Park City’s International Baccalaureate program may be pushed aside for other initiatives
A number of middle school teachers in the Park City School District have said one particular program may need to be given a rest for a while: the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. Instead, many faculty members said they wanted to focus on other state- and district-mandated initiatives during the upcoming school year.
Programs scheduled to be introduced in the middle schools next year include the new, state-mandated core standards for math and language arts, the high access to technology, the teacher-evaluation Sheltered Instructional Observation Protocol and Canvas or the online classroom management system. During last Tuesday’s board meeting, Treasure Mountain and Ecker Hill principals Bob O’Connor and Traci Evans recommended not seeking re-authorization for IB, which is scheduled to take place in two years.
The IB program began at Treasure Mountain as a 60-student pilot in 2002, according to Treasure Mountain IB Coordinator Jamie Duis. After three years, it expanded school-wide, the same year the school board realigned the middle schools. The program is not designed for such a large body of students, Duis said. While the expansion promoted inclusion among all social classes, certain aspects of the program became diluted, she added.
"The new common core that’s coming down in math and English is very much designed along the same educational framework as IB," Duis said. Some aspects specific to the IB program could still be applied to the curriculum throughout the district without the designation of being an "IB School," she added.
O’Connor said teachers reported a stronger interest in the SIOP model that will be expanding district wide next year rather than IB, according to a recent survey that was conducted at the middle schools. Evans pointed out the number of initiatives that will be introduced next year as evidence it may be too many to effectively execute them all.
"To give these PCSD initiatives the proper attention they deserve to attain successful implementation, we recommend that Treasure Mountain and Ecker Hill not pursue International Baccalaureate re-authorization," O’Connor and Evans said in a letter presented to the school board at the meeting.
The two also requested the program be phased out through the next two years in order to allow those who have invested their time to finish and receive their Middle Years Certificate. But a few members of the school board showed interest in pulling out earlier because of possible cost-savings to the district.
School board member Charles Cunningham expressed concern about the $120,000 yearly cost to the district for maintaining the program. President Maurice Hickey suggested an alternative to phasing out the program by offering a Park City School District certificate that would recognize a student’s achievement. skipping a phase out, the district could reallocate those funds elsewhere.
The designation of "International School" carries a level of prestige that community members may want to keep, Hickey pointed out during the board meeting. It draws potential residents to the area, offers university incentives for high school students who finish the diploma and bolsters the reputation of the district where it is active, Hickey said.
But universities may not look at the middle years as closely as the high school years of the program, according to Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy. Many high school students take advantage of the strong Advanced Placement program for college credit in grades 10-12, he said.
"If we don’t have a definite time frame to implement a diploma program for IB, it just kind of stops and that isn’t really very logical," Duis said. "You have to ask yourself the question are there other ways we could meet student needs that could also be a little bit more cost effective in our economy?"
Evans said pursuing recognition as part of "Schools to Watch" could provide a similar type of recognition while aligning more closely with administrative goals for students. Only about nine schools in Utah are recognized as schools to watch.
The board is scheduled to decide whether to continue the IB program during the March 22 board meeting.
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Park City leaders next week plan to showcase a City Hall workforce or otherwise restricted housing development in Old Town, highlighting one of what is expected to be a series of significant municipal projects in coming years.