Hubbard overcomes CPS false start, nine other schools catch up

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Charleen Broderick, a senior at Hubbard High School in West Lawn, has purchased four day planners to keep her life on track.

“Being in IB made me compulsive,” she laughs, pulling one planner out of her bag. No wonder: The first three weeks of May are dotted with tiny stickers representing exams, five for the IB diploma and three for the Advanced Placement courses she’s taking as part of her school’s IB package.

Though Broderick has cut back on extracurricular activities to meet this culminating challenge, she’s still involved in school clubs. Plus, she works 30 hours a week to save money for college.

Broderick’s 15 best friends, who comprise Hubbard’s first crop of IB diploma candidates, run similarly demanding schedules. A feisty, tenacious bunch, they are the survivors among more than 30 freshmen that Hubbard pulled into the IB pipeline in fall 1997, when its application for authorization to issue diplomas was still being drafted.

Back then, the students didn’t know what they were getting into. And their school didn’t know whether it would be able to deliver. “Here I am, telling these kids we’ve got this program that’s going to be an IB program, but we don’t have it yet,” recalls Albert Dziedzic, a now-retired teacher whom then-Principal Charles Vietzen recruited to get the program up and running.

As it turned out, Hubbard is the only Chicago public high school that cleared all the hurdles in time for its first group of IB students to be eligible for an IB diploma. “Fortunately, we were able to make good on our promise,” says Dziedzic.

Nine other Chicago schools that began the process with Hubbard passed muster a year later, which left their first crop of students out in the cold. And three schools are still rewriting their applications. (See chart on page 9 for a school status report.)

Hubbard’s strengths

With a strong faculty, especially in math and science, and established honors and Advanced Placement programs, Hubbard hit the road running. Through Dziedzic, it also started with IB savvy — he had taught IB history at Lincoln Park. For a school starting cold, he says, “It’s gonna take you a semester just to figure things out.”

In spring and summer 1997, when most of the prospective IB applicants were still figuring things out, Hubbard was getting down to business. Dziedzic nagged Vietzen to order IB’s curriculum guides ahead of schedule so that teachers could begin writing course outlines, a crucial piece of the application, before summer break. “My principal gave me carte blanche,” he says. That included carte blanche in picking colleagues to work with. “We had four or five AP teachers. I went right to them,” he recalls. As a result, Hubbard submitted its application six months ahead of the other schools.

Dziedzic faults CPS central office for the failure of other schools to get their programs ready in time. “They did it wrong. They did it absolutely wrong,” he contends. Had central office given schools time to train teachers and draft applications before having to recruit students, schools would have gotten off to a smoother start.

‘We were used’

Both students and coordinators at other newly IB schools have mixed emotions about their journey.

“We feel like we were used,” says Marques Jackson, a senior at Senn, who didn’t learn until junior year that he would not be eligible for an IB diploma. “In some aspects [the program] is good, but we feel like we don’t get any rewards. We feel kind of exploited.”

“That was extremely difficult for me personally,” says Ruth Lenczycki, the founding IB coordinator at Morgan Park High, who retired last year. “We had promised these kids that if we got the program they could get the [IB] diploma. We did get the program, but they did not get the diploma. It was tough keeping some of those kids in. Some of them left the program. In effect we hadn’t kept our end of the bargain.”

IB coordinators take some consolation in the scores their pioneers posted on the ACT college entrance exam. At Amundsen, seniors originally tapped for IB averaged a 21, four points higher than the citywide average and just half a point shy of the state average. At Morgan Park, they averaged 28, more than six points above the state average. “I know that’s coming from the curriculum,” says Carol Conway, Morgan Park’s current coordinator.

With the participants at each grade level taking all their classes together, IB has yielded social benefits, too. “You make very close friends,” says Hubbard senior Diana Mendoza.

Classmate Kristina Hajek notes that those friendships, in turn, make it easier to study. “You can concentrate on school,” she explains. “You don’t have to worry about, Oh, how’s my hair today? We could come to school in our pajamas, and it would be like, Oh, hi, what’s up?

“In grammar school I was so nervous. I was ashamed of being smart,” she adds. “But now I don’t care what anyone says. It’s like having brothers and sisters.”

IB has taken students farther than they would have dreamed. For example, Mendoza was drafted at the end of her freshman year by social studies teacher Jay Brickman, who spotted her potential. To catch up with the IB program, she had to go to summer school and take an extra math class at Daley College. Along the way, she scored a 25 on the ACT, four points above the state average, and an acceptance at the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Karol Knowa, an immigrant from Poland, caught the eye of his 8th-grade bilingual education teachers, who encouraged him to enroll. He credits IB with giving him the choice between the University of Chicago and Carleton College. “I don’t think I would have applied to good universities if I didn’t do that,” he says. “The way I look at my education the next four years … it’s different from what it would have been if I wasn’t in IB. I don’t think I could have handled any of those schools.”

Though IB students far outpace average CPS seniors academically, it remains to be seen how well they will measure up against IB’s exacting standards. Initial reports are mixed. Last year, Hubbard’s students faced their first exams; half took math studies, and the other half took physics. Students taking math studies scored close to the worldwide average, 4.56 on a 7-point scale, compared with 4.67 worldwide. Students taking the physics exam fell short, scoring at 3, compared to a worldwide average of 4.48.

All but one of Hubbard’s 16 candidates faces five IB exams this year. “I’m pretty confident,” says senior Karen Reodica. “With more review and studying, I’ll do pretty well. I think we’re prepared.”

Uncertainty ahead

Although Hubbard’s IB program got off to a fast start, it’s still on shaky ground.

“You need a good staff that’s committed to the program, and that’s gonna remain,” says Dziedzic. “I know that’s a problem at Hubbard.” He says the school lost two good teachers last year, one to the suburbs and one to a “more selective” CPS high school, and he knows of others who may follow their lead.

Leadership at the school also is in transition. Veteran Principal Vietzen retired in the second year of the IB process, and successor Valerie Doubrawa lasted only two and a half years. Interim Principal Andrew Manno is filling in while a search is under way. Dziedzic’s retirement last June also was a jolt. “Bring back Dziedzic,” cries Knowa. His fellow seniors echo the sentiment.

Hubbard’s new IB coordinator, Christine Alexander, is a veteran special education teacher with no previous involvement in the program. “This is really, truly our first year,” she says, referring to the fact that all courses are running at all grade levels and students are taking diploma exams. “And it’s overwhelming.”

Alexander also faces the pressure of being in charge of a leader. “I know we will be the resource for all the other schools,” she says.

While school staff have been impressed with central office’s generous purse for IB — which buys IBO dues, books, subs for meetings, and training— bureaucratic roadblocks remain.

“The system should support it more,” says senior Pawel Dmytrow. “We’ve seen moments where the system’s been denying what we ought to have or what the IB says we should have.”

Dmytrow and his classmates staged a sit-in last fall at the principal’s office to ensure they were waived out of a graduation requirement in music. That would have meant an extra course this year, on top of everything else.

However, CPS does now exempt Hubbard’s IB freshmen and sophomores from all of CPS’ own CASE exams, buying the argument that the IB curriculum is different and demanding enough on its own.

Teachers also would like more support. Help with lab preparation and more planning time top Christine Smith’s wish list. “It’s too much work,” says the veteran chemistry teacher. “I love teaching AP. I have not enjoyed the IB experience,” which for her has been “a lot of extra work with what I feel is no support from the schools.”

Though Smith has complaints, she’s no idle whiner. When she joined Hubbard’s IB team, she went back to school to earn a master’s degree in chemistry education. “This is a very specific program,” she says of IB’s curriculum. “If you don’t know what these [topics] are, you can’t deliver.”

Joan Smith, associate director of the International Baccalaureate Organization’s regional office for North America and the Caribbean, says it’s way too early to evaluate Chicago’s new IB programs. She’d like at least three years’ worth of exam results before passing judgment.

“I need to see some longitudinal data,” she says. “I want to see this year how Hubbard’s kids do. I want to see where that number goes.”