IB program rolled out to parents
Arizona Republic
Jan. 25, 2008

Ray Parker

Mesa Public Schools could become the first district in Arizona to offer its students the rigorous college-prep International Baccalaureate program in every grade, kindergarten to senior year.

Educators on Tuesday reviewed for parents the IB launch next school year into Frost Elementary and Hendrix Junior High, linking study from the primary and middle school years into the established program at Westwood High.

"IB students aren't the only ones we accept, but they're the best prepared," Mark Jacobs, dean of the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University, told about 65 parents during the first public meeting.
IB focuses on teaching critical-thinking skills, foreign languages and a global perspective.

All Frost Elementary students could benefit because teachers would use the existing district curriculum, while adding IB program themes such as sharing the planet or water.

In addition, students would learn Spanish.

"This is the best," Frost Principal Tim Moe told the audience.

At Hendrix Junior, the IB program will start out as a school-within-a-school, so students will apply for admission. The school will be renamed The Academy at Hendrix Junior High.

In addition to Spanish, students can take Mandarin Chinese.

One common concern about IB programs, which was brought up during the meeting, is the perception that students learn less American history and government.

Gregg Good, IB program coordinator at Westwood, said this is a misconception, and that in fact, students learn more about American history and concepts.

Elementary and middle school students won't necessarily face the same intense types of assignments as students in Westwood High's Diploma Program, but Good said all students will benefit from the demanding IB curriculum.

Mesa officials will spend about $60,000 in IB startup costs, mostly for teacher training, and hope to become IB accredited, a process that takes two to three years, by the Geneva-based IB organization.

If that happens, Mesa will become the first district to offer the program in grades K-12 in the state, and one of only 37 districts in the United States, Good said.

"This is a private school education in public schools," he said.

The district chose the two schools because enrollment has declined there, making space available. Both schools are in Chandler.

Officials said Frost could take about 100 more students, while Hendrix Junior about 200.

At the end of the 90-minute presentation, parent Carly Estrada said she was unsure if all four of her children, which are zoned for the IB schools, would enter the program.

"They're not all at the same level," the mother said. "But it sounds like a great program."