By JEROD CLAPP
FLOYD COUNTY —
Floyd Central and New Albany high schools were added to the handful of Indiana schools to offer an International Baccalaureate diploma for the next school year.
Louis Jensen, director of high schools for the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp., said the program offers students a lot more than the potential for earning college credit while still in high school.
“A person who goes through and earns an IB diploma is well-prepared for the university level,” Jensen said. “Just as a student who takes five or six [Advanced Placement] courses, they’re going to be better prepared at the university level than anybody who just went through high school and didn’t take any of those courses.”
The diploma-track program, which students begin their junior year, requires more than finding right answers and passing exams. Students have to compose a 4,000-word thesis on a subject of their choosing with the guidance of a faculty adviser, as well as completing 250 hours of community or other service between their junior and senior years.
Students in the program also have to complete a theory of knowledge course that forces them to not only stand on what they know, but give them the ability to back up why they know anything in a given subject.
From there, students will be required to defend their knowledge in every IB class they take.
“You become a learner,” Jensen said. “In AP, there’s right answers. In IB, there’s not necessarily right answers, but it’s more about what you know, can you validate why you know it and what evidence you can provide.”
Jensen said the district began looking into the diploma program in 2008 and had to complete a series of application processes. In the meantime, he said they visited other districts in the state and trained teachers for their IB certifications.
He said each high school has about 30 teachers certified for teaching the courses, but the practices teachers gained from that experience will pour into their regular classes.
“All teachers who’ve been trained in IB will use a lot of the information, strategies and assessment practices they learned in IB and use it in their regular classes,” Jensen said. “So really, the whole school will experience the IB component.”
He said a lot of the funding for the program was provided by the Blue Sky Foundation.
He said the students who earn the diploma will also have more opportunities for college enrollment and scholarships.
But he said the courses aren’t just for students who want the diploma, others who are interested in taking more rigorous courses are welcomed in.
“You do not have to be that academically gifted child,” Jensen said. “You’ll be an individual who wants to be well-rounded, who likes the idea of being a thinker, an open-minded person... It’s going to have to be someone who’s well-balanced with their time management because of the time commitment outside of school.”
He said students won’t have to sacrifice extracurricular activities to join the program, especially since they also help students on college applications.
He said even with the commitment in out-of-school service, students often put in that time anyway because of how much it helps them on college applications.
He said about 30 students have signed up for the diploma program, but many more have signed up for the courses. Initially, students will be able to take biology, English and history of the Americas in both schools. But some courses wouldn’t be at both places, such as physics offered at New Albany High School.
He said he expects to see more students sign up for the courses as they become more popular. He said with AP classes, students convinced their friends to join them in class. He said he expects that to happen with IB as well.
“For us, we’re excited because this gives an opportunity not just for the students who are going to pursue the IB program, but all our students will experience it,” Jensen said. “We’re excited about developing that IB learner profile.”