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International Baccalaureate Saw Rapid Growth in High-Poverty Schools

The number of high-poverty U.S. schools participating in an international advanced-diploma program has been rising rapidly, but participation still lags among poor students at those schools.

Sixty percent of public schools in the United States offering International Baccalaureate diplomas in the 2012-13 school year received federal Title I money to support education for students in povery, according to a new study by the IB group based on federal and internal data. That's a 46 percent increase since the 2009-10 school year. Moreover, 46 percent of IB-participating schools were considered "schoolwide" Title I programs serving 40 percent or more low-income students. 

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However, school programs don't neccessarily equal student access: The study authors found only a third of students in Title I schools who actually took the challenging high school exams to qualify for the IB diploma were from low-income families.

As the chart below shows, exam-takers were also far more likely to be white:

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Among students who participated in the IB program in high school, low-income students of almost every race were a little less likely to immediately go on to college than IB classmates who were not poor. However, Hispanic, black, and white IB students in poverty were significantly more likely to go on to college right after high school than peers in poverty who did not participate in IB.

All of this raises more questions about the access and support for students in poverty to participate in advanced coursework programs like IB. As I and my colleagues wrote this spring, programs geared toward academically advanced students can be a heavy lift in high-poverty schools, where students have to overcome not just schools strapped for resources but also stereotypes suggesting they are somehow less able. 

Last year, the IB program launched an initiative to provide better access for poor and minority students, who traditionally have have less access to the programs in the United States. It will be interesting to see whether they are able to close the participation gap in high-poverty schools.

Chart: Less than 40 percent of Class of 2013 students who took at least one exam under the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program were black, Hispanic or Native American. Source: IB Global Research

 


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