Division’s Charter School Joins a Select Group of Educators, Offering Students Benefits of an Internationally Renowned Diploma Programme and Educational Experience

The International Baccalaureate (IB) has made it official. The division’s charter school will become one of only 38 schools in the state to offer the organization’s Diploma Programme and the only school in the local region.

Charter school principal Chad Ratliff said the Programme will closely align with the school division’s Contemporary High School model, both in its approach to experiential learning and in providing students with a wider range of college and career preparation options.

To be approved for the Diploma Programme, an applicant school must complete an authorization process that can take up to three years. The charter school was accepted as a candidate only last year.

Charter school teachers will be participating in professional development sessions specific to the IB curriculum. Students will be able to choose from among a broad range of course offerings in creative arts, media, and design. Both the curricula and student performance assessments are regularly updated and applied uniformly across all IB programs in the world.

“That’s one the strengths of the program that appealed to us—the consistency of its quality and the integrity of its application,” Ratliff said.

The school’s IB Coordinator, Josh Flaherty, added that “the IB professional development sessions include colleagues and instructors from all over the world and lead teachers to develop a thorough understanding of course material and expectations. Using this foundation, instruction can be tailored to the personal needs and interests of individual students.”

Ratliff said the IB Programme serves the school’s unique approach. “Our students already engage in hands-on, active learning. They will be able to build on these experiences, and at the same time, strengthen their own leadership and community service skills, on both a local and a global scale. It’s a perfect fit for our students and our school division,” Ratliff said.

Since its founding in 1988, the charter school has offered students a curriculum designed to foster creativity and intellectual curiosity through art and design, project-based learning, content mastery, and student voice. The school designs and pilots nontraditional approaches to learning that fulfill the school division’s mission, vision and goals and serve to inform educational practices more broadly inside and outside the county.

On its website, the IB says its objective is “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed.” It reports that “Diploma Programme graduates complete college faster than their peers, feel more prepared for college-level coursework involving research, and are better able to cope with demanding workloads and time-management challenges.”

Ratliff says the IB Programme will expand the ability of charter school students to become active, compassionate, lifelong learners who understand and appreciate the value of the world’s diverse cultures and perspectives. The full IB diploma includes an advanced-level course from each of six traditional academic groups plus the IB Core, which provides students with a deeper understanding of the philosophy of education, which later is expressed in a high school thesis.

“We’re excited to get to work offering students a menu of courses emphasizing independent research skills and critical, creative thinking. All students will benefit, whether they pursue the full IB Programme or take individual courses that appeal to them,” Flaherty said.

Ratliff said another aspect of the IB that attracted his school’s interest was its requirement that students contribute 100 hours of community service and complete an elective that focuses on art courses like music, theater or dance.

“These requirements will make our students better citizens, teaching the importance of compassion and perspective. These skills are a major part of lifelong success, whether within the increasingly competitive global marketplace, as entrepreneurs, in public service, or as professionals meeting their individual passions,” Ratliff said.

The charter school’s IB program offerings began this school year.

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