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Defending IB program

This letter is in response to the comments made by school board candidate Tom Clapper in Friday’s issue of the Times.

According to Clapper, the Aspen School District spent “over $100,000” on the International Baccalaureate Program at Aspen High School over the past three years. Tom claims that “the financial impact [of the IB Program] is far greater than what we’re getting out of it.” I strongly disagree with Tom’s assessment on the worth of the IB Program. Here’s why:

The district’s total budget during the last three years was about $21 million. Therefore the school district spent less than one-half of 1 percent of its total budget on the IB Program. I would suggest that, rather than spending too much money on IB, the school district joined an excellent scholastic program for a great price.

Tom was way off the mark when he incorrectly stated that only “10 percent of the kids” at AHS are in the IB Program. IB classes may only be taken by juniors and seniors. Students must take six IB classes to be eligible for an IB diploma. Individual IB courses may be taken for certificates.

Out of the 200 juniors and seniors at AHS, 34 are sitting for the IB diploma and 68 are taking at least one IB class for a certificate. In other words, over 50 percent of the school’s eligible students are involved in the IB Program.

Finally, Tom asks, “What about the students in the middle? What are they getting?” I would answer that the “middle” students are getting an excellent education. In fact, as indicated by the numbers above, many of them are in the IB Program.

AHS sends about 80 percent of its graduates to college or university, a figure much higher than most public high schools. That means that most of those AHS students who are not in advanced programs and want to go to college get accepted.

Why? Because the colleges know that AHS offers students an excellent education. Students who choose, for one reason or another, not to go to college in many ways need an even more rigorous high school program than those students going to college, since high school may be their last chance for a formal education.

Programs for “special” students benefit the students in the “middle.” Any teacher that teaches Special Education students better knows how to individualize instruction, and that skill helps him in his “regular” classes. Any teacher that teaches IB classes has a better grasp on how to teach rigorous subject matter to his “regular” students.

The best thing about the IB Program is its accountability. At the end of their IB classes, students take several exams that are externally graded. Diploma students must do 150 hours of CAS (Community, Activity, Service) and write an extended essay of some 4,000 words that is also externally graded. As much as a third of a student’s grade, depending on the IB class, is awarded by the student’s teacher and moderated by IB. Teachers must predict their students’ IB grades, and it is policy at AHS that there be a strong correlation between IB and AHS grades. IB is a “no excuses” program.

While IB is an elite program, it is not an elitist program at AHS. Unlike many high schools, at Aspen High School IB classes are open to all juniors and seniors. There are no entrance exams. And, contrary to popular belief, IB classes are not just “academic” classes. In addition to offering nine IB classes in English, foreign language, social studies, science and mathematics, the high school also offers IB art and IB theater. Next year it hopes to offer IB music.

So I ask Tom Clapper, what’s not to like about IB?

George Burson

Aspen


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