By Katherine Long
Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School in East Syracuse has been accepted as an International Baccalaureate® candidate school, the first step toward BG’s goal of being authorized as an IB World School.
“The International Baccalaureate® (IB) is a non-profit educational foundation offering four highly respected programmes of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to the organization’s website. IB’s Primary Years Programme is for students ages 3 to 12; the Middle Years Programme is for students ages 11 to 16; the Diploma Programme is for students ages 16 to 19; and the Career-related Programme is also for students ages 16 to 19. As of Nov. 6, there were 6,310 programs being offered worldwide across 4,787 schools, with 1,796 of those schools in the U.S. and 102 in New York State, according to the IB website. Currently Corcoran High School is the only school in Syracuse authorized as an IB World School.
BG’s administrators are thrilled to have received candidate status with IB. Principal Brian Nolan noted the program is recognized worldwide as one of if not the best college prep programs available.
The rigor of the program comes from the fact that the curriculum is “uniform throughout the world,” added Assistant Principal Patrick Kinne. “So what our students are going to be learning is what students in IB programmes in Great Britain are learning, and it is what students in IB programmes in Asia are learning. They have it structured so that, number one, it’s a really globally-minded curriculum, and number two, it’s really of the highest standard and quality.”
The Middle Years Programme, composed of study in eight subject areas, includes sciences, mathematics, arts, foreign languages, and language and literature, will be for BG students in grades 7 through 10, Nolan explained. All students will participate in the program “because it’s the approach the school takes — it’s a multidisciplinary, integrated approach,” he said.
The Diploma Programme is “an intense and rigorous” program for juniors and seniors, Nolan said, comprising courses in six subject areas; study of the theory of knowledge; a 4,000-word essay; and a project demonstrating creativity, activity, and/or service.
“The goal is to have every [eleventh grade] student start in the Diploma Programme,” Nolan said, though he understands there will be students who do not want to or are not able to complete the full program. His experience with the IB Diploma Programme at Corcoran — where he served as secondary principal for six years — was that while all students would take the courses, a relatively small number of them would complete the full program and earn the diploma.
BG will be able to offer IB program classes as a candidate school beginning in September. “We’ll have to make some alterations to our curriculum, but what we’ve found is the rigor of IB’s curriculum will allow our current curriculum to step up,” he said. “Our kids are still going to be able to take the Regents Examinations, and based on the IB curriculum, we don’t expect them to have trouble with the state’s curriculum.”
Students will notice a change in their classes for sure, Nolan said, because they will be “doing group projects across disciplines. The teachers will be doing a lot of collaboration.”
That collaboration is a huge part of the Middle Years Programme, Kinne said, and BG will have to “carve time out for our teachers, more so than we do already, to work together, to create interdisciplinary units.” He cited an example from an IB workshop that Nolan and Kinne attended in July: Teachers in social studies, art, and music had developed an interdisciplinary unit on Africa. The students learned about African history in social studies, African art in art class, and African music in music class. “The teachers had worked together to weave this multidisciplinary unit together, and they said you could see the light bulbs going off [with the students]: ‘Wow, this is all interrelated and connected,’” Kinne said. “I think so many times today kids go from classroom A to classroom B to classroom C and they don’t see how what they are learning may be linked together. The creation of interdisciplinary units as part of the curriculum will stress these connections.”
All BG teachers will go through an IB teacher training program, either in person or online, Nolan said, to understand the curriculum, the criteria, and how to deliver that. Counselors and administrators will also receive training. The authorization process, which takes about three years, Nolan said, will also include a site visit from IB representatives.
Nolan said the school is trying to build the costs associated with becoming an IB World School — trainings, fees — into the current tuition structure, and that the only expense that parents may have is the cost of the exams at the end of the junior and senior years, similar to the costs incurred for students taking Advanced Placement exams.
Another key component of the IB programs is a core value of Bishop Grimes’ mission, which is the idea of service towards others. Part of the application process involved comparing and aligning BG’s mission statement to IB’s. “In analyzing our mission statement with that of IB, we were able to draw many close connections because the values that we hold as a Catholic school aligned with IB’s mission statement, [which is] not religiously affiliated: empathy, compassion, having world-minded thinkers who look to serve all people throughout the world. The development and teaching of these characteristics in our students are already present in our Catholic School community, so it made the task of explaining how our school’s mission aligns with the mission of IB almost seamless. The beauty is that as a Catholic School we are able to go even deeper into the theology and Christian worldview behind these characteristics,” Kinne said.
“Bishop Grimes’ candidate status and desire to eventually become an IB School really represents a significant milestone in the history of the school’s community,” Kinne stated. “It is a very clear statement that we want our community to know that Bishop Grimes is committed to delivering our students an academically rigorous and globally-respected curriculum that will equip our students for college wherever they want to go, be it in the United States or abroad, within the context and lens of our Catholic faith. Our students will be even more ready to be agents of positive change in this world with the gift of the highest-quality education as well as a morally-sound foundation that is rooted in the teachings of the Gospel. It truly is an exciting time to be a Bishop Grimes Cobra!”
As of November 2, 2017, Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School is a candidate school* for the MYP (Middle Years Programme) and DP (Diploma Programme). This school is pursuing authorization as an IB World School. IB World Schools share a common philosophy — a commitment to high-quality, challenging, international education — that we believe is important for our students.
*Only schools authorized by the IB Organization can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme (DP), or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted.
For further information about the IB and its programmes visit http://www.ibo.org.