Please, everyone: Just. Calm. Down.
As more information has emerged about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that the Methow Valley School might — might — elect to pursue after a lot more exploration and discussion, it seems that some kind of Internet hysteria has gripped a portion of the valley’s population. Online discussions have generated some good questions about IB that need to be fully answered, but also ignited some agitated and uninformed commentary about the nature of the program.
IB is not a plot. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not an unpatriotic movement furtively directed by the power-hungry One World Order, or some such imagined lunacy.
The IB program is a way to think about how to develop an educational framework that challenges students, teachers and parents to aim for high achievement. It has already been adopted with success in many school districts, including several in Washington state.
The IB program would include kindergarten through 10th grade. Succinctly put, it blends the teaching of reading, writing and math skills with an interdisciplinary approach to subjects such as science, history and art. It includes foreign language instruction.
What IB would actually mean for the Methow Valley School District is still being investigated. The real cost, about which there is justifiable curiosity, has yet to be determined to many residents’ satisfaction. The district is moving deliberately and no quick decision is on the horizon. In fact, formal approval as IB schools could be several years off.
The district held an informational meeting earlier and will host another one to discuss the IB program on March 18, starting at 6 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Methow Valley Elementary School.
Give the school district — in particular, many of its teachers — credit for putting in the time and effort necessary to learn about how IB works in the classroom. But sometimes the enthusiasm they have for what they’ve seen elsewhere doesn’t translate well from educationalese. For example, in a column in last week’s Methow Valley News, Liberty Bell High School Principal Deborah DeKalb and elementary school Principal Anne Andersen talked about what district representatives have seen in IB schools: “They also saw students engaged in inquiry activities where their questions guided instruction about meaningful concepts. They saw purposeful skills lessons embedded in rich, interdisciplinary units of study.”
Unfortunately, what some readers probably saw was dense educational jargon. Explanations and examples need to be made more clear for people who are not as familiar with the concepts and terminology.
There is much to be learned, and time to do it. You can drop anonymous bombs on the Internet. Or you can go to the meeting on March 18 and learn more about the program, which will equip you to ask better questions and come to a fact-based conclusion about the program’s merits for the Methow Valley educational system.
IB is not a done deal. Whether it will be depends on how well it is explained and understood. Kind of like education in general.
— Don Nelson