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CPS International Baccalaureate program grows to five more schools

Updated: May 23, 2014 6:11AM

Five Chicago Public schools are adding International Baccalaureate programs for elementary and middle schoolers in the fall, joining several dozen other Chicago schools that already offer the internationally recognized model.

Four of those schools will offer IB to students in grades six through eight, CPS announced Monday: Louis A. Agassiz Elementary School, 2851 N. Seminary Ave.; Christian Ebinger Elementary School, 7350 W. Pratt Ave.; Bernhard Moos Elementary School, 1711 N. California Ave.; and William H. Seward Communication Arts Academy Elementary School, 4600 S. Hermitage Ave. The fifth school, Helen Peirce International Studies Elementary School, 1423 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., will add students in kindergarten through fifth grade; it already has a middle school IB program, according to CPS.

The expansion covers about 1,500 students, the mayor’s office said, and will provide updated art, science and library facilities and training for teachers and staff. Each school will also add an IB coordinator and world language teacher. The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on authorizing the new IB programs. CPS is seeking an extra $280,000 for each of the five proposed schools to pay for the teacher training and “fees associated with the authorization,” according to the meeting agenda.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited Peirce Monday. Asked where the money would come from to pay for the programming in a district with constant budget problems, Emanuel replied: “Chicago Public Schools.” He would not elaborate. Nor would he explain how these particular schools were chosen from among the district’s hundreds.

Emanuel has pushed for more high school IB programs, saying they’ll help prevent middle class families from fleeing CPS as their children enter high school. Familiarizing younger students with IB approaches “best prepares the kids for that choice if they choose to do that,” he said, “and that’s the key part of this, driving it down to the earliest stages of early elementary, make sure you’re not catching them at 6th or 7th grade but early on where it’s so critical.”

A 2012 study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research found students who complete the IB high school-level diploma program are 40 percent more likely to attend four-year colleges and are “significantly more likely” to remain in college for at least two years. But the study found that only 62 percent of students who enter IB in ninth grade go on to the diploma program in 11th grade, and the study saw no effects of participation for the 38 percent of students who did not complete the diploma program. The Consortium has not examined elementary or middle school programs.

“We all know in the past, IB used to be considered backup to selective enrollment” schools, Emanuel said, such as the highly competitive Whitney Young or Walter Payton. “Mark my words, in two years the IB will give the selective enrollment a run for their money and be a real competitive choice and a high quality option for every parent and every child for the city of Chicago.”

Earlier this month, the Noble Network of Charter Schools announced it would launch the first IB diploma program in a charter school in September. All juniors and seniors at Lorraine Hansberry College Prep in Auburn-Gresham will be able to enroll without any entrance tests; more than half of Hansberry’s freshmen and sophomores now take IB preparation classes, according to Noble.

CPS already offers some form of IB in 19 elementary and middle schools, and in 22 high schools, seven of which are “wall-to-wall.” The prestigious high school diploma program is competitive and requires an application based on grades, test scores and an interview, but the wall-to-wall schools are neighborhood schools, with a less rigorous IB option open to anyone who wants to attend.

Teachers must have special IB-certification to teach the program’s curriculum, which includes philosophy, foreign language and four years of math and science. It was developed in 1968 in Switzerland as college preparation for the children of diplomats.

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