Monday, April 1, 2013

International Baccalaureate

At the last meeting of my local school board, the chief topic of conversation was the proposal to become an International Baccalaureate diploma school which is a high school level program. The presentation was led by our high school principal and he was an articulate passionate advocate for moving in this direction. The community was very invested in this discussion focusing, as they should on both the benefits as well as the marginal cost of adding IB to the curriculum.

For me the attractiveness of the IB program is the international focus. We live in an inextricably interwoven world. Educating our children to understand Long Island or to understand just the United States is to shortchange their future potential. Understanding that a world with differences should not be viewed as a world of right and wrong is essential. As the IB mission statement makes clear “these programmes encourage students across the world to become active compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” As the mission statement also states, IB is working to make sure that “inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people…help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” Who could argue with these goals?

To implement the IB program, the district already has much of what is needed in place. We begin with a highly accomplished school district, with a wide range of offerings to meet the diverse needs of a wide range of students and an ongoing emphasis on educational excellence. The biggest changes will be in the more global orientation and the increased international sophistication which I view as highly desirable and essential. The cost of this transformation is under $200,000 on a budget of over $90 million, certainly very modest given the potential benefits. Where there is a concern over the budget, it takes the form of questioning why in a constrained time – which public education is certainly facing—would the district initiate any program that increases costs either on a one time basis or on an ongoing basis. My answer to the question is unequivocal. If the school district isn’t moving forward, it is likely losing ground to other very highly accomplished and competitive schools around the globe. For the sake of our kids and their future success, we must continue enhancing the quality of the education they receive. The other part of the answer relates to how we do budgeting in general in education, both k-12 education and higher education. We look at new programs through the lens of increased cost. Rather we should look at these programs and at all of our existing programs from a need basis: which programs fulfill the greatest need; which programs serve the greatest educational purpose and which are nice to have if resources are available but not really essential. New proposals might fulfill a greater need but often may not see the light of day because of the support for what already exists or inertia.

IB looked at from the lens of importance ranks highly in my opinion. I support moving forward with implementation while still living within our means.

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