Submitted by Tami Scott

When students enter the “real” world upon high school graduation, they expect to be prepared for the life that awaits them. The faculty and staff at Bishop Ludden Jr./Sr. High School are well aware of modern-world intricacies — be they technological, diplomatic, or ethical — and are in full support of providing the foundation to meet and even exceed these expectations.

That’s why the scholastic team put forth a concerted — and successful —  effort to become an authorized International Baccalaureate (IB) World School for the Diploma Programme (DP).

“The IB DP presents a unique set of challenges that prepares a student for life after high school,” said Ann Day, a longtime educator who, together with Bishop Ludden Principal Leo Cosgrove, initiated the candidacy process. “The course content is broad-based and rigorous, the style of learning is reality-based, and the program attitude is internationally aware.”

Beginning next year, incoming juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to take IB DP courses; the juniors who commit to completing the two-year program will be the first to benefit from earning the IB diploma in June 2021.

The IB DP is often compared to the College Board-created Advanced Placement (AP) program utilized by many secondary schools in the United States and Canada. The AP program, similar to IB, offers students college-level curricula and exams to earn course credit and potentially help achieve college placement.

While both are reputable academic programs, the similarities end there. Cosgrove and Day agree that the IB DP approach offers students more breadth and depth in their studies.

“An IB DP student spends the junior and senior years ‘rehearsing’ for college, under the supervision of attentive high school teachers,” said Day, noting this path promotes a focus on writing and analysis, time management, and generally stretching students beyond their comfort zone. “AP is typically pick and choose, and AP students often simply opt to play to their own strengths rather than explore new areas.”

Secondly, Day said IB assessments are often practice- or task-based and graded against an external standard. AP is known for its simpler multiple-choice exams, and students are graded solely against each other on a “normal distribution” or curve.

Bishop Ludden Librarian Maxine Babcock, who recently returned from a training session in Florida, agrees that between AP and the IB platform, the difference is a take-the-test perspective versus a global one. This is evident through the school-wide introduction of IB standards, where Bishop Ludden students will learn to embrace the IB process in stages, starting in seventh grade, Babcock said, and by increasing rigor each year so higher level tasks are manageable, not daunting.

This is not to say that all students will be required to seek an IB diploma or even take its courses, but all students will be prepared to make that choice. IB has a strong inclusion component that supports its member schools in meeting students’ learning accommodations; it is not in any way exclusive nor does it target specific populations, Day said.

“No matter what a student’s future holds, the IB Diploma is rigorous preparation for life’s challenges,” Day said.

When asked how the Ludden community is responding to the IB DP opportunity, both Day and Cosgrove gave a thumbs up, saying parent feedback has been incredibly positive, having been engaged all through the authorization process, meeting with the IB site visitors, and offering input.

  “The heart of Bishop Ludden and its sense of community will not change,” Cosgrove said. “The IB DP is a marquee academic program that puts [the school] on a whole different level. Colleges know what it means, and their admissions committees consider IB DP candidates separately from the average candidate. Bishop Ludden will continue to be a faith-based junior/senior high school, but enhanced now with what is undeniably a top-drawer academic program.”

Tami Scott is an administrative assistant at Bishop Ludden and a freelance writer and editor.

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