The IB Program

October, the time of year for tricks and treats, and signing up for International Baccalaureate – Diploma Program (IB DP) testing. Being an IB school, it’s safe to assume that the majority of eligible attending students will DP test, and many do. Despite the growing numbers of testing students, there is a constant gap between students of color testing, in comparison to caucasian students, a trend noticed by Highland Park’s Senior High School principal, Dr. Tucker.

When asked to comment on why caucasian students are more prominent in the DP classrooms, Dr. Tucker said, “Quite frankly, I think the biggest thing is working to really purposefully support and encourage more of our students of color to take advanced classes…Our focus is, and remains, having the support of more of our students of color are taking the advanced course work so they’re better prepared for college. That’s a challenge that we face, it’s a challenge that every Saint Paul school faces, and frankly is a challenge that is nation wide.”

How is this trend being addressed? Dr. Tucker explains that there are “Dreamline tutors for ninth graders,” and, reportedly, the DP program itself is attempting to counter the trend. The DP program does specific recruitment of students, through the teachers of DP classes, and 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes.

Highland Park IB DP coordinator, Charlotte Landreau, has been the IB DP coordinator for Highland Park since 2001. During her time, Ms. Landreau has noticed striking trends. “My first year it was fall 2001, and that spring, we had two full Diploma students. And I think a total of twenty-four kids testing. So last spring, in May 2016, we had thirty-four full Diploma kids and a total of 261 kids testing.” The significant spike in students registering to test is because “It took a while for teachers and students to feel confident they could do well on the tests,” says Ms. Landreau.

Since the founding of IB in 1968, there have been numerous revisions to the program, in attempt to create the ideal learning environment for all high school students. However, Ms. Landreau even admits that “[T]here is some trouble with the program. I actually believe it should be much more flexible…The program is designed to fit your school. I think, in the United States, it runs more parallel to being AP, which is more established, and stricter in terms of ‘like, it’s gotta be taught at this pace’.” This is in contrast to the popular IB philosophy that the program gives students and teachers the opportunity to take and teach the classes they want to. The goal is to give the students the opportunities to expand on their talents and interests.

Another goal for IB is to create a demographic reflection, comparing the IB testing students, and student population as a whole. Essentially, that means the IB program encourages all students to spend four years preparing for their tests, to at least give them a try. Highland has been progressing towards the International Baccalaureate goal of demographic reflection. Dr. Tucker stated, “It’s a continual challenge because some students feel they can’t do it, and that’s not true; it’s really a mind set. If you put your mind and effort to it, and you feel comfortable in the class, you can be successful in the class. It’s a lot of work though.”

Last year, of the 34% of full IB Diploma seniors testing, 31% identified as Asian, African-American, or Hispanic. Of all the juniors and seniors testing for the Honors Diploma, 35% identified as Asian, African-American, or Hispanic. Ms. Landreau assures all of the students that if you don’t do well on an exam, she will not send in the scores, and it will not impact your classroom grade.

Positively, due to budget changes, the Saint Paul Public School District has waived the fee for IB DP exams, originally $40 per exam, making it easier for students to test, and giving students the chance to be successful in an IB American High School in 2016. This new change may not last, as the budget is assessed on a yearly basis. Ms. Landreau, and other IB DP coordinators, are anticipating an answer for next year’s exams fee situation by February or March.

Even though SPPS has been accommodating in helping with the IB DP testing costs, other areas saw a decrease in funding. According to a faculty member of Highland Park Senior High School, there were reading classes offered two years ago, but due to budget cuts, Highland wasn’t able to keep that tool for struggling students.

The school district did take away a significant barrier for students, by making IB DP testing a completely risk-free, and free of cost, experience. However, the district has yet to prepare their students for these rigorous classes, and exams. The retraction of the reading classes has proved difficult for ELL students to receive specific support for their English literature skills.

Not only are there still obstacles for ELL students, but there are obstacles for all the students, obstacles that have yet to be observed by the school board. Obstacles include large class sizes, and not having remedial classes for students who need a little more support. Ms. Landreau observed that “by not setting systems in place that really helps every kid get there, we end up saying ‘you didn’t try hard enough, so you’re not prepared.’ And to a certain extent, people do have to try, but they have to feel supported as they try.”

Ms. Landreau encourages students to “always balance what you’re imgres.jpginterested in, and what all your other interests are ’cause I don’t think anything is worth being exhausted and stressed out. I just think you need to live your life. But taking a challenge when you can, and figuring out how to rise to that challenge, I think that’s a good life skill. So that’s why I think it’s important to take the classes. But I don’t think it’s a ‘everybody should do it, the whole way’. I think everybody should be encouraged to, and we should set up our classes so that kids can do well in them.”

To all the students of Highland Park Senior High, Ms. Landreau reminds them “There are other ways to be successful in an American high school in 2016.”


If you are interested, or have any more questions concerning IB DP testing your junior or senior year, you can talk to your counselor, Ms. Landreau, or visit
http://www.spps.org//site/Default.aspx?PageID=8395 for more information about IB DPexams.

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