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Middle school IB for Decatur
Final application sent; ‘major milestone’ for city school system

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

Decatur City Schools took the next major step last week toward officially providing the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Program.

The school system submitted two Application B’s, which detail the steps school officials are taking to implement the program. Brookhaven and Cedar Ridge middle schools are partners with Austin High, while Decatur High is a partner with its feeder school, Oak Park Middle School.

If accepted, Decatur would become the first school system in Alabama offering the Middle Years Program. It is the only system north of Birmingham offering the Diploma Program.

Unlike IB’s Diploma Program, which requires approval before implementation, schools must implement the Middle Years principles and requirements before getting approval as official International Baccalaureate schools.

The Diploma Program, an honors curriculum for juniors and seniors, completes its first year at Austin and Decatur when the school year ends this month.

Superintendent Sam Houston called sending Application B a “significant milestone.” International Baccalaureate will now send an inspector in the fall to make sure the program is to IB standards.

“The big thing is the Middle Years Program touches every student in grades sixth-10,” Houston said.

“It provides an education that’s active, exciting and engaging so that the students have the confidence to take the more challenging courses when they get to high school.”

According to principals and the schools’ IB coordinators, Application B is a 3-inch thick binder that shows how the schools plan to implement the program through the next five years.

Fully implemented, students get 50 hours every school year of eight subjects, including a foreign language (Spanish), art and technology.

Teachers integrate IB’s five areas of interaction into their instruction.

“Everything anyone would want to know about Decatur City Schools is in it (Application B),” Austin IB Coordinator Susan Giguere said.

This year’s sixth-grade class is the first to get the fully implemented program. The plan then follows this class into seventh grade and through to 10th grade.

Even though the plan calls for a progression, the principals said this year’s seventh and eighth grades are getting most of the Middle Years Program. Cedar Ridge Principal Beth Weinbaum said the only part these students are not getting is the mini personal project. Teachers will be developing the mini personal project handbook during the next school year.

Brookhaven Principal Larry Collier, Oak Park Principal Dwight Satterfield and Weinbaum estimated about half of their teachers have been through IB training, so they need to continue training the remainder of their staffs.

Giguere and Decatur High IB Coordinator Kim Qualls said the high schools have been concentrating on the Diploma Program, but they have a plan for the Middle Years Program. They are continuing trying to get every teacher IB trained.

The high schools will use a “flexible option” schedule when this year’s sixth-graders reach high school. In ninth grade, students will take the four core subjects, a foreign language and art, getting seven of the eight IB subjects.

As sophomores, they will take the four core classes, a foreign language and replace art with technology.

Like the middle schools, Giguere said the high schools won’t start the personal projects for the Middle Years
Programs until this year’s sixth-graders reach the high school.

The students will start the project as freshmen and then present their project to a teacher panel as sophomores.

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