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MYP: Money for nothing?

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

Editor’s note: As part of the Park Record’s continuing coverage of the International Baccalaureate, this article is the second installment of a two-part series about the Middle Years Programme at Ecker Hill and Treasure Mountain middle schools.

Wednesday’s article, "The Middle Years Programme identity," discussed the introduction of MYP at Treasure Mountain International Middle School as a school-within-a-school program, the difficult transition from school-within-a-school to a whole-school approach, and how MYP philosophies are being integrated into curriculum by teachers.

Part-two continues with more of the MYP story, including anti-IB sentiments from teachers, funding issues, how students earn their MYP certificate.

Sixth-grade science teacher at Ecker Hill International Middle School, Elizabeth Hoburg, has spent her entire teaching career working with IBO programs. While she is a major supporter of MYP and how she says it works with the specific developmental needs of children, helping students figure out how they learn best, not everyone is as keen on MYP as Hoburg.

Durfee said many teachers have concerns about the program. She said they are worried that because the district is so small that there might not be enough funds to pay for it. "There are pretty expensive training and fees involved in being an IB school," she said. "The teachers say, ‘well if it’s not that different than what we were doing before, why are we paying all this money for it?’"

One teacher at Treasure Mountain who said he feels that way, also said he preferred to speak anonymously. "If I’m afraid to throw my name out there, then that’s not a very good climate. People are full of fear to speak out," he said.

"From my standpoint, it’s just not enough bang for the buck," he said. "Most of the highlights of the program are things we were doing already, they just weren’t labeled IB."

He said teachers are doing what they need to do to ensure their jobs, but that he doesn’t see a lot of changing. "What they’re doing is good teaching, which is what they’ve always done," he said. "Good teaching is good teaching, no matter what label you put on it.

Durfee also commented on teachers’ complaints about the amount of accountability. "There is so much accountability already now through standardized testing, that this is just another thing on teachers’ plates," she said. "Some people say there’s so much accountability, ‘when do I have time to teach?’"

Speaking of plates, the anonymous naysayer of MYP stated that the program could also be too much for students to handle. "The academic loads for ninth-graders are large already," he said. "They’re taking AP classes, they have after-school activities, and then there’s the personal project. I just don’t see the value if the program’s not going on to the high school."

While Duis and O’Connor contend that MYP is a program that’s meant to stand alone, the MYP detractor said he wonders why not choose to do the pre-AP program, which will better prepare them for AP and that every student can get at virtually cost.

Tim Jeffrey, a history and geography teacher at Treasure Mountain, said he hasn’t made up his mind yet about the program. "I don’t have a problem with it, I am still learning," he said. "I don’t really worry about all that stuff. I just worry about the kids in the classroom."

Where will the money come from?

Executive director of the Park City Education Foundation, Abby McNulty, said that the foundation has been involved in IB for many years. However, it’s financial commitment of $70,000 per year runs just through the end of this school year. "We provide the startup and then the district takes over," she said. "There’s an understanding that the funding is only for a particular time period and then it is their [the districts’] responsibility."

The PCEF will make its decision whether to pick up the program again in January. Funding decisions are made based on district priorities.

According to the IBO Web site, 2007-2008 fees for MYP include: a $5,330 annual fee, a moderation of $614 per subject and $58 per student, and an evaluation fee every five years. The Web site also states, "our fees vary by programme, but are just one of the costs experienced by a school."

Last year, the schools’ costs beyond annual fees included money for traveling, training, as well as for the employment of an IB coordinator, and that brought the total to more than $80,000 — $70,000 of which was covered by the ED foundation, said Patty Murphy, business administrator for the district.

This year’s submitted budget for IB was just under $70,000, which is what she estimated would be the amount the school district would have to pay if the ED Foundation no longer funded MYP.

"The board would have to approve that expenditure," she said. "I think we could have covered those costs this year. This is an issue that is important to the board, and I am sure we would have found a way to swing it."

Board member Lisa Kirchenhetier said that the school board whole-heartedly supports IB, and that it is the best thing for preparing students for the world. She said she would hope the board would be able to fund the program next year. "We’ve invested so much time into it," she said. "It’s too important a program to drop just because it is difficult."

Kirchenhetier asserted that keeping the IB program would be a community decision because it would be funded by taxes, and that "the community has made it clear that they want our students to be prepared for the 21st century."

Getting a certificate

One major misperception about IB, Duis said, is that every student will get his or her certificate. "Although the hallmark for the program is to get a certificate, the bigger goal is to get kids to feel like they’re being challenged – to push kids and have kids push teachers to learn more," she said.

Unlike school-within-a-school, all students at least get exposure to the program – they get to participate in activities and are encouraged to do community service – when it is a whole-school program, Duis said.

In order to receive a certificate, students must complete the community service requirements for sixth- through eighth-grade, take the same foreign language every year, and then in ninth-grade they must complete the personal project. Students who move into the district for eighth- and ninth-grade can still earn certificates if they complete the requirements for those years.

"Last year, we had about 40 students participate in the personal project and receive their certificates," she said.

Social studies teacher at Treasure Mountain, Shannon Hase, is the personal project advisor this year. He has received 31 proposals for personal projects, but he said more keep on trickling in.

"In the past, personal projects have been very structured. But, I am making the kids do it on their own," he said. "They have to take responsibility for everything."

The personal project is a reflection on something students have learn in IB, Hase said, "it is a statement about their experiences and the IB areas of interaction." The kids choose a product, which is what they are going to do, and then the project is a personal reflection paper about that product.

Importance of IB

While the future of MYP in Park City school district appears to be stable at best and uncertain at worst, across the nation, IB programs and middle-years educational reform are holding their ground, according to recent news reports.

In St. Paul, Minn., the 3,200-student South St. Paul school district plans to offer IB programs to all of its students by next fall. District officials were quoted as saying the driving force behind the change was the need to prepare students to compete for 21st-century jobs.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., nine organizations focused on education reform announced their support in for the Success in the Middle Act (S.2227), which was introduced to the U.S. Senate by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) this past October. The legislation would allocate $1 billion a year in grants to states to improve schools with low-performing middle grades.

Being responsible for improving middle-year academic rigor is, "one of the beauties of the IB program," O’Connor said, "you’re accountable to an international organization." Kirchenhetier agreed that MYP was important because it gives a worldwide comparison to how our students are doing compared to IBO standards.

For Duis, "it gives kids at this awkward age a chance to find their place in the world."


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