News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, APRIL 10, 2005


City should look deeper into value of IB degree

Michael Cohen heads the Washington, D.C.-based Achieve Inc., which the nation's governors and business leaders created in 1996 to do something about improving education. Its purpose is to help states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability.

Achieve's goal is to prepare all young people to go to college, find a decent job and be good citizens. It is a national driving force behind getting schools to raise expectations.

Mr. Cohen said last week that the International Baccalaureate diploma "is the gold standard."

It creates even higher expectations than Achieve, and inspires and helps teachers and students to reach new goals.

Alabama's expectations of students need jacking up. For every 100 high school freshmen, only 59 percent graduate, 32 percent immediately enter college, 22 percent are still enrolled their sophomore year and 12 percent graduate on time. Nationwide statistics are not much better, but in Massachusetts, which invests more in public education, 76 percent graduate from high school, 52 percent immediately enter college, 40 percent are still enrolled their sophomore year and 29 percent graduate from college on time.

Decatur school board members want local students to do even better. That's why they are pushing hard for the money to start an IB program.

Nationwide, students don't compete well enough against students in other leading countries. In testing, U.S. students consistently are behind.

States are responding to this push with various programs, including higher expectations in math and English.

Decatur has the opportunity to put "the gold standard" in place with the IB program.

As president of the nationwide push to make drastic improvements in public education, Mr. Cohen is in a position to evaluate programs.

Mr. Cohen says the IB program is worth the money it costs.

Funding for an IB program in Decatur has wide and enthusiastic support. The problem is the City Council and mayor are not yet supporting the concept.

The school board wants $1.8 million phased in over three years to pay for the IB program and other projects.

The results would be worth every cent if we could at least do better than the national average.

But the IB program sets higher expectations. Let's adopt IB.

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