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IB to Launch Pilot Program in Five High Schools to Serve Disadvantaged Students

CORRECTED

In an effort to attract more low-income students to the Interrnational Baccalaureate diploma program and develop supports to help them excel, five U.S. high schools will receive grants this fall to test new training and intervention strategies.

The three-year Bridging the Equity Gap Project will pilot coaching models, provide additional training for instructors, and develop new methods to recruit students to the program, according to Drew Deutsch, the IB's regional director overseeing the Americas.

The chosen schools will receive services and supports through $1.6 million in total grant money from the IB organization and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. All five currently receive federal Title I aid to serve low-income students and have existing IB programs.

"We see a huge need," said Deutsch in a phone interview. "There are kids out there who are critical thinkers and able to do the work of IB. We need to provide information and support for schools to encourage students to identify themselves."

The schools selected for the project are:

• Denton High School, Denton, Texas;

• Eastridge High School, Rochester, N.Y.;

• Marietta High School, Marietta, Ga.

• Sequoia High School, Redwood City, Calif.;

• Sonora High School, La Habra, Calif.;

The 45-year-old education program, which emphasizes a global approach to studies, critical thinking, and communication skills, has more than doubled its reach over the past eight years. Currently, one million students are enrolled in 4,950 IB programs (elementary through high school) in 147 countries. There are approximately 2,000 schools in the U.S. with IB programs. The IB diploma program at the high school level aims to prepare young people for success in higher education, with the courses culiminating in a series of exams that typically translate into college credit.

The IB organization just wrapped up its annual conference in Washington, drawing 1,700 educators from around the world for three days. On July 14, it hosted a smaller symposium with educators from K-12 and colleges to discuss strategies, such as the equity project, that would attract a wider swath of students to IB and help increase their access to college.

Two years ago, the IB Career-Related Certificate was rolled out as part of the organization's effort to broaden the appeal of IB to more students.

As schools see a greater need to prepare students for challenging coursework in high school, more districts are expanding IB to primary and middle schools, said Deutsch. Educators are also interested in IB as a way to improve college readiness and many find its approach is aligned with the Common Core State Standards. "There is a huge amount of synergy between the two," he said.

Rather than a single course or exam, in high school IB takes a "holistic approach to learning," said Deutsch. Students must take a prescribed set of courses including a second language, complete a lengthy research paper, and develop a service learning project—all skills that can help in the transition to college, he added. An evaluation in 2012 of public school students who participated in IB programs in Chicago found that they were more likely to be admitted to selective colleges and persist once on campus.

Other organizations, such as the College Board, are working to expand access to rigorous curriculum for at-risk students. Its All In Campaign is identifying minority students with potential to succeed in Advanced Placement courses and encourage them to participate.

[CORRECTION: The original version of this blog post contained an incorrect dollar value for the grant. The correct amount is $1.6 million.]

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