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The IB Menace

International Baccalaureate—or IB—academic programs are gaining recognition nationwide for their rigorous curricular standards and the high-achieving students the classes draw. The program was created in Switzerland in 1968 to provide a common educational framework that would be recognized worldwide, with a focus on putting learning into an international context and encouraging students to develop their own projects. But in Minnesota, there's a growing furor about the IB program. Last month, two separate congressional district Republican conventions approved resolutions denouncing IB, and the classes were also a divisive issue in last fall's school board race in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Opponents charge that the IB curriculum "teaches global citizenship as a priority over American citizenship," in the words of one detractor. But supporters argue that IB imbues education with creativity. "It's giving big ideas to chew on for an extended period of time...not just jumping from one thing to the next," said Paula Palmer, the Minneapolis coordinator of IB programs. Part of the reason IB is so contentious is the cost: While states chip in a portion of IB funding (about $1 million in Minnesota), schools still cover much of the tab, to the tune of more than $100,000 per year in at least one case. With 519 IB schools already recognized in the United States and other schools lining up to apply, the community-support issue will likely come into sharper focus as planning for the next school year intensifies.

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