Park City Day School seeks International Baccalaureate certification | ParkRecord.com

Park City Day School seeks International Baccalaureate certification

Ian Crossland, head of the Park City Day School, originally came up with the idea to have the institution become an international baccalaureate school. The school must go through an application process which involves a year-long trial period.

As soon as Head of School Ian Crossland came to Park City Day School last year, he had big dreams for the school. Now, one of the main goals he hoped to accomplish during his tenure is a step closer to reality.

In early January, the school announced that it will be seeking candidacy for becoming an International Baccalaureate school. Crossland said that the school plans on completing its application this spring and launching a pilot program next school year.

The International Baccalaureate program, or IB as it is more commonly known, is a style of teaching adopted by schools around the globe. Schools that become authorized join the community and gain access to resources, such as curriculum plans and professional development.

Crossland said that what appeals to him most about the program is that a lot of its values align with those of the Park City Day School.

"We feel like the IB will enhance what we already do," he said. "The IB gives us a framework and a structure within which to do better."

For example, the school focuses on inquiry-based learning through projects that touch on several different subjects.

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The IB curriculum is designed around six questions that act as a theme for units that last six to eight weeks. The themes discuss topics like "Who we are" and "How the world works" through inter-disciplinary lessons.

"It's a much more student-centered approach in which teachers are guiding a student's own discovery of that knowledge and information," Crossland said.

The new curriculum will also include new assessments, which he said will be in addition to other assessments the school already uses.

There will be some changes for teachers as they master the methods and curriculum from IB, but Crossland said that many of the teachers are excited for the opportunity to learn.

Kaara Peterson, a first-grade teacher at the school, said that the program raises the bar for teachers, and it enhances teachers' resumes to have taught at an IB school.

"To earn that title, it sets us apart," she said.

She said that the program will offer several opportunities for teachers and students, especially if students go on to attend a high school with an upper-level IB program. There are several high schools in the Salt Lake area with IB programs, but no other active programs exist in Park City. The Park City School District explored fully implementing the program at Ecker Hill Middle School and Treasure Mountain Junior High but ultimately decided against it.

Crossland said that the plan is to apply first as a primary years program — preschool to fifth grade — this spring. Then, the school will have its professional development program for teachers this summer and start its year as a candidate school, under a pilot program, in the fall. The following school year, the middle years program — sixth grade to eighth grade — will run a pilot before all grades receive full authorization.

Rick Nemeroff, chair of the Board of Trustees at Park City Day School, said he was intrigued when Crossland initially told the Board about his idea for the Day School to be an IB school. The Board decided to form an exploratory committee, which looked at the pros and cons from November to January. Finally, the committee and Crossland made a recommendation to seek candidacy and the Board agreed.

Like Crossland, Nemeroff said that the IB program fits within the framework of the school's ideals. He is excited to see where the IB authorization brings the school.

"It's always unusual to find something that enhances education as opposed to changing it or revamping it," he said.

The IB program has a cost for professional development of instructors and an annual fee. Crossland said the school will build the cost into the operating budget and does not plan on increasing tuition for students.

If anything, Nemeroff said that he believes the school will be more appealing to students and it will attract more to its halls.

"It makes the teachers better, it makes the students' learning experience better and ultimately, that makes the school better," he said. "It really is just a great opportunity."