Jennifer Gebbie's Page
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International Baccalaurate, Middle Years Program

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I have long been a fan of the International Baccalaureate Programme. Having taught IB European History and been a Coordinator at the diploma level, and now as the assistant principal of a Middle Years Programme school, I strongly believe that the IB is good for students. The program, from the Primary Years, all the way through the diploma, stresses holistic thinking, making real-world connections, and deep thinking. The philosophy is firmly constructivist, and demands that students are fully vested in their own learning. In the middle years program, and the full diploma program, there is no distinction between “core” and “academic” classes. The IB works to educate the whole child, not valuing math and science above arts and physical education. At every level, students are expected to reflect on their learning. Additionally, the IB strives to allow children to experience themselves as members of a community which extends beyond school, encouraging community service projects and international-mindedness.

This being said, I face a challenge. There are many parents and other members of my school community who are still not convinced that the IB program is a good thing for our kids. Additionally, we are moving to a modified block schedule for next year, and many parents (and some staff) feel that we are only doing so to maintain our IB authorization, and they question the value of making such a dramatic change in their children’s educational experience. My goal is to find resources to support my conviction that the IB MYP is good for our school community, and to help parents and staff understand that the changes we have been undergoing for the past four years are currently benefiting their students.

My research at first only yielded press-releases heralding the adoption of IB programs in schools with great excitement. Further research uncovered three main threads of concern with the IB. First, there is a concern that the IBO, with its growing prestige and success at getting IB Diploma graduates into the best colleges in the country, is expanding too quickly to maintain its integrity. This, I believe, is a valid concern. Central to the IB is a commitment to teacher training and support. One wonders if the organization has the infrastructure to sustain the many new schools that are applying for authorization.
Second: IB Primary and Middle Years Programmes are designed to be whole-school, inclusive programs. There is even an effort to attend to the needs of special education students within the IB setting. However, the Diploma Programme, with its rigorous class requirements and exit exams draws criticism in schools where admission to the program is somehow limited or restricted, leading to claims of elitism.
Third, there is a great “IB Controversy”. Some people feel that the IBO’s emphasis on global citizenship and environmental stewardship will undermine what they see as fundamental American values. (From my, admittedly biased point of view, many of these purported American values sound like isolationism and prejudice against ay values perceived as not issuing directly from a Judeo-Christian tradition.) I found the “IB Controversy” rather disturbing and reactionary.

A Brief View of the IB:
IB Middle Years Programme
Programme model
Programme model

This is the IB MYP Octagon. According to IB Philosophy, all of these subject areas should be given equal weight. According to their findings on brain research and the social development of children between the ages of 11-16, there should be little distinction between “core” classes and “electives”. Rather, students are encouraged to acknowledge and reflect upon cross-curricular connections, and how their learning applies to real-world scenarios.

IB Diploma Programme

Programme model
Programme model

The IB Diploma programme moves from an octagon to a hexagon, requiring that students complete courses and exams in six subject areas. They are also required to take a course called “Theory of Knowledge”, participate in 150 hours of Community, Action and Service, and write a 4,000 word thesis paper. The program continues the emphasis on student-centered, constructivist learning that begins in the Primary Years Programmeand carries throughout the MYP.

IB Learner Profile Video external image thumbnail.aspx?q=1669704581448&id=26c24c6e7e18f202e19440e67da177f4&
This short video illustrates the IB Learner Profile: a collection of 10 traits that the IB strives to develop in its students at all levels of the programme.

Main IB Website:


Supertest - Mathews, Jay; Hill, Ian
Supertest - Mathews, Jay; Hill, Ian
Pro-IB: Supertest. This book is co-authored by Jay Mathews, education writer for the Washington Post, and Ian Hill, Deputy Director General of the IBO. Given its authors, this book would seem simply to be a paean to the IB. However, Mr. Mathews is a veteran reporter with broad experience and a highly critical mind. Among his many publications is the book, Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. He has developed the Challenge Index, which ranks the nation’s public high schools and is published annually in the Washington Post and Newsweek. Mathew’s index is based on a formula he created which includes statistics on the IB and AP offerings in a school, and the schools’ graduation rate. Over time, Mathews has come to value the IB for the results he has seen the program generate, especially in the area of college admissions. The book is not simply a narrative about the IB, but it tells the story of the program’s implementation in a Washington-area school.

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Pro-IB: As we were reading Catching Up or Leading the Way, I was struck by the many times I wrote, “IB” in the margins of my book. Zhao’s emphasis on global citizenship, technological literacy, and the absolute imperative that we teach “foreign” languages in our schools, dovetails neatly with the IB philosophy. From a curriculum standpoint, Zhao says on p. 164: … we need to elevate the status of other subjects, abilities, skills and talents to the same level of math and reading. This is reflected in the IB’s MYP Octagon and the DP’s hexagon.
Zhao says on page 164, An America-centric philosophy and a lack of understanding of other cultures and the global world are among the chief reasons for our unilateralism and perceived arrogance when dealing with other people. Part of the IB Mission statement includes:
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. (Interestingly, I have found through my research that many people take issue with this part of the mission statement. More on that below.)

Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World
Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World
IB Critique: Global Dreams, Enduring Tensions: International Baccalaureate in a Changing World, is written by Canadian Professor Paul Tarc. Tarc examines IB from the globalization/economic point of view. He discusses criticisms often leveled at the IB about elitism and access, etc. Dr. Tarc sees the IBO as struggling with three tensions that plague the “International” aspect of the IB:
1. Citizenship: the conflict between being a citizen of one’s country and a citizen of the world.
2. Curricular tension: Balancing the aims of the IB toward creating well-rounded students with the realities of college admissions criteria in different countries.
3. “Operational tension”: the conflict between the lofty goals of the IBO and the realities of how the IB has to function in the world as a self-sustaining non-profit organization.

Edutopia Global Super Power: Is the Best of the Best Really the Best?

Mostly Pro-IB: This article is as one would expect from Edutopia. It is a fairly thorough discussion of the benefits and concerns of the IB program in the U.S. It does reference Supertest, and also discusses an IB contraversy in Minnesota. The article also briefly traces how one school opened up access to the IB Diploma program to students willing to work hard, rather than depending on strict entrance requirements to form their IB Candidate classes.

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Pro-IB: Two articles from the UK:
These articles discuss how many schools in Great Britain are adopting the IB, especially at the Diploma level. Some schools are going as far as eliminating their preparation for the traditional “A level” exams entirely. While he was Prime Minister, Tony Blair pledged to place one IB school in every local school district by 2010. One of the reasons for the change is the entrance requirements for universities in other countries. One of the articles states that German universities will accept the IB, but not all of the A-level exams, and that Japanese universities waive the entrance exams for students with IB diplomas.

Pro-IB: In an Alumna's Own Voice
A very positive first-hand account of one students' experience of the IB. Such testimonials are quite common and easy to find on the web.


The Washington Times
The Washington Times
The Washington Times, founded and financed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church, has long been touted as the “Conservative Alternative” to the Washington Post.
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The Lincoln Heritage Institute is a national nonprofit (IRS approved 501[c][3]) public policy/public education corporation established to promote individual and states’ rights, a free-market economy, and a modest role for the federal government.

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This is a national organization dedicated to helping public schools teach Judeo-Christian history, thought and values.

These articles, and others like them, lodge interesting, parochial complaints against the IBO. Some detractors of the IB take issue with the funding methods used for these students, such as the article from the Eagle Forum/ Lincoln Heritage institute. They express concern about equity and access. However, the other articles are rife with accusations that the IB will send the U.S. down a slippery slope of communism and “radical” or “new age” environmentalism. The Gateways article decries the fact that the science curriculum is “based on the assumption of evolution”. Many are uncomfortable with the IB’s support of the “Earth Charter” and promotion of world peace, calling it the “stealth agenda of the International Baccalaureate Organization.”

Additional IB Resources
IB's On-Line Curriculum Center: an invaluable resource for teachers and administrators in IB Schools IB Blogosphere: teachers and students of the IB are embracing the digital age, and doing so in many languages! Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School: This is a beautiful website from a school which offers the MYP in Canada.
FHS graduates to enter college as sophomores: Article about school receiving accreditation, and how their graduates are accumulating college credit for their IB Diplomas. More kids stick with Buckhead schools: A good news story about the positive impact IB is having in Atlanta area schools.