Oak Park middle schools to adopt international curriculum

August 14, 2012

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn’t the only one who wants more schools to offer the respected International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Oak Park District 97 is introducing the program at its two middle schools—Percy Julian Middle and Gwendolyn Brooks Middle.

IB is a rigorous curriculum with an international focus that was created in Switzerland for the children of diplomats. The curriculum is broken into three levels--the primary years programme for elementary school, the middle years programme for middle school and the diplomma programme for high school.

All three levels revolve around global and cultural thinking; writing and critical thinking is required across all subjects. At the high school level, students are also expected to complete a certain number of service learning hours and write a lengthy research paper, similar to a thesis in college.

Emanuel is pushing for an increase in IB at Chicago Public Schools. There are 12 high schools in Chicago that have an IB program and the mayor plans to add more. Earlier this summer he announced that Senn High School, Clemente High School and the new Back of the Yards High School will be “wall-to-wall” IB schools. Some of those schools will offer IB's new "career-related certificate."

Oak Park District 97 will be the first suburban public school district to implement the rigorous IB program in middle school. A magnet school in south suburban Crete-Monee offers the IB elementary program, but no public high schools in the suburbs have IB.

Lisa Schwartz, a curriculum coordinator for Oak Park District 97, said the change won’t replace existing curriculum, but rather augment it.

Schwartz also said representatives from Oak Park River Forest High School, where Julian and Brooks students go to high school, visited schools in Shaker Heights, Ohio with them to learn more about offering IB, but no decision has been made on whether the high school will end up offering it.

However, River Forest is home to the only IB high school outside of the city of Chicago—Trinity College Prep is a private IB school that costs roughly $10,000 a year.

There are 3,458 schools in 143 countries with some form of IB program; 1,367 are in the United States.