Updated 5:29 p.m. 5/1/12:
Is it possible we may have spoken too soon?
School board member Rebecca Gagon confirmed that Washburn High School had decided Monday night to hire a coordinator for a Middle Years International Baccaulaureate program, covering ninth and tenth graders. However, Minneapolis Public Schools communications officials have not returned repeated requests for comment on the hiring decision. Washburn parents who spoke to Patch on Tuesday said the hiring decision took them by surprise.
An International Baccaulaureate (IB) coordinator is essential to any school trying to start such a program. The hiring would clear the way for the school to apply to start an IB program covering its ninth and tenth grade students. Eleventh and twelfth grade students are served by a different IB program, called the Degree Program.
The initial announcement was made by the moderator at Monday night's debate between school board candidates vying to represent Southwest Minneapolis. Following the debate Gagnon, also in the debate's audience, said she had been informed of the hiring decision "about two hours" before the debate.
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Original story, published 5:45am, 5/1/12
Part of a long-term plan? Or a school succumbing to parent pressure?
It’s too soon to tell but either way, parents calling for to offer more advanced classes seem like they’ll be getting a good chunk of what they wished for. Monday night, Minneapolis Public Schools announced it had hired a coordinator for a Middle Years International Baccalaureate (MYIB) Program, a critical step in launching an International Baccalaureate (IB) program for select ninth and tenth grade students.
Previously, Superindendent Bernadeia Johnson to find a solution to the issue.
The school already has an IB program for students in eleventh and twelfth grades. This program, called the Diploma Program, is separate from MYIB.
The new program will offer a curriculum for students that is widely regarded as more challenging than regular classes. However, the certification process will take time. Still, in a letter Markham-Cousins sent out to parents earlier this year, she said many Washburn teachers had been trained to implement the MYIB curriculum, potentially speeding any approval process.
While a new IB program for ninth and tenth graders would appease some of Washburn’s critics, the impact of Monday’s decision on the school's "Honors for All" program is unclear.
That program mixes students of all academic levels into one classroom, allowing them to help each other and inspire each other. Markham-Cousins has lauded the Honors for All program—the foundation for Washburn's current academic structure—for helping close the achievement gap between white students and students of color.
At-large school board member Rebecca Gagnon told Patch Monday night that while a new IB program at Washburn would cost money, the district was also using reserve money in next year’s budget to pay for improvements meant to help the struggling students Honors for All is intended to benefit. Some of the money will go towards a rationalization of core courses across the district and a data system that will help teachers track when a student hasn’t learned a specific concept.