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Superintendent expects IB to cost less than original projection

By Bayne Hughes
DAILY Education Writer 340-2432

Implementing world-class education programs is expensive, but Superintendent Sam Houston said he doesn't expect implementation of the International Baccalaureate programs to reach his original $1 million cost projection.

Chief Financial Officer Melanie Maples said the system spent about $351,000 in the past two years on IB application fees and teacher training. She budgeted $120,000 for the 2007 fiscal year, having already spent $52,962.

Austin and Decatur high schools began offering the IB Diploma Program, an honors program for juniors and seniors, this school year.

Brookhaven, Cedar Ridge and Oak Park middle schools and the two high schools are implementing the IB Middle Years Program for grades 6-10. Benjamin Davis and Leon Sheffield magnet elementary schools are implementing the IB Primary Years Program.

"As we get into it, we're learning the actual costs and we're able to ask questions, so I don't think it's going cost nearly as much as our first estimates," Houston said.

So far, the system spent just over $325,000 to send 191 teachers on 11 trips, including travel and expenses. Director of Curriculum and Professional Development Jeanne Payne said they went to eight sites throughout the United States since 2005. Most sites are in the South, including Atlanta, Houston and St. Petersburg, Fla.

The farthest away are in Danvers, Mass., and Cleveland.

Payne said she is trying get teachers into six planned training sessions. Another group leaves Friday for Houston.

Payne said most of the programs' costs are in initial training expenses. She's hoping to get 80 percent of middle- and high-school teachers trained before the end of this school year. Training new teachers, updating training and yearly IB fees will be the main expenses after completing initial implementation.

'Great quality training'

"I believe that quality professional development is such a good investment," Payne said. "And this really is great quality training."

Payne said she tried to schedule training as close to home as possible. She inquired about the possibility of holding training in Decatur, although she said she likes the interaction Decatur's educators get with educators from other locales.

She said IB has 14 training sites, and the potential hosts must bid yearly to get a site. An IB official told her that the organization usually has a waiting list for possible hosts.

Beverly Boy teaches seventh-grade language arts at Oak Park. She went to IB training in Houston in February 2004. She said IB required teachers to plan a teaching unit at the training.

"I loved it," Boy said. "I thought this is the kind of training I want to help improve my teaching. I don't know of any teacher who went who didn't think that this was the best training. We should be doing this whether we're IB or not."

Boy said she likes IB because she believes students will learn "analysis, application, synthesis and evaluation" instead of the more familiar memorization and repetition. She thinks this will help Decatur raise its standardized test scores because they have better comprehension of the things they learn.

"This will reach every child, from the special ed student to the honors student," Boy said.

Payne said IB also requires teachers of different subjects and grades to work together on lesson plans.

Teachers leave Friday morning and return Monday. Some teachers complained that they had to give up a weekend, with no off days the following week, and attend a clinic in which their only pay was the travel and training expenses.

Boy said she didn't mind attending the clinic unpaid. "I didn't expect to get paid, and they paid for everything."

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