Hanover School Board debating changes to IB program

Hanover County
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HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Hanover County Public Schools officials could be consolidating the International Baccalaureate (IB) program within the school division as soon as the upcoming academic year.

Data presented to the School Board at its Monday work session shows that right now in Hanover County, there are 133 students enrolled in the IB Diploma Programme and 347 students who are taking IB courses without full program enrollment. However, recommendations made to the Board suggest that this hybrid model, which allows students to combine IB courses with Advanced Placement (AP) courses and regular instruction, should not be offered going forward.

“It’s better to have the student take the entire experience because it’s interconnected,” Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Leadership Jennifer Greif said.

Greif explained that the IB Diploma Programme offers a more integrated way of learning because there is crossover among classes, which could make it difficult for students who are only taking some of them.

The Diploma Programme is a rigorous course of studies, promoting a learner profile that includes traits such as open-mindedness, reflective thinking, and inquiry.

But some Board members expressed concern with eliminating the hybrid or mixed IB option, noting that some students might be drawn to a certain IB course because of the instructor who teaches it.

“We’ve had so much success with this model that, at this point, it almost seems like a hinderance to do away with it,” South Anna District representative Kelly K. Evko said.

The recommendations to make changes to Hanover’s administration of the IB program came from an Advance Studies Focus Group. But, according to Greif, participating in the Diploma Programme is how IB programs are intended to be conducted. In recent years, College Board has started gravitating toward a more program-unifying idea, even for AP courses.

Though Hanover officials said that consolidating the IB program would not necessarily increase the course offerings — that would continue to be based off of enrollment and interest — changes would be made to allow students who take IB courses now but are not working toward an IB diploma to engage in rigorous coursework.

“I would feel a lot better if we were able to offer equivalencies, real equivalencies, for student as what we offer in IB,” Chickahominy District representative Robert L. Hundley, Jr. said.

Greif explained that, as of right now, the IB film course is the only one without an AP equivalent. She also said that AP offerings could be expanded to meet the increased need if students who are enrolled in some IB courses now opt out of the program to avoid taking all IB courses through the Diploma Programme.

The Advance Studies Focus Group also recommended that the IB program be moved to a singular building within the district to allow for a cohort of students, all working toward the common goal of earning their IB diploma. That building would be Atlee High School, from which the most students have graduated with their respective IB diplomas since 2002.

Greif said that this consolidation would be a more efficient use of teachers’ time, allowing them to focus on the style and rigor of instruction demanded of those engaged in the IB program.

But School Board Vice Chair and Ashland District representative Ola J. Hawkins raised the issue of transportation that some students might face if they had to get to Atlee High School to be able to take IB courses. The response to this inquiry from school officials was that students would be included in the division’s shuttle system, which currently works for the Specialty Center. In some cases, students would get on a bus to their home school before being shuttled to Atlee. In other instances, students could be picked up from home or at a hub stop.

“If a student has a drive and wants to attempt, then we should give them that attempt,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Gill said. “Let’s find a way to say ‘yes.’ What the Board decides, staff will make happen.”

At the end of the discussion on changes to the IB program at Hanover, School Board Chairman and Beaverdam District representative John F. Axselle III asked his constituents how they felt about the possibility of eliminating the option for students to only enroll in some IB courses, instead of enrolling in the complete IB Diploma Programme.

Though no vote was taken, only Cold Harbor District representative Norman K. Sulser expressed his approval of the change, saying that if that was the way IB intended the program to be administered, then that is how Hanover should offer the program.

Other Board members said they needed more information, such as a breakdown of which IB courses students are taking if they’re not enrolled in the full IB Diploma Programme.

One issue that was not discussed, however, is what happens to students who want to challenge themselves as much as possible by taking select IB courses in areas for which they have an affinity, but would like to avoid taking such classes in areas where they struggle. In an all-or-nothing model, those students would have to decide between taking no IB courses and sticking to the IB Diplomma Program curriculum.

The curriculum is made up of six subject groups and the Diploma Programme core, which is comprised of theory of knowledge (TOK), creativity, activity, service (CAS), and the extended essay.

The Board members decided that more discussion on changes to Hanover’s IB program is needed, and that it will be removed as an action item for the March 9 Board meeting agenda, and instead presented in an informational format.

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