A tale of two programs

Cd'A school board members consider fate of IB, AP

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COEUR d'ALENE - The International Baccalaureate program is back in the cross-hairs in the Coeur d'Alene School District.

School board members met Monday for a workshop focused on the performance of students enrolled in the district's two advanced learning courses offered to high school students: IB at Lake City and Advanced Placement at Coeur d'Alene High.

Educators from each of the schools - Lake City IB coordinator and English teacher Andrea Partington and CHS Principal Warren Olson and AP Chemistry teacher Erik Karns - were present to answer trustees' questions about the programs. Many of the board members' queries and comments pointed to dissatisfaction with the IB program's results, primarily that just 54 students were enrolled in at least one IB class at Lake City during the last school year.

"My concern is, is it worth having the program?" said Trustee Jim Purtee.

There were 110 students enrolled in the 15 AP classes offered at CHS in 2011-12. Three of those classes showed improved test results, and four had decreased results.

Eight of the 16 IB classes offered at Lake City saw improved results, and two saw a drop in scores.

Board chair Tom Hamilton and Terri Seymour, the only trustees remaining on the board since last year, went through a similar exercise nearly a year ago. Academic scores were found to be lackluster in both programs, and trustees directed Superintendent Hazel Bauman to allow AP and IB to both continue for a year.

"We needed to take a look at whether having both programs was a good idea or whether we should pick one and focus and spend more resources on professional development in helping our teachers be prepared to help these students see better success," Hamilton said.

He said one of the criteria the board set last year for determining the value of the programs is the number of college credits students taking IB and AP exams can earn.

Ann Seddon, a former teacher and the newest board member, shared some personal research she did which revealed that many more AP students were eligible for college credit than those taking IB classes.

Using that criteria, Hamilton said the AP program stands out.

Trustees were given documentation about the programs prepared by the educators.

"One of the most telling statements in Mr. Karns' summation is worth repeating and it says that we must work to ensure that any program is fully funded and supported in community," Hamilton said. "I do think both of those are key, and we're talking about the elephant in the room if we don't mention that one of these programs is divisive and one is not. I would say that that has certainly contributed to the competitive nature of this, and I would say also to the detriment of both programs."

From 2006 to 2009, the IB program, which is available to just juniors and seniors, was the only advanced learning option at each of the high schools. In the face of budget cuts in 2008, the district scaled the IB program back to one school, Lake City. IB was discontinued at CHS in the fall of 2009, and the AP program was reinstituted at that school.

In 2010, the IB program gained attention in Coeur d'Alene when a group of citizens began attending school board meetings to complain about the program, claiming it promotes global citizenship and is a threat to the nation's sovereignty and the rights of its citizens.

Trustee Purtee echoed some of those concerns with some of the questions he directed to Lake City's Andrea Partington.

"The IB program is not an American program, is it?" Purtee asked.

Partington said it is, that it was initiated by Americans for the children of United States diplomats living overseas.

The IB and AP programs will likely be on the agenda for consideration when the board meets for its next regular meeting on Aug. 6.

"I think the board has to decide if we're committed to continuing to support this program," Hamilton said, following the meeting.

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