More Massachusetts Schools Adopting International Baccalaureate

At least one school in the Framingham, Massachusetts school district is looking to adopt the International Baccalaureate program, which is slowly gaining popularity in school districts around the country, Boston Globe reports. The academically rigorous program is already widely adopted abroad, but so far has been relatively slow to spread in America – although more schools are showing interest and taking steps to implement IB.

Woodrow Wilson Elementary Schools is aiming to follow the path set down by the Brockton and Malden school districts and wants to implement IB concepts, which include an emphasis on writing, inquiry and world cultures, culminating in a series of exams that can translate into college credit. The program was developed in Switzerland in 1956 and is now in use in over 143 countries, but has proven less popular in MA, where only 14 schools in two school districts use IB to drive their curriculum.

But that may be changing. Framingham’s Woodrow Wilson Elementary , with MCAS scores in the bottom 20th percentile statewide, is one of six schools in Massachusetts that have been granted candidate status by the International Baccalaureate Organization, fulfilling the first step for joining the program .

Woodrow Wilson principal John Maynard explained that joining the IB program would allow the school to provide a superior education to the student body — 85% of whom are either first-generation immigrants or come from families that are. The process to gain IB certification can be a little slow, however; fourth grade teachers piloted an IB-based migration class last year, which allowed the school to apply to become an IB candidate. Full implementation of the program won’t come for a few years yet, according to Maynard’s estimates.

Becoming an IB school doesn’t absolve it of the requirement to administer MCAS state tests to gauge student academic progress. However, Maynard anticipates that adopting an IB-based curriculum will allow teachers to reduce focus on test prep without sacrificing exam results.

Taking an IB or Advanced Placement class can result in college credit and impress college admissions officers, but the AP program, administered by the College Board organization, is far more well known. More than 18,000 schools worldwide offer AP classes, participate in the AP program , , and almost one-third of high school seniors in the United States last year took at least one AP exam .

The IB adoption seems to be more common in MA charter schools. Mystic Valley Regional Charter school in the Malden School District structures the curriculum for its 11th and 12th grade students on the program. In total, nearly 150 Mystic Valley students are enrolled in IB classes, with about a quarter working on the additional requirements that would earn them an IB diploma.

Thirty are trying for the IB diploma, which is awarded to students who complete courses in six subject areas, community service, a 4,000-word research paper, and other requirements.