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In today’s global economy, it is important to help our students compete on an international scale. After three years of preparation, Lee County High School (LCHS) has joined other high schools around the world to become an International Baccalaureate World School, offering the first courses this fall.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) covers six groups of study during a student’s junior and senior years. These groups include Language, World Language, Social Studies, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics, and the Arts, all of which are taught through an intense and rigorous curriculum. Three core areas of focus are also included during the program: Theory of Knowledge, Community Action and Service, and an extended 4,000 word essay.

IB student acceptance rates increase by 12 percent for Duke, 23 percent for Wake Forest, 30 percent for NCSU and 31 percent for UNC.

Data show that students who graduate from the IBDP have a higher acceptance rate at universities. An example from four major North Carolina universities demonstrates that IB student acceptance rates increase by 12 percent for Duke, 23 percent for Wake Forest, 30 percent for NCSU, and 31 percent for UNC. The IB Learner Profile is partially responsible for this in that universities know these students embody not only the academic strength the program offers but also the attributes of being critical thinkers who are knowledgeable risk takers with excellent communication skills. Moreover, universities know that these students are open-minded, caring, balanced, and reflective individuals.

Although course for course the IBDP is similar to Advanced Placement courses offered at LCHS through the College Board, the IBDP is a rigorous option in that students are required to take a broader range of courses. Also, the IBDP students go into more depth within their courses through an extended curriculum that covers two years of information. This extended focus in the subject matter offers students the ability to explore more possibilities within their career interests.

Becoming an IB school involved a three-year process of intense training and planning with two visits from the International Baccalaureate Organization. Drew Marshall, an English teacher at LCHS and the IBDP coordinator, has been involved with the process since the beginning. “We worked very hard getting ready for the program. A lot of outside hours have gone into this with a lot of support coming from the county. Everyone was on board.” After all the preparation, Marshall added, “The teachers feel a sense of accomplishment. We really did something important for the kids. We set out to create a very diverse program and are pleased with our sampling of the student population who joined.”

The first semester of the program is going very well, according to Marshall. “The teachers are meeting once a week and are very organized. We are working and planning together to correlate testing and assignments.”

“I applied because it was a higher education opportunity for you and shows colleges that you’re willing to take risks, work hard and are ready for college.”

Students also shared their thoughts about the IBDP at LCHS. Loujin Akkila talked about why she chose to go into the program. “I applied to be in the IB program because I thought it was a good learning opportunity and would look good on my college applications. It would challenge me to do better.” Taylor Benefield also discussed why she applied to join the IB program. “I applied because it was a higher education opportunity for you and shows colleges that you’re willing to take risks, work hard, and are ready for college.”

Even though it has only been a few months, the program has had a positive influence on the students. “The Learner Profile helps you to be a better student by showing what your strengths and weakness are and how to use that to make you a better student,” Taylor said. Loujin added, “We use our IB Learner Profile in class to help us get along better. It encourages you to be a better student.”

As the program moves forward, a sense of optimism and excitement abound both with the students and teachers. “I like it. It is a great environment to be around. We are all striving for the same goal to go to college and find a career we enjoy.” Taylor said. Both Loujin and Taylor encourage other students in the future to join the IB program. Loujin shared, “I would strongly recommend IB because it prepares you for college and is a good learning environment.” Taylor added, “So they can get a jump start on their education for college and organize themselves.” Mr. Marshall added, “We are looking forward to next year.”

Tamara Brogan

Tamara Brogan is a former member of the Lee County Board of Education.  She is currently serving on the SAGA/ Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Committee and Central Carolina Works Advisory Committee. Tamara is the host of “Lee County Now,” a weekly radio show on education and current events and issues on WXKL 1290am. She lives in Sanford with her husband and five children.