News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2005


President Bush big IB program supporter

President Bush began his second term with a major address in which he robustly advocated the same International Baccalaureate program that Decatur school officials want to start here.

He delivered the speech Jan. 12 at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va., where he went to promote his No Child Left Behind program.

"One of the things we must be willing to always do is raise the bar. We've got to continue to raise the bar in our high schools. And one of the best ways to do so is by promoting advanced placement and the International Baccalaureate programs. At Stuart High, you've got a fantastic IB program. It really means that you're willing to challenge every student. That's what it says. It just says, we're not going to be — we just simply will not accept the status quo, that we're going to try to bring innovative programs to this school to continue to raise the bar, to challenge students as best as we possibly can. ...

"And so for the students here wondering whether or not the American experience or the American future belongs to you, absolutely. But it's up to you to decide to continue to soar and to seek new heights. And this school, one reason Stuart succeeds, is because the school continually raises standards and raises expectations.

"And that's what we need to do around the country. Every student with the passion and ability to take an AP or IB class should have the opportunity to do so. That's why we've increased federal support for AP and IB programs; a 73 percent increase over the current amount is what I'm proposing. These programs will help school districts train teachers to offer college-level courses. In other words, you can't offer a program in a high school unless the teachers are trained to do so.

"And we also need to help low-income students pay for the tests. It does not make any sense that a family budget, when it comes to taking AP tests or IB tests, should stand between a student's dreams and the ability to take the test."

While Decatur City Council decides if it will fund the program, or as one member suggested, cut school funding, here's what educators at the nation's best schools say about IB:

"Send us prepared students a la IB...It is the best high school prep curriculum an American school can offer," said Marilee Jones, director of undergraduate admission at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

IB also gets support closer to home.

"There is no other curriculum anywhere that does a superior job of both educating students and inspiring a true and broad-based love of learning,'' said William Shain, dean of undergraduate admission at Vanderbilt University.

The Decatur school board asked for phased-in funding of $670,000 in the first year, $1.2 million in the second and $1.8 annual allocations for subsequent years to put the program in elementary magnet and all middle and high schools, and to support other projects and programs.

But time may be running out on Decatur to become a member of the inner circle of elite IB school systems.

This is our opportunity to have the best high school curriculum in the nation. So, let's urge City Council members to find a way to finance IB.

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