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Program gives kids jump on college

Tim Mutrie

Students at Aspen High School will be able to get a jump-start on their college careers by enrolling in an advanced curriculum program school officials are hoping to implement soon.

International Baccalaureate (IB) is similar to advanced placement or AP courses presently available at the school. Students can potentially skip their freshman year at college if they complete the program, said Kendall Evans, principal at Aspen High.

IB is offered at 14 schools in Colorado and more than 600 schools in 100 different countries worldwide. The standardized curriculum requires students to complete a series of courses in mathematics, experimental sciences (biology, chemistry, physics), English, foreign language, individuals and societies (history, geography, economics, philosophy) and arts and electives (art/design, music, theatre).

Officials at AHS hope that this year’s seventh-grade class will be the first IB diploma students to graduate, said Evans.

“That’s the class we believe can be fully operational. Older kids will be able to take some IB courses, but they probably won’t be in a position to become diploma candidates.”

In order to become an IB candidate, students must get on the IB track as early as eighth grade, Evans said.

“To qualify and eventually get into the IB program as an 11th-grader … you have to take Algebra One and a beginning high school foreign language class [no later than eighth grade],” Evans said.

In addition, diploma candidates must also take a theory of knowledge class, write a 4,000-word essay, and fulfill a 150-hour community service component, Evans said.

The school district hired George Burson in January to serve as the IB coordinator and spearhead the complex application and teacher training process. Teachers at the school will start learning how to teach the IB curriculum starting this fall.

“In our school, we’re going to say that every teacher gets trained to teach IB courses and that every student is eligible to take IB courses,” Evans said. “We feel like we have a group of students who, if given the opportunity, will rise to these high expectations.

“I’ve visited a number of schools who offer IB and found that IB created some divisions among students and teachers, because only some were involved in it. Well, we intend to train all of our teachers and allow all of our students to take IB.

“And once you do that, there’s a saying that says a rising tide lifts all boats. We think it will raise the academic expectations for everyone.”

While finishing the IB curriculum may mean more time hitting the books in high school, it has the potential to shorten the amount of studying required at college.

“Colleges and universities have embraced IB because of the high competency levels of these students,” Evans said. “Many colleges and universities allow IB graduates to skip their freshman year and enroll as a sophomore.

“But it’s a huge thing for a kid to undertake; they’ll have to do about four hours of homework a night.”

Course work completed by the students is sent to an IB office, where it is graded, Evans said.

“Everything the kids do is shipped off elsewhere and graded,” he said. “Nothing is graded internally, so the teacher actually becomes the coach. The teacher will say, ‘The reason I have to push you so hard is because you need to get to these levels.'”

Evans said AHS will continue to offer advanced placement courses.

“Some IB courses are compatible with AP, some aren’t,” Evans said. “But we’ll continue to offer AP courses, and then we’ll offer them both simultaneously, and eventually one may win out over the other.”

AHS will submit a formal IB application in June of 2000.


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