elementary. “It’s really not a program, it’s a philosophy. And like any good philosophy, it takes time to learn.”

Some elementary school teams have well-established relationships with nearby IB high schools, such as Amundsen High and its feeder, McPherson. Other high schools may not need a Middle Years partner. Senn, for example, is on tap to receive a gifted center for 7th- and 8th-graders, school officials say.

A cluster of five Beverly-area schools—Barnard, Clissold, Sutherland, Kellogg and Esmond—will apply to the program as feeders to Morgan Park High. These schools joined forces six years ago to steer kids into Morgan Park, which has IB, and away from area private and Catholic schools.

With the benefit of a long-term partnership, the Beverly cluster expects to submit its Middle Years application in June. The other schools are looking at filing applications in 2002 or later. The Middle Years application process can last from four to six years. Teachers spend much of that time developing and fine tuning the vertical alignment of course work. They must create a lesson plan for each subject at every grade level—a total of 40.