What is all this international school stuff?
Parents wondering what all this international school business is about can get their questions answered this week. Wednesday at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., Park City School District will hold an orientation meeting about its International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Ecker Hill International Middle School. The meeting will be repeated for the parents of eighth- and ninth-graders at Treasure Mountain on Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Trademarks of the IB philosophy are integrated curriculum, community service, teaching with an international perspective, and high levels of student-teacher interaction. For three years, Treasure Mountain Middle School piloted a "school within a school," with IB classes are segregated from traditional ones, before the district expanded the philosophy to all middle school students.
The information nights will feature descriptive information about the whole-school model and brochures on the program, said Superintendent Dave Adamson.
With the whole-school model, students can select to earn a "middle years" certificate, going beyond standard school requirements. Adamson described those requirements. Students must:
Take a foreign language every year Perform an individually designed service project Compile a portfolio that includes "indicators of learning," such as writing projects or science experiments Create a personal project in ninth-grade, comparable to a senior thesis in college Students must decide if they want to pursue the certificate when they register for classes for next year, Adamson explained. To qualify, students must participate for at least two years in the program, so those who didn’t participate in IB at Treasure Mountain’s "school within a school" can start in eighth-grade.
The service project component of IB has been highly publicized in the past. For the certificate, students will have to complete a "continuum of difficulty and independence" for their project, which will be less intense for sixth-graders and culminate in a reflective portfolio for ninth-graders. "It’s one thing to have completed all the service projects," Adamson said. "But it’s another thing to understand the meaning of providing the service."
The reflective portfolio will replace actual service for ninth-graders, but Adamson is confident students will continue serving their community regardless of requirements. "We’re trying to build citizens who understand the value of giving back to the community to the point they seek it out. It’s not that they do it because there’s an obligation or a requirement," he said.
Where in the world is Abdul Rasool?
To manage this program, the school district hired Abdul Rasool, an IB expert from the African island nation of Mauritius, with money from the Park City Education Foundation. Immigration red tape has thus far prevented Rasool from entering the country. "The entire process is at a standstill," said Rasool in a phone interview with The Park Record in September. "I really cannot tell you how far this has gotten."
To help expedite the matter, Adamson and district human resources director Tim McConnell visited with Sen. Orrin Hatch’s staff on Wednesday at the Federal Building in Salt Lake City. "It’s so unusual to bring someone from out of country to conduct an International Baccalaureate program," Adamson said. He noted, "A lot of other districts having trouble with foreign nationals."
Hatch has signed a letter for the Department of Immigration on behalf of Rasool, so Adamson is hopeful the Mauritian could be here as soon as January. "They’re very supportive and cooperative, we’re very pleased," Adamson said. If this doesn’t work, the district will need to come up with "plan b," he continued, which could include re-posting the position or hiring someone on a temporary basis. "This is a big program," Adamson said. "This district is heavily invested in it. We need someone here."
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