A group of educators are attempting to offer Akron students something only one Ohio school district currently gives: International Baccalaureate (IB) in every grade.
With the coveted IB program already part of the rigorous academic menu at Firestone High School, staff at Case Elementary and Litchfield Middle School have finished the first of three steps to earning IB status.
Akron’s Firestone cluster would be the second in the state, behind Oberlin schools west of Cleveland, to provide a comprehensive IB program. Educators say the project is in its infancy, but wishful talk of extending the program to other cluster schools has begun.
“We’re really out to change the world. And it’s one student at a time,” said Litchfield Principal Dyan Floyd, who recited the IB mission to school board members in late April.
Administrators said the program aligns with more rigorous national learning standards and the additional professional development outlined in Ohio’s updated teacher evaluation system. It also provides a framework for teachers to develop lessons that allows student to take ownership of their education.
“It is a substantial amount of work,” said Jen Victor, an intervention specialist at Case. “But to see how excited the students become about learning and to see them initiate the learning process independently ... When you see the excitement in their faces, you can’t put a timeline on what you’re willing to do.”
Several teachers have undergone six weeks of unpaid training, requiring 10 to 15 hours each week. Staff have attended weekend workshops.
“We have spent countless hours in discussions, staff meeting and imports,” Victor said. “It’s everybody volunteering their time.”
An IB classroom looks different than the normal classroom, educators explained. Teachers do less lecturing. Students commit to self-guided instruction and self-directed exploration with support from staff and community partnerships, which would offer hands-on opportunities.
An initial feasibility study has been submitted to IB facilitators, who will announce in June plans either to scrap or move forward with the Litchfield proposal. Case has been given the green light.
Educators in each building are seeking external grant funding to sustain costly professional development, which APS also would support.The feasibility study also must show that the school district, community and all teachers are committed to the extra work and time.
The induction process takes three years. The next phase is candidacy — a year of arduous curriculum and professional development led by an IB associate.
In year three, Case and Litchfield could be dubbed IB schools, something many schools seek but few achieve.
“I would not guide my staff or support my staff in anything that I fell we could not accomplish,” said Case Principal Sharon Hill-Jones, who has been working with Floyd and educators at Litchfield.
The IB program offers three tracks for elementary, middle and high school students.
Indian Trail Elementary in Stow is one of nine Ohio primary schools that offers IB; Aurora and Firestone high schools are among 21 in the state that offer IB diploma, or high school, programs; and only three Ohio schools, one near Columbus and two in Oberlin, offer IB middle-school programs.
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.