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IB program developing
Organization checks on Decatur’s progress putting Middle Years Program into action

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

Decatur’s five secondary schools are working on the final step toward becoming the only schools in the state offering an internationally recognized academic program for underclassmen and middle school students.

The International Baccalaureate Organization sent Fadwa Hasan of Chicago to Austin and Decatur high schools and Brookhaven, Cedar Ridge and Oak Park middle schools this past week to make sure they are making progress in the application process for IB’s Middle Years Program.

Impressed with progress

After Hasan held a wrap-up meeting with central office personnel, principals and local IB coordinators, all said they thought she was impressed with their progress.

“She was very complimentary of all three middle schools,” Superintendent Sam Houston said.

Austin and Decatur high schools became official IB Diploma schools in May. That honors program for juniors and seniors requires application before acceptance and implementation, while the Middle Years Program requires implementation before application and acceptance.

The Middle Years Program focuses on all students in grades 6-10. Its design is to teach students how to learn and critically evaluate information through interweaving the different subjects.

Finance Director Melanie Maples said the school system has spent $12,600 in application fees and annual dues are $10,400. She did not know how much the system spent on teacher training.

Director of Curriculum Jeanne Payne said the system has trained more than 220 in all IB programs.

IB groups the feeder schools with the high schools, considering Decatur High and Oak Park as one applicant and Austin High, Cedar Ridge and Brookhaven as another.

The schools sent application A in 2004 and are preparing application B, which they will send in May.

The middle schools are moving forward while the high schools are probably a year behind their feeder schools.

Decatur High Principal Mike Ward said the high schools have been concentrating on getting the Diploma program.

Adding Spanish teachers

As part of this implementation, the school system added three Spanish teachers at each of the middle schools.

Every middle school student now gets at least 50 hours of Spanish instruction a school year, taking Spanish classes every other nine-week grading period.

Eighth-grade students can now take Spanish I, a class previously reserved for high school.

Houston said Hasan suggested adding a second foreign
language at the middle schools, although she said the program would work with one language.

The superintendent is not sure if an additional middle school language “is financially feasible at the moment,”
especially since the high schools need more Spanish teachers for their Middle Years Programs.

Payne said Hasan’s other suggestion was that schools hold additional meetings between department grade levels.

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