College-prep program is gaining ground in Arizona schools
Arizona Republic
 Mar. 4, 2007

 Carol Peck Guest columnist
Two years ago I reported on an excellent model of academic rigor, the International Baccalaureate, or IB, program, highlighting especially successful programs in diverse and low-income Arizona communities.

Since then, I am pleased to see these programs have expanded into 11 schools statewide with several more under development. Some school districts are even developing programs that involve younger students in IB learning.

For more than 35 years, IB has been a well-respected college-prep program primarily for the most ambitious students. This rigorous program reaches more than 501,000 students in 124 countries and has expanded to begin with students as young as 3. Many are recognizing the importance of international education programs. A bill introduced by state Rep. Mark Anderson would fund some IB high schools and similar programs.

"IB is a great example of a partnership between a private organization and public schools that help our students strive for excellence," said state Rep. David Schapira, an IB graduate and former teacher in the program.

IB teachers participate in intensive training sessions to learn research-based best practices that apply to all classes they teach. Students are exposed to a rigorous curriculum and are encouraged to become active learners, well-rounded individuals and engaged citizens of an international community.

"The beauty of IB is that each school develops a unique program based on the IB principles to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect," Arizona IB Chair Cathy Flesner said.

The U.S. Department of Education recently set a goal of giving more students access to, and more teachers training for, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. I applaud their efforts. Challenging alternatives are good not only for the students that participate but also raise the bar for the entire school population.

"I am thankful for the excellent education that I've received, beginning with elementary school in Alhambra District and culminating with the IB program at North High," IB graduate Lee Tang said. "It prepared me to be successful at MIT and enter high-level work for the federal government. This program has opened life-changing doors for me."

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Carol Peck is president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Arizona. Her columns appear every other Sunday. Send your questions and ideas to her at