IB Program Defended at School Meet
Supporters of International Baccalaureate (IB) were out in force Monday night to defend the program at a Moore County Board of Education meeting.
IB proponents were agitated by comments made by board member Bruce Cunningham at an Oct. 6 board work session in which he suggested revising the IB program at Pinecrest High School by limiting it to students seeking an IB diploma and eliminating the ninth- and 10th-grade "Middle Years Program."
Cunningham also said he believes honors classes should be reinstated at the 11th and 12th grades at the school and that participation in the IB diploma program should be increased if IB is to continue.
During 90 minutes of public comments, 29 speakers address-ed the board. Most of them spoke in support of the IB program.
"I was appalled when I heard there was some controversy as to whether or not to continue to offer IB classes to students at Pinecrest," Pinecrest sophomore Garrett Berk said. "One of the most important things for me to have as a student right now is options. If you take away our choices, then you are denying us of our basic rights as humans."
Berk is a member of the first class that will complete the entire five-year IB Middle Years Program (MYP) this year. He said the IB program is a big part of what makes Pinecrest a "distinguished and exceptional school." He also said he learned that IB is preferred over advance placement (AP) classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after talking to an admissions representative from that school.
Jennifer Pember, the wife of a soldier in the 82nd Airborne stationed at Fort Bragg, said the program benefits children who have a parent in the military and are often stationed overseas.
"We have been stationed in many places, with two of our duty stations being in Europe," she said. "As a military spouse, I believe the pros of the IB program are many. The global curriculum is very important in this global economy."
Pember pointed to the expected growth of the military population in Moore County as a reason to continue the program. She said it would "greatly help" military children.
Teresa Van Camp challenged Cunningham's opinion on the IB program.
"These suggestions are completely untenable," she said.
Van Camp argued that restricting the program to diploma candidates makes it cost ineffective and limits the experience to the select few. She called Cunningham's goal of increasing the total number of diploma candidates to 52 in both the 11th and 12th grades "baseless and completely unreasonable at this point."
She added that cutting the MYP program in the ninth and 10th grades jeopardizes the whole MYP program in Moore County, as it violates IBO authorization.
Open Votes Urged
Southern Pines Mayor Pro Tem Chris Smithson urged the board to fully support the IB program. He also called for greater transparency in the board's voting process. He said even though current law exempts the board from recording individual votes, that doesn't make it right. He argued that the public has a right to know where each individual board member stands on issues.
"You have all of this responsibility but no individual accountability," he said. "Be proud of your vote and let people know where each of you stands. Establish a record upon which the public can judge your performance. Please vote individually and start doing so tonight."
Smithson's comments drew raucous applause from IB supporters in the audience.
Not every speaker supported the IB program, however.
Kathy Milewski, whose three children graduated from Pinecrest, said the IB program wasn't all that it was cracked up to be. She said her youngest child, Mollyrose, now at N.C. State, leapt at the opportunity to join IB at Pinecrest, but soon became disillusioned with it.
Contrary to Berk's argument, Milewski said the college admissions offices at UNC and Elon ignored Mollyrose's IB achievements.
"It was not what it had been portrayed to be," Milewski said. "We realized too late, that no matter what [admissions offices] tell you, the SAT and GPA (grade-point average) are the key ingredients. No one at either school looked or cared that she was a high-achieving IB candidate. She was denied by both schools."
Merits of Programs Debated
Rita White echoed Cunning-ham's sentiments, arguing that "a la carte" IB classes encroach upon and dilute the AP courses offered at Pinecrest.
"Please remember when this program was started at Pinecrest, concerned parents of AP students were promised by Moore County Schools that the IB program would not be a threat to the AP courses," she said.
Cunningham said in an interview Tuesday morning that he and other board members were asked by Superintendent Susan Purser to share their thoughts related to the IB/honors issue at Pinecrest. He said his comments were not a "proposal" as a few audience members said Monday night, but simply "his thoughts" that are subject to consideration by the board.
He said those comments are his own, and he was not speaking for the rest of the board. He said this is not set in stone and looks forward to hearing other input.
The IB program for 11th- and 12th-graders at Pinecrest was launched several years ago. Soon after, the Middle Years Program was started at Southern Middle. The MYP program was later extended to the ninth and 10th grades at Pinecrest.
In August, Southern Middle was recognized as an authorized Middle Years Program by the International Baccalaureate Organization. It is one of 18 schools in North Carolina with that distinction.
The merits of the IB program have been debated since the program's inception in Moore County. Some concerned parents have been speaking out against the melding of AP and IB classes at the last few board meetings. They also favor the restoration of honors classes for 11th and 12th graders.
Proponents of IB argue that the program meets the needs of diverse students by offering a well-rounded curriculum that includes oral and essay testing and community service requirements. They say its rigorous course load offers better preparation for college work than the standardized tests required by AP.
Opponents say the IB program is overly expensive and benefits only the handful of students who pursue and complete the IB diploma. They say that IB requires an inordinate amount work that doesn't always pay off in the end for the students. They believe the AP program, which is less expensive, provides more opportunities for college credit. They argue that Pinecrest's historically strong AP program has been weakened by the presence of IB.
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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