While IB classes at the high school level are generally geared for high-achieving students, proponents say the elementary and middle school programs can work for all students, including those with special needs and English-language learners.
“One of the main ideas of IB is we should ask big open-ended questions that allow for many different answers,” said David Brewster, who coordinates the IB program at Joseph Plouffe Academy in Brockton, a public school for grades 6 to 8.
An English class, for example, might ask why stories end the way they do. More advanced students might ponder that question in “Romeo and Juliet,” but even students whose primary language is not English can weigh the same issue using a simpler text, Brewster said.
“For me, it’s best practices put into action,” said Michelle Nessralla, Plouffe Academy’s principal. “It’s teachers collaborating on a daily basis to talk about the curriculum, to talk about student work.”
But the program has been slow to catch on in Massachusetts. Schools are required to complete a lengthy application process, including a feasibility study, professional development, site visit, and fees.
“It’s a tremendous amount of work,’’ Brewster said. “It may be more of a risk and expense than some schools are willing to take.”
Mystic Valley’s Bradford, who has taught IB in other countries, said the program requires commitment from teachers and administrators. “I think it can be a helpful model for struggling schools, but there’s nothing magic about it,” he said. “You turn a school around by that basic commitment.”
Woodrow Wilson educators say they are ready.
“We’re going down this road primarily because we need to develop a different educational philosophy, a different educational process, and some different ways of how to meet the academic needs of the students in this building,” said Robin Welch, the school’s principal.