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Posted December 11, 2012

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December 2012: IB May be Here in 2013

Read the superintendent’s column that appeared in the Albuquerque Journal today, Dec. 11.

When Christmas shopping, I like to have choices for those on my list with different wants and needs. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work well under the tree, and it doesn’t work in public education, either.

Like retailers during the holiday season, Albuquerque Public Schools provides lots of options for our diverse clientele. We have schools that focus on technology, careers and dual languages. We have programs for athletes, artists, budding scientists and performers. We have traditional coursework, online learning and classes that blend the two. We have large, comprehensive schools and smaller alternative ones.

And now we’re working toward adding one more outstanding program to our repertoire. In fall 2013, we hope to have our first class of students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Sandia High School. This world-renowned, academically challenging program isn’t for everyone, but for the 100 or so juniors we expect to enroll the first year, it’s yet another stepping stone toward success at the university level and beyond.

Just one more choice for our kids, in this case students who are highly motivated, successful in school, intellectually curious and ready to be pushed to their academic limits.

Though housed at Sandia, the IB Diploma Program will be open to qualified students from across Albuquerque starting with the Class of 2015. The demanding program is a two-year course of study for juniors and seniors emphasizing inquiry and critical thinking. In addition to six core subjects, the curriculum includes service learning and an extended, research-based essay. Students take written exams at the end of their courses that can earn them college credit.

The goal of the IB Diploma Program is to make students more responsible and accountable for their education, preparing them to excel at the college level. Successfully completing the reputable program will help open doors to the world’s leading universities.

IB got its start in Switzerland more than four decades ago for the children of globetrotting diplomats and business executives. It’s now in more than 3,000 schools in 139 countries. An IB team will be visiting Sandia High in the coming months, and if all goes well, we’ll be opening New Mexico’s first IB Diploma Program in a comprehensive public high school in August.

The city of Albuquerque and Mayor Richard Berry recognize the value of offering this type of program for our students, which ultimately benefits the future of this community. We appreciate the city’s generous donation of $115,000, which is being used for training, materials and other start-up costs. The money also will help students cover testing fees to assure the program is inclusive and available to all interested and eligible students.

Mayor Berry and I agree that programs like IB create a stronger foundation for our city by not only providing students with a world-class education, but also by instilling a strong sense of global responsibility.

I want to emphasize that the IB Diploma Program at Sandia is open to eligible students from across the city. We encourage interested sophomores at any of our high schools to apply, as well as those in private and charter schools or who are home-schooled. An online application will be posted to the APS website after the first of the year at The admissions process will include a personal interview, teacher recommendations and a review of grades, classes and test scores. More information will be forthcoming and will be shared with guidance counselors at all APS high schools.

IB isn’t for everyone. In fact, only a handful of our students will be interested in enrolling. It’s nice to be able to meet the needs of these students, just as we continue searching for programs to meet the diverse needs of all of our kids.

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