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Study Links International Baccalaureate to College Success

High school students who complete the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme are much more likely to enroll in a four-year college and graduate than their peers, according to a study that followed students for six years after they took their exams.

Using data from the National Student Clearinghouse and the IB Information system, the new analysis shows 78 percent of Diploma Programme students went to college right after graduating high school and, of those, 95 percent enrolled in a four-year institution. Nationally, about 69 percent of high school graduates go on to college immediately, and 60 percent choose a four-year college.

Four years after the IB students took their 2008 exams, 79 percent had graduated from a college or university with a bachelor's degree, compared to 39 percent nationally. The IB students also had higher six-year graduation rates (83 percent), compared to the national average (56 percent).

Research by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research in 2012 indicated students who participated in the IB program in Chicago Public Schools felt well-prepared academically for college. 

The nonprofit IB offers its Diploma Programme in 864 high schools in the U.S., up by about 23 percent in the past six years. The program, offered mostly in public high schools in the U.S., includes six subject groups: language and literature; language acquisition; individuals and societies; sciences; mathematics; and the arts. The approach emphasizes critical thinking, writing, creativity, research, and analysis.

In addition to the high school curriculum, IB offers programs for elementary school, middle school, and a career-related program. From 2009 to 2014, overall IB programs grew globally by about 46 percent and are offered in 4,162 schools.

As schools look for ways to improve the college-readiness of students, other programs are expanding as well. Cambridge University offers its college-preparatory program in 230 schools in the U.S., and its exams taken at the high school level have increased in recent years. Participation in Advanced Placement College Board has doubled in the past decade to about 1 million test-takers in the latest report from the College Board on the class of 2013. A paper on AP last month by College Board and Harvard University researchers found students who got AP credit had a better chance of graduating on time from college.

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