By Lauren Deal
Macon Community News
Parents of all 8th-grade students in Macon-Bibb County are encouraged to attend a meeting at the Central High School auditorium on October 24, 2018, at 6:00 PM, to learn more about the International Baccalaureate program.
The meeting will provide an overview of the IB program, including criteria for admission, important application deadlines for 8th-grade students interested in participating in the IB program, which begins in the freshman year of high school, and other information. The meeting is open to 8th-grade students from public, private, charter, and home schools and their parents or guardians.
Macon Community News sat down for an interview with Pamela Hill, the co-president of the Central High School International Baccalaureate (IB) Parent Support Group, to learn more about this impressive educational option for Macon-Bibb County’s high achieving students.
IB is a highly specialized program that aims to prepare secondary students to compete on an international platform, whether they are college, career, or military-bound. “It has the highest academic rigor of any high school program that I’ve ever been made aware of,” says Hill.
“There are only 39 high schools in Georgia, according to the IB website, who offer the International Baccalaureate program. That’s out of all high schools in the State of Georgia, including the private schools,” she explains.
Many colleges consider IB to be a higher level of rigor than AP (Advanced Placement) or dual enrollment (where high school students take courses at local colleges for credit). Program standards are higher, not just on a local or state level, but on an international level, with intensive teacher training and high expectations for students. The IB program is recognized worldwide for its excellence.
Hill explained some critical differences between IB, AP, and dual enrollment. The IB classes are generally considered a higher level class. Each college decides what courses and credits to accept. IB students end up taking some AP tests as well, but the focus is on IB. With the international standard, more and more colleges are accepting and recognizing these credits, no matter the location of the college. We have heard that some dual enrollment students are having difficulty getting the credits to transfer. It depends on where you want to go after high school. Check the website for a college you are interested in, and see what they say. The list of colleges and classes are continually growing. The IB diploma requires dedication to a two-year program that encompasses all of the students’ academic requirements, plus additional extracurricular participation in activities that inspire creativity, physical activity, and service. These two years follow your first two years of high school in the Pre-Diploma Program.
Both AP and IB culminate with an end of course standardized testing, but the IB testing process, like the program itself, emphasizes written responses and critical thinking more than the AP exams. Students earning their IB diploma must pass comprehensive exams across multiple academic disciplines. They must complete an in-depth, IB-approved, independent study project with a lengthy written report (approximately 4000 words). The IB diploma also requires that students take a foreign language, either Spanish or French, for four years and show mastery in the language.
“That [rigor] is very important for college admissions because every college admissions person we’ve ever talked to has told us that one of the main things they look at is what was your level of academic rigor in your high school program. Are you in the highest-level program that is available?”
Central High School is the only school in Middle Georgia offering the IB diploma. Hill says that teachers get training from the parent organization, from whom they also receive instructional guidelines. The final tests that students take originate from the IB organization and there are grading processes in place to ensure that student performance meets the expectations of the international organization.
However, Central has taken the opportunity to tailor their program to the needs of their students. The IB program is a 4-year course of study at Central. During the freshman and sophomore year, students participate in the “pre-diploma program,” to help prepare them for their final two years of secondary school. The upper-level IB courses are designed to last two years, providing greater depth than the traditional one-semester high school class and AP classes, which typically last one semester to one year.
As an added feature of the IB program at Central, junior and senior students who excel in specific academic areas, say math or science, can take one of the intensive IB program courses without enrolling in the diploma program. This allows gifted Central students to enjoy the benefits of intensive study in one area even if they don’t feel suited to the program as a whole.
“Students who participate in only one IB class don’t get the IB diploma,” explains Hill, “but they get the experience of taking the IB class on that subject, and they can get the college credit for the class if they take the IB exam and do well enough on it.”
Central High School is also Macon-Bibb County’s magnet school for Fine Arts. Students may apply to participate in IB, Fine Arts, or both. In fact, they are encouraged to do so. Even if a student does not enroll in the Fine Arts program, he or she can still take dance, visual arts, or theater, as an IB class during the 11th and 12th-grade years.
Just because Central is a fine arts school, it doesn’t mean that students will miss out on math and science education. For example, IB physics is another elective available to students. The valedictorian of Central High School’s class of 2018, Tobias Kopp, excelled in the IB program to earn the title of Star Student and a spot at Georgia Tech.
“As a parent, I feel that the IB program has done a lot for my daughter,” Hill says. She continues, “It has certainly taught her time management. It lets the children know that a lot is expected of them, but they can do it. It’s been a good program for her, and [the program] is improving all the time.”
Students must apply to the IB program at Central High School during their 8th-grade year. The middle school application period opens November 12, and the deadline for applications to be received is December 14, 2018.
“The middle school students have to complete an application, and they have to write an essay, and they have to have a certain educational background and recommendations from teachers,” explains Hill. “Any 8th-grade student in Bibb County can apply.”
Joshua McCorkle is both a teacher at Central High School and the coordinator of the IB program. He is dedicated to the success of the IB program going forward. McCorkle works closely with the Parent Support Group as well as the faculty and staff to help meet the needs of students.
When McCorkle discovered that some students didn’t have access to print assignments from home, he notified the Parent Support Group. They obtained a black and white ink printer for his office, and during his afternoon office hours, when he is not teaching classes, any IB program student can come print any documents or assignments they need. When students in the visual arts program ran into similar issues accessing color printers from home, the art teacher, Sabrina Barilone turned to the Parent Support Group, and they were able to fix the problem together.
The IB program is incredibly demanding, but McCorkle, the teachers, and the Parent Support Group work hard to help the students enjoy their high school experience. They host events including international food festivals, family cookouts, and special breakfasts. IB students have had the opportunity to attend special programs and field trips to enrich their education. Students from the IB art program have also been featured in art shows at the 567 Center for Renewal.
They also participate in fundraisers, including car washes, to raise money for the program. Currently, the IB and pre-IB students are selling tickets to purchase Boston butts provided by Welch’s Country Smokehouse on Bass Road in North Macon.
“We have a strong group of parents who are dedicated to seeing students succeed,” Hill says. “and we also have a strong, talented group of teachers who are committed to Central High School, not only the IB program.”
Hill goes on to emphasize that the IB program has robust support from their principal, Emanuel Frazier, as well as the leadership at the top of the Bibb County School District. “The program is very strong, and it’s only getting stronger. There is misinformation that the program is going away, and it is NOT going away,” Hill states. “Superintendent Curtis Jones came and spoke at our IB pinning ceremony in August, and it is very clear that he loves this program, and he is supportive of the program, and he supports growing the program.”
The IB pinning ceremony is a rite of passage for students in the program. “The pinning ceremony is when you have accepted all of the advanced requirements and the rigor of the program, and you are pledging to complete it. Central does [the pinning ceremony] at the beginning of the senior year. We have alumni who come back to pin the students.”
Eight Central IB graduates returned for the 2018-2019 pinning ceremony, which was held in August 2018. Superintendent Curtis Jones and IB alumna Dr. Dilani Weerasuriya spoke at the ceremony. Family, students, and supporters attended the event.
The IB program is a student’s opportunity to have colleges sit up and take notice when you apply. “We’ve been told by many colleges that IB applications go to the top of the stack –they want IB students. When you’re looking at scholarships, IB can make a difference. IB is a statement to everybody looking at any college or scholarship application,” Hill summarizes.
For Bibb County parents and students who want a truly world-class secondary education, Central High School’s International Baccalaureate program offers an experience like none other in Middle Georgia.
Eighth-grade students and their parents can attend an informational meeting on October 24, 2018, at 6:00 PM at the Central High School auditorium. The application period for the 2019-2020 pre-IB program opens on November 12, and all applications requirements must be fulfilled by December 14, 2018.
For more information on the IB program, please contact program director Joshua McCorkle at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the IB parents support group, please contact them at email@example.com.