For Dr. Terri Leon, it’s been a long three years filled with many plans and meetings.
As of last night, her hard work—and that of her team of dedicated teachers, students and administrators—turned into success for this assistant principal from Royal High School in Simi Valley. She received word that her school was approved to be an International Baccalaureate school.
“When I got that email, it was halleluiah! It is such a long process and our kids and teachers have been working so hard,” she said.
International Baccalaureate, or IB for short, was established in 1968 and currently operates in 3,803 schools covering 147 countries. Royal’s acceptance makes it the 95th diploma program available in California high schools (fourth in Ventura County). IB’s mission is simply to create a better world through education.
For the students completing the two-year diploma program, though, it’s much more. It’s a rich educational experience filled with a lot of opportunity.
Take college, for instance. Dr. Leon said that there is a marked increase in the number of college applications accepted from IB students.
“There’s quite a list of college acceptance and graduation rates that are intriguingly higher with IB students,” she said. “One of the questions asked on college applications is ‘Are you in an IB program?’”
Dr. Leon believes that colleges and universities recognize and respect the level of scholarship and commitment needed for a high school student to graduate from an IB program.
Each school creates its own curriculum (following IB requirements and California standards) and the requirements for getting into the program.
And this is where Royal offers something different from many other IB programs.
Any student showing a sincere desire to participate in Royal’s IB program will be accepted. That includes those students who may have struggled in the past with their grades.
It was a decision made by Dr. Leon’s team of about 30 educators, who were committed to offering IB’s educational advantage to every student possible.
“We understand that students who may be B or C students may actually do better at IB, depending on how they learn and process,” she said. “We are willing to take a student who sits down with their parents and coordinator and expresses that this is what they want.”
That means that the IB teachers and counselors work closely with the student’s other teachers to determine what weaknesses the student might have that need to be addressed.
“We want this to be a program for students; about students. If they are telling us they want to do this, we will help them get through this,” she said.
As far as the classes, IB students will have six IB classes (history, math, science, English, foreign language and an art elective) during their junior and senior years. They can choose a math/science or liberal arts focus, but still need to take all of the classes offered. Each class has an international component to the lessons.
“They have to complete three of those at the standard level, which I liken to an honors class, and three of those at a higher level, where there is a deeper level of study. You take what works best for you. They also need to take the “Theory of Knowledge Class,” which is the core of the program. It ties in all of the different curriculum, and is about how students learn, what are international practices and more.”
Testing in IB classes is more likely to be done through collaborative projects and in-depth essays needing critical thinking and topic exploration as opposed to multiple choice tests and memorization. It’s because of this style of learning that IB might offer better choices for some students over Advanced Placement classes, though both require rigorous attention to material.
“The IB diploma program is really discussion, writing and analysis-based. There is no multiple choice on any of the courses and exams,” she said.
Besides the academic work, IB students are also required to complete 150 hours of what’s called CAS, which stands for Creativity, Action and Service. Action can be participation in school sports. Service can cover volunteer efforts, including those fulfilled in other programs.
Lastly, diploma students write a long research paper on a topic of their choice, like a senior thesis. If all of these requirements are met and the student passes the exams, they graduate with a special diploma from IB, along with their high school diploma.
Royal’s students can also just take classes within the IB program without being on the IB diploma track, Dr. Leon said.
This coming year, 22 students have signed up for the program, a number Dr. Leon said is impressive for such a new opportunity. She said they don’t plan on setting a cap on the maximum number of students Royal’s IB can accept, and long-term plans have more classes coming to the IB program, especially foreign languages, which are limited to French and Spanish right now.
“We will take as many as come,” she said.
For more information about the program, contact Dr. Leon at firstname.lastname@example.org or Program Coordinator Kari Lev at email@example.com. Additional information can be found at the school’s website, and will be updated throughout the summer. The link is here: http://rhs-simi-ca.schoolloop.com.