Did CPS pull a bait & switch on proposed International Baccalaureate school?

It's unclear whether career track at school is designed to send students to college or to the workforce first.

December 19, 2012

Parents on Chicago’s South Side are learning that a school is not as inclusive and rigorous as promised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  

The new Back of the Yards High School was proposed as offering the International Baccalaureate program school-wide.

Seven nearby elementary schools, including one Catholic school, will feed into this new high school. 

But it turns out incoming freshmen won't all be participating in the more challenging program that had excited parents and students.

Back of the Yards was supposed to offer the rigorous IB program that was designed in Switzerland for children of diplomats.

Studies show that students who take IB classes are twice more likely to get into highly selective colleges and succeed than those attending schools with standard curriculum.

The IB diploma certificate is also globally recognized as an extremely high-achieving program.

Emily Macias is an 8th grader at Chavez Multicultural Academy, one of the schools that will send students to Back of the Yards. She is excited about what her new school could offer.

They are going to give you some type of certificate and if you want to go to China your certificate is valid over there and wherever you wanna go and do it.”

The thing is, not everyone at the new school would have a chance to get that certificate.

WBEZ has previously reported that students could up end up in that new and untested IB technical education track.

According to Kathryn Ellis, Executive Director of the Office of Access and Enrollment, not all incoming freshman will will enroll in the IB honors program.

The general thought right now is that we will be admitting about 240 kids; at least 60 of them will be in the honors track,” said Ellis.

The rest could end up in a less rigorous curriculum or follow a career certificate program.

That doesn’t sit well with Marina Alonso. She’s a parent coordinator at Hedges Elementary. She said the majority of the parents do not know about those numbers.

When it was presented to us, it was said that it was going to be opened. They never put a number to any of [the] …okay this is how many students are going to be in this program and this is how many students are going to go to the vocational program,” Alonso said.

Experts within the IB community are wondering how the career certificate will play out.

Elizabeth Morrison is a full-time IB teacher at Kelly High School. She said students in the IB career program take less rigorous and fewer IB classes.

I am not sure if it’s designed to funnel students directly into the workforce or whether it’s designed to send them to college first,” she said.  

According to her, the IB diploma program is extremely demanding and rigorous. But “even if you take one, two, three or four IB classes while it’s not as challenging as the full IB program, it is definitely way, way more rigorous than the standard program of regular classes.”

Five other wall-to wall IB high schools across the city will be implementing a similar model.

CPS is holding more meetings about the new Back of the Yards International Baccalaureate High School. However, Alonso wonders if the majority of the parents will be informed of the curriculum before they enroll their children.