Featured Journal Article

IB Program unites school in common purpose

by Julie Miller, International Baccalaureate coordinator, and Jacquie Mazziotta, communications director

In the complex world in which students are growing up today, educators ask: What is the goal of education in the 21st century, and how do we prepare our young students?

The school community at Stow-Munroe Falls City’s Indian Trail Elementary School strives to answer those questions by implementing the International Baccalaureate program (IB). The educational framework is the first of its kind to be offered in the district.

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One major component of the program, and perhaps the most easily visible, is learning to communicate in more than one language. Kindergarten through fourth-grade students are learning Spanish as a second language; however, the core of what makes IB different is the focus on critical thinking.

The framework of instruction is based on the Ohio Common Core Standards and Model Curriculum, but the teaching approach is what drives IB lessons. Based on a set of ideals designed to inspire, motivate and focus the work of teachers, the IB learner profile unites the school in a common purpose.

Collaboration among teachers is an essential part of student success. Teachers plan units together and reflect as a team during and after each unit. Instructional teams evaluate themselves on how they can improve their assessment tasks. They also consider what learning experiences enabled students to develop particular skills that were planned for. They determine which questions prompted deeper inquiry and understanding of concepts. No unit is ever “complete,” and there is always room for improvement in instruction.

The goal is for all learners — teachers and students — to take action and demonstrate the ideals of the learner profile. IB learners strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.

If students are expected to be productive, responsible citizens in an ever-changing world, we must provide learning experiences that foster critical thinking skills and student action that goes beyond the classroom.

“The International Baccalaureate program represents an educational philosophy that has been in existence for over 40 years and represents the best instructional practices from countries around the world,” said Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones. “American students tend to struggle to compete with students from other countries. The problem is not that our students are incapable, the real issue is what we expect of them when they are in our classrooms. Our instructional practices need to raise the bar of expected student performance. IB does just that.”

Teachers have seen the impact of their lessons through their students’ work.

In a unit that centers on the importance of making choices that promote a healthy lifestyle, students voiced their opinions about school lunch offerings and wanted to make some changes. They were encouraged to write to the school principal and share their thoughts. A group of third-graders did this and requested different menu choices. The students’ efforts successfully prompted some changes and led to a soup option being added to the menu.

“My students were able to experience the process of how to make a change,” their teacher Dana Barna said. “But they also realized the idea of compromise and the fact that they can’t always get everything they want.”

In addition to students’ work at school, parent involvement also is encouraged. The Indian Trail IB Newsletter is distributed quarterly, and students are recognized for actions demonstrating the learner profile and attitudes. Staff members also are recognized for the innovative and inspiring techniques they use with their students. The newsletter highlights each grade level, includes information about what themes are being covered and provides summaries of each unit.