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From International Schools to Inner-City Schools: The First Principles of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program


by Jerusha Osberg Conner - 2008

Background/Context: In the past 35 years, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program has spread to 483 schools across the United States, with an ever-growing share of these schools located in the inner city. These American school sites comprise vastly different contexts than those in which the IB program began-the international schools of Europe.

Purpose/Objective/Focus of Study: To understand the migration of the IB from international schools to inner-city schools, I examine both the intentions and the implementation of two of the most distinctive features of the program: its assessment system and its emphasis on promoting intercultural competence.

Research Design: In this analytic essay, I rely on historical accounts to uncover the first principles that the founders sought to embed in the design of these two curricular components. Drawing on accounts written by journalists and educators about the implementation of the IB, I then consider implications of these first principles in the context of American schools generally, and inner-city schools in particular.

Conclusions/Recommendations: I argue that although the growth of the IB may be due to the broad appeal of its first principles, as the IB continues to spread to new school sites, these first principles remain vulnerable, challenged by the constraints and conventions of the American schooling system. To remain true to its founding ideals and first principles, the program will need to continue to balance interests that in the American context often conflict, such as progressive and standards-based education, and access and prestige.



“Spreading like wildfire” (O’Harrow, 1993, p. B3), “experiencing logarithmic growth” (Merkel, 1993, p. A14), and “catching on in high schools around the nation” (Stepp, 1997, p. O6S) are just a few of the ways that the popular press has described the growth of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program in the United States. Designed to prepare students to attend college anywhere in the world, the IB is currently offered in 117 countries, but it has proved especially popular in the United States. In the last 35 years, more than 483 American high schools have adopted the comprehensive 2-year curriculum and the aligned assessment system that constitute the IB Diploma Program. The Bush administration recently announced that it will issue $1.2 million grants to implement IB programs in certain low-income school districts, and President Bush’s 2006 education budget targets $52 million (a 73% increase over the previous year’s budget) for making Advanced Placement and IB programs more widely available (Archibald, 2004a; Hutcheson, 2005).


Given its origins, the spread of the IB Diploma Program across the United States, particularly to low-income urban schools, is surprising. The IB Diploma Program was designed in the early 1960s by a group of teachers at the International School of Geneva, where many of the students were children of foreign-service personnel, emissaries, and United Nations officials who moved frequently around the world with their families (Hill, 2002). This mobility resulted in a patchwork of unsequenced educational experiences connected to different national curricula. To address the uneven preparation of their students, the teachers decided to create a curriculum that could be implemented at other international schools, where it would supplant national education systems and prepare students to attend university anywhere in the world.


In America’s inner-city schools, it is not students’ mobility, but their lack of access-their immobility-that raises cause for concern. However, if we look beyond the question of why the IB was created to ask why the teachers designed it as they did, we may begin to understand how and why the program is being adopted across America in schools vastly different from those in which the program was conceived.


As the IB increasingly spreads to this new context, it is both timely and important to return to the founders’ intentions for the program, to identify the first principles undergirding their model, and to consider their meaning and application in these new school sites. Such examination will help not only to explain the spread of the program but also to illuminate “lethal mutations” (McLaughlin & Mitra, 2001), which might threaten the program’s promise in these sites. This article will address three basic questions: (1) What were the founders’ intentions for the IB, and how were these intentions translated into programmatic first principles? (2) How are these first principles manifest in the program today? and (3) What are the implications of these first principles in the context of the American inner-city school?


METHODS AND SOURCES


To access the vision of the IB’s founders, I rely primarily on three accounts written by A. D. C. Peterson, the first director general of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). These two books and one article chronicle the advent of the program: the initial conversations that the program’s architects held, the beliefs and values to which they gave voice, and the challenges that they encountered as they hammered out the details of the curriculum. I supplement these accounts with more recent historical scholarship on the IB’s formation and development, studies that themselves are based on analyses of minutes of meetings, official IBO reports, and interviews and correspondence with “key actors” (Fox, 1985; Hill, 2002).


To determine how the IB has been implemented in American schools today, I draw on published accounts of the IB’s adoption in the United States by teachers, administrators, policy analysts, and journalists. I also incorporate data collected during interviews with IB coordinators at six schools from across the country, including four schools that the coordinators themselves describe as “inner-city” or “low-income” schools. These interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, and coded using an open coding technique (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).1


To date, the American research community has paid little attention to the increasing adoption of the IB in the United States. One recent review of the literature on school reform models gives only a passing nod to the program, noting, “Interest in IB programs, particularly in urban school districts, is on the rise” (Husbands & Beese, 2001/2004, p. 18). An even more extensive review by the National Research Council (2004) failed to include the IB at all among the host of school reform models and curricular design strategies that it profiles. In addition, the program is not mentioned in an online catalog of 26 school reform models produced jointly by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory and the National Clearinghouse for Comprehensive School Reform even though it meets the criteria stipulated for inclusion. Although two papers at the 2005 Annual Educational Research Association Conference used the IB programs as sites of inquiry (Kyburg, Hertberg, & Callahan, 2005a, 2005b), both treated the IB and Advanced Placement (AP) in the same breath, failing to distinguish between the two programs. In fact, however, the IB and AP programs suggest radically different conceptions of what it means to be a well-educated person. In the next section, I describe the IB Diploma Program, highlighting the first principles that illustrate its unique philosophy of education.


WHAT IS THE IB?


The IB Diploma Program is a 2-year curriculum designed for students aged 16-19. The program allows schools to choose which courses to offer, but it requires that they offer courses in six subject areas: Language A (the student’s primary language), Language B (a second language), Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, and the Arts. Students choose courses in three of these domains to take at the higher level for 2 years, and they pursue coursework in the other three domains at the subsidiary level for 1 year. In addition to taking these six courses, which culminate in written exams, IB diploma candidates must complete a 4,000-word original research project known as the Extended Essay, 150 hours of work on projects involving creativity, action, or service (CAS), and an epistemology course known as the Theory of Knowledge. Students choose their own Extended Essay topic and CAS projects.


The IB diploma candidates must amass at least 24 points to earn the IB diploma. Points are awarded based on completion of the CAS hours and performance in the Theory of Knowledge class and on the Extended Essay (combined to total between 0 and 3 points), and performance on the six IB exams (each worth between 1 and 7 points). All these performance components are evaluated on criterion-referenced scales, and they are scored by trained international examiners. Final scores are also partly determined by teacher evaluations of student work on major projects and portfolios, known as internal assessments. Typically, 80% of diploma candidates earn the credential worldwide (International Baccalaureate Organization [IBO], 2004). Students who do not wish to obtain the diploma may take the IB classes and exams for certificates of completion.


Since its arrival in the America in 1970, the IB has spread to more than 483 public and private schools across the country (IBO, 2005). Schools that wish to join the IB network must go through a rigorous application process that can span 18 months to 3 years and that entails self-assessment, site visits, and extensive staff training (Nugent & Karnes, 2002). The IBO regional offices support these schools to develop curricula through both consulting work and the provision of detailed written curricular guides. Subregional offices, like the California International Baccalaureate Organization and the Florida League of IB Schools, also offer frequent conferences and opportunities for structured professional development.


At last count in the United States, the greatest concentration of schools offering the IB Diploma Program was in California, with 66 schools, followed by Florida with 45 and Virginia with 33 (IBO, 2005). Ninety percent of IB schools are public (IBO, 2004). Voluntary data collected from 5,412 graduating seniors in May 2002 indicated that 62.6% of American IB test takers were Caucasian, 15% were Asian or South Pacific Islander, 9.4% were Hispanic, 7.1% were African American, and 1% were Native American. Another 4.3% self-identified as other (Scaturro, 2003). In the year before, a smaller survey of 1,041 IB seniors in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia found that 7% of students reported a high socioeconomic status, 80% placed themselves in the middle, and 13% indicated a low socioeconomic status (Mathews & Hill, 2005). Increasingly, schools that look very different from the international schools in which the program was born are turning to the IB (Husbands & Beese, 2001/2004; Kyburg et al., 2005a; Mathews, 2003; Mathews & Hill). Responding to this trend, the California International Baccalaureate Organization offered a panel session entitled, “The Role of IB in Schools with Large Minority and Low Income Populations” at its annual meeting in 2004. In this article, I use the modifier inner-city to refer to such schools.


FIRST PRINCIPALES


Underlying all reform models is a set of values, beliefs, and norms of practice, known as first principles (Brown & Campione, 1996; McLaughlin & Mitra, 2001). These first principles often reflect the founders’ intentions for the reform model and the philosophy of education that motivated them to design their model in the way they did. I propose that the IB Program’s philosophy of education rests on the following four core beliefs or first principles: (1) students should appreciate the influence of distinctive disciplinary traditions on knowledge production and should have an understanding of “paradigmatic examples” in various disciplines; (2) students should be able not just to apply knowledge but also to evaluate and to create it; (3) schools should promote student development in aesthetic, athletic, and moral domains, and in intellectual domains; and (4) students should strive to understand and respect those who are different from them and their different “ways of knowing.”


In what follows, I consider how these four first principles are enacted in two key aspects of the program: its assessment system and its emphasis on developing intercultural competence. I argue that each of these first principles is enacted in the IB assessment system and that the last two of the principles articulated above are also reflected in the program’s attention to developing students’ intercultural awareness. I have chosen to focus on these two components of the IB Program not only because they best distinguish the IB from other popular American educational programs but also because they each represent a direct response to either the challenges inherent in or the opportunities afforded by the international school context in which the IB was conceived. Accordingly, I am able to use the assessment system and the program’s attention to promoting intercultural competence as vehicles for exploring questions about the founders’ intentions for the program, the manifestations of these intentions in American adoptions of the program today, and their implications for inner-city schools in the United States.


THE IB’S ASSESSMENT SYSTEM


AN OVERVIEW


The IB’s assessment system has several noteworthy features. The end-of-the-year exams are criterion referenced and standards based. Published rubrics signal that students are expected to demonstrate specific skills alongside a facility with disciplinary knowledge. To this end, all the exams involve essay questions or allow students opportunities to reveal, and receive credit for, their thinking processes. As one IB coordinator explained, “[IB] doesn’t do only multiple-choice tests, but it actually includes in each kid’s grade the work that they’ve done on the test, like a ‘show your work’ kind of thing.” The IB exams ask students to demonstrate what they know and are able to do. According to one IB history teacher, the curriculum promotes “the development of thinking skills rather than an accumulation of facts” (Godsey, 1990, p. 385). An IB coordinator observed,


In science . . . it’s not the answer; it’s the process. And that’s the same thing that’s important in math. It’s not the answer but the process you go through. . . . It didn’t seem like the focus of IB was on trying to trip you up and find out what you don’t know. [IB exams] give you some options and [you] pick the one you know the most about and go on from there and show us everything you know and how it’s all related.


In their book, Supertest, Jay Mathews and Ian Hill (2005) devote a chapter to describing the IB exams, explaining how they differ from the Advanced Placement exams, and presenting sample exam questions. They concluded that “IB is even better than AP. . . . The range of IB questions reduces the student’s need to cover everything at the risk of learning nothing” (p. xii).


At least 20% of a student’s score in a certain subject area is also determined by his or her performance on internal assessments throughout the school year. These internal assessments may consist of a teacher’s evaluation of a student’s performance on homework, on class work, or on special projects. The IBO (2002) explains that internal assessments are an “important aspect of the IBO’s overall assessment strategy because [they] recognize the professional role of the teacher and give students a chance to show what they can do over time, not just in the pressured context of a final examination” (p. 13). Highlighting this aspect of the IB assessment system, one coordinator noted,


And also it takes [into account] their coursework, what they’ve done in school. So, if you’re an IB English student, you’re going to get not only an exam at the end of the year; you’re going to have submitted a paper and done a 12-15-minute oral assessment. So it’s more comprehensive. It’s not just a do-or-die kind of thing.


Finally, whether a student receives the IB diploma depends on his or her satisfactory completion of 150 hours of creativity, action, or service, known as CAS.


Creativity is interpreted broadly to include a wide range of arts activities as well as the creativity students demonstrate in designing and implementing service projects. Action can include not only participation in individual and team sports but also taking part in expeditions and in local or international projects. Service encompasses a host of community and social service activities. (IBO, 2002, p. 7)


By including the CAS requirement, the IB signals that it values more than a student’s academic ability; it encourages students to find ways to contribute to and become engaged in their school or local communities, outside the classroom. One coordinator observed that the “brainiac” students in his school did not pursue the IB diploma because “IB has these outside demands-CAS and the Extended Essay-and the valedictorians don’t want to spend time with that. They just want to get their As.” With its comprehensive assessment system, the IB stretches students not only beyond their disciplinary comfort zones but also beyond the academic realm.


THE FOUNDERS’ INTENTIONS


Several philosophical ideas about education explain the design of the IB assessment system; however, the driving motivation of the founders was to devise an assessment system that would persuade university officials in various countries that IB students possessed the knowledge, skills, and intellectual virtues they prized. As Peterson (1972) put it, the problems before them “as the International Baccalaureate ceased to be a remote vision and began to look like a practical project” included working out programs that would “be acceptable to universities in many different countries” and finding “agreed methods of examining these programs and internationally acceptable examiners” (p. 13). The resulting program of study and assessment system they developed represented a “deliberate compromise between the early specialization preferred in some national systems and the greater breadth found in others” (IBO, 2002, p. 9). Provisions like the Extended Essay and the three higher level courses that students take over a 2-year period ensure depth of study, and the Theory of Knowledge class and the three subsidiary-level courses guarantee exposure to different disciplinary traditions. This structure reflects the first principle that a well-educated person should appreciate the different disciplinary traditions and should balance a familiarity with some subject areas with an in-depth understanding of others. In addition, the need to satisfy various university requirements led the founders to articulate a set of disciplinary standards, to develop exams aligned with those standards, and to propose clear assessment rubrics. These standards would ensure that students develop an awareness of what Peterson (1987) referred to as the “paradigmatic examples” (p. 49) in each discipline.


Second-order interests also influenced the design of the IB’s assessment system. For instance, the way that the exams are structured reflects the first principle that students should be able to produce and critique, not just reproduce knowledge. The founders decided early on that they would not rely exclusively on multiple-choice tests to assess students’ knowledge. In explaining this decision, Peterson (1987) recalled the IB framers’ distaste for “the backwash effect” (p. 50). In American parlance, educators would term such a phenomenon, “teaching to the test.” To the IB’s architects, thinking mattered more than knowing. For instance, Peterson identified five intellectual qualities that students in the IB should learn to cultivate. Although he did include “memory” on his list, the other four qualities spoke to thinking skills: “a capacity for conceptualization and analysis,” “an unslaked curiosity,” “a capacity for recognizing and . . . formulating new interpretations of available information,” and “a commitment to the intellectual formulation and solution of problems” (Peterson, 1972, p. 34). To assess students’ thinking skills, the IB exams allow opportunities for students to write, to explain, and to illustrate their problem-solving strategies.


In addition, because they recognized that genuine thought and intellectual inquiry could be stymied by the time constraints and the pressurized context of the exam room, the IB founders included internal assessments as a key component of their assessment system, thereby “avoiding the stigma of using one method of evaluation for assessment at the end of a course” (Nugent & Karnes, 2002, p. 5). As Peterson (1972) explained, “Any method of assessment which depends entirely upon the performance of the candidate on a set occasion working under examination conditions tends to favour a certain type of ‘challenge responding’ personality as against the meditative or persevering” (p. 71).


In combination, the internal assessments, the written examinations, and the Extended Essay reflect the first principle of the IB that recognizes students as thinkers and creators of knowledge, rather than positioning them as receivers and backwashers of information. An IBO (2002) description of the classes that could be included in the domain of Individuals and Societies reads, “An essential characteristic of the disciplines in group 3 is that their subject matter is contestable and that their study requires students to tolerate some uncertainty. . . . Students evaluate the major theories, concepts and research findings of the respective disciplines and learn each discipline’s methodology” (p. 10). In other words, students learn that knowledge is constructed and contested. They learn about the influence of both cultural and disciplinary epistemological traditions, and on their exams and in their internal assessments, they reflect on these “ways of knowing.”


In 2002, essay questions on the higher level History of the Americas exam included the following: (1) Examine the effects of war and the fear of war on the civilian population of two countries, each chosen from a different region. (2) For what reasons, and with what justification, was there opposition to colonial rule in two countries, each chosen from a different region? (3) Account for the establishment of two international or two regional organizations. (4) Examine the relationship with the state of (a) one minority religion and (b) one majority religion (Mathews & Hill, 2005, pp. 150-152).


These exam questions reveal the tendency to ask students to draw comparisons across different organizations, cultures, countries, and regions of the world. In addition to requiring this kind of thinking, the mandate that students pursue coursework in a second language also reflects the first principle that students should seek to understand and respect cultural differences.


Finally, the founders’ reasons for including the CAS requirement as part of the IB assessment system indicate their commitment to the first principle that students’ moral, atheistic, and physical development matter as much as their intellectual development. Peterson (1983) and his colleagues worried about “the ‘squeezing out’ of experiential learning by the demands of concentrated, specialized book learning in preparation for the highly competitive university entrance exams” (p. 4). Peterson especially deplored the thought that the violinist must give up violin playing or that young readers should have to forsake reading for pleasure to focus their energies exclusively on “exam swotting” or cramming. The founders introduced the CAS requirement to the assessment system to deflect such a narrowing of development and to highlight for schools the importance of attending to the development of students’ athletic, artistic, social, and moral capacities, and their academic and intellectual capacities. Peterson (1987) argued that the educational aims of the IB included developing “the powers of each individual to understand, to modify, and to enjoy his or her environment, both inner and outer, in its physical, social, moral, aesthetic, and spiritual aspects” (p. 33). The particular features and components of the IB assessment system rest on different values and beliefs; however, underlying the entire system seems to be a great respect for students, their potential, and their capacity to analyze, to empathize, and to make valuable contributions.


THE IMPLICATIONS FOR AMERICAN SCHOOLS


The four first principles manifest in the IB’s assessment system represent a synthesis of two powerful and competing educational traditions in the United States: that of the standards-based reformers, with their concern for core curricula and high expectations for all students, and that of the pedagogical progressives, with their concern for the development of the whole child.2  The practice of evaluating student work according to set criteria that do not adjust for student or school characteristics reflects the standards-based reformers’ approach to school reform. The CAS requirement, the internal assessments, and the degree of choice the IB permits students, on the other hand, reflect a progressive approach to education. Indeed, it may be the IB Program’s unusual ability to meld both these approaches and to accommodate the values of these two traditionally opposed camps that accounts for its rapid spread across the United States.


When first promoting the program in the United States, in the early 1980s, Peterson emphasized only one side of the IB coin. He focused attention on the IB’s promise to raise standards, to hold students accountable, and to prepare them for the intellectual responsibilities of college. Describing the climate at the time, Peterson (1987) wrote,


In North America the requirements for a high school diploma had already been so far diluted in intellectual terms that the phrase the “twelfth grade slump” was becoming familiar and the Advanced Placement Program had been introduced to restore some element of academic challenge to what remained essentially a “cafeteria style” curriculum. (p. 28)


Peterson attempted to capitalize on the mood swing triggered by a flurry of books and reports, highlighting the lack of academic rigor in American schools and provoking alarm about weak standards (Boyer, 1983; Goodlad, 1984; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; Sizer, 1984). The IB could offer an antidote to the flaws of the current American education system, not only because it would challenge students academically, but also because it presented a way of measuring American students against international competitors.


Three of the most prominent features of the IB’s assessment system align it with the standards-based reform movement in the United States. First, the program involves high-stakes tests. At stake is a credential, a valued cultural commodity that could be used for purposes of social mobility. In theory, the desirability of this credential would serve to motivate teachers and students.


Second, the IB tests are designed in accordance with a well-articulated set of disciplinary standards, which are revamped by a rotating group of teachers every 3 years (Gazda-Grace, 2002). Standards make clear the purpose of education and accordingly drive curriculum and instruction.


Third, the IB Diploma Program requires students to pursue a core curriculum, organized by six domains of knowledge and tied together by an epistemology course. Because it advances a classic liberal arts curriculum and because it treats academic learning and disciplinary knowledge seriously, the IB contrasts sharply with the “shopping mall high school” (Powell, Farrar, & Cohen, 1985) model so common in the United States in the 1980s, in which students were free to shop for courses among a wide array of trendy offerings, like “Consumer Economics, How to Fix Your Bachelor Pad, TV Production, and Fun With Words” (Grant, 1988, p. 67).3 By preserving the integrity of the disciplines and by specifying a “common core of content” (Peterson, 1987, p. 49) within each discipline, the IB’s structure and assessment system reflect the first principle that a well-educated person should understand the methodologies and the “paradigmatic examples” (p. 49) of different disciplinary traditions. This principle resonates with the essentialist view of education, embraced by the authors of A Nation at Risk in 1983.


If the form of the IB’s assessment system aligns it with the tradition of standards-based reform, the content of the assessment system corresponds to a pedagogical progressive model. Labaree (2003) defined pedagogical progressivism in American education as “teaching students the skills they need in order to learn any subject, instead of focusing on transmitting a particular subject” (p. 1). He continued, “In the short-hand of educational jargon, this adds up to ‘child-centered instruction,’ ‘discovery learning,’ and ‘learning how to learn’” (p. 1). Peterson (1972) seemed to espouse just such a perspective when he wrote, “What is of paramount importance in the pre-university stage is not what is learnt but learning to learn . . . that is, the development of those mental powers and capacities which can make of all of us more sensitive and humane persons and of some of us scholars and intellectual innovators” (pp. 35-36).


It was Peterson’s intention that as they prepare for the IB exams and as they work on their internal assessments and extended essays, students would be developing such intellectual skills and capacities. Peterson’s (1987) preference for promoting “a mind well formed” rather than “a mind well stuffed” (p. 44) speaks to the first principle that recognizes students as constructors and deconstructors of knowledge instead of receptacles of information. In this regard, the IB is similar to such progressive school reform models as Sizer’s (1984) Coalition of Essential Schools, in which students are encouraged to form “habits of mind” rather than to stuff certain facts into their brains. In fact, the assessment systems of both IB and Coalition schools involve the use of portfolios and oral defenses of project-based work.


In addition to their commitment to students’ intellectual development, the architects of the IB shared with progressive American educators a concern for students’ physical, moral, and aesthetic development. Peterson (1983, 1987) spoke often about educating the “whole person,” and he believed in active learning, learning by doing, or “learning from direct experience” (1983, p. 2). Pedagogical progressives, particularly Dewey, also voiced an interest in the education of the whole person and active learning. In The Child and the Curriculum, Dewey (1902/199) wrote,


The child is the starting-point, the center, and the end. His development, his growth, is the ideal. It alone furnishes the standard. To the growth of the child all studies are subservient; they are instruments valued as they serve the needs of growth. Personality, character, is more than subject-matter. (p. 9)


Administrative progressives also espoused the value of educating the whole person. For instance, the authors of The Cardinal Principles (Commission on Reorganization of Secondary Education, 1918) pointed to “the worthy use of leisure” as one of the six objectives of education. More than half a century later, Peterson (1987) gave voice to a similar goal for the IB Program:


It must surely be true that a complete education of the whole person should include increasing the capacity to enjoy leisure. . . . What an organization like the IBO can do, and we have striven to do, is to ensure that the demands of “swotting for exams” or bourrage de crane leave adequate time for learning to enjoy leisure and that the course of study is itself, as far as possible, enjoyable. (p. 58)


Both administrative progressives and pedagogical progressives would have embraced the IB concept of CAS, not only because it lends balance to an otherwise academic program of study but also because it supports student-directed learning and affords them a choice in how they spend their time.


It is perhaps because the IB represents a compromise between the traditionally polarized camps of the standards-based reformers and the progressive educators that it has attracted such widespread attention in the United States; each group can find within it an appealing feature or a philosophical premise. Not only does the IB represent a deliberate synthesis of divergent national educational traditions (English, Swiss, German, French), but it also stands as an unintentional and innovative amalgam of competing educational traditions within the United States. In their attempt to create a universally acceptable standard, the founders of the IB generated an ideal that offers an alternative to a long-standing educational debate within this country. However, until the IB is recognized as a means of reconciling, if not obviating, this debate, the program will remain vulnerable to the competing forces of progressivism and standards-based education reform. How their contest over the IB is decided will determine whether the program remains true to its founding ideals and first principles.


IMPLICATIONS FOR INNER CITY SCHOOLS


Raising repute.


At this moment in the United States, talk of standards-based reform dominates the school improvement discourse. With greater political attention focused on high-stakes testing, inner-city schools have come under increasing pressure to implement standards, to measure outcomes, to raise test scores, and to hold teachers and students accountable for their performance. The IB exams fit comfortably within this picture because they involve stakes and standards; however, because the IB exams differ from the tests that many states have developed in accordance with No Child Left Behind mandates, not least of all because they involve multiple forms of assessment and eschew reliance on multiple-choice questions, the IB represents an alternative way for inner-city schools to establish accountability, to promote student learning, and to raise their academic standards and reputations.


A straightforward theory of change appears to underlie many schools’ decision to adopt the IB. Mathews and Hill (2005) described the situation at these schools before they turned to the IB:


Many urban and inner-suburban schools that had once had fine reputations saw their middle-class students move to the outer suburbs to escape what they perceived as declining standards. What was actually happening was an increase in the portion of low-income students at those schools, including more young people from immigrant families where English was not the first language. (p. 123)


By introducing the IB Diploma Program, such schools could demonstrate their commitment to maintaining high standards, thereby retaining or reattracting students who would otherwise attend private schools. As these students returned to the school, average test scores on state mandated tests would rise, graduation rates would increase, and acceptances to selective colleges would go up, further enhancing the reputation of the school, attracting more motivated, high-achieving students, and perpetuating the cycle.


There is some evidence to support such a theory of change. Descriptions of the IB by journalists, policy makers, and educators largely convey the impression that the IB Diploma Program is well esteemed. Within the United States, a wide array of colleges, including the most selective, now recognize the IB diploma for college credit (IBO, 2004). Because the IB is well respected, a school can improve its academic reputation simply by adopting the program. For example, the Web site for Lincoln Park High School (2004) in Chicago explains that by introducing the IB as a federally funded magnet program in 1981, the administrators and faculty hoped “to return the school to one of highest academic quality and opportunity.” In some schools, after the IB was introduced, enrollments have shot up as students attending private schools returned to the public school system (Beyers, 1997; Cronin, 1993; Freeman, 1983). Writing for the Atlanta Journal, Stepp (1997) noted, “the prestigious IB Program is drawing tuition-paying students who live outside the school district, attracting private school students back to the city’s public school system” (p. O6S). Fox (1985) observed, “Schools in Atlanta, Houston, Winnipeg, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Los Angeles, for example, using the IB as a focal or magnet program with an emphasis on academic standards and excellence, have been successful in attracting system-wide enrollments of able students and improving their image within their local communities” (p. 64). In two of the IB schools I have studied, the coordinators explained that the program was introduced to their schools as a means of curbing “White flight.” The use of the IB as a way to prop up the public education system affirms the program’s reputation.


Precisely because of its reputation as a vehicle for raising standards and attracting able students, some of the IB’s staunchest champions in the United States now advocate bringing the program to low-income schools (Access, 2003; Burris, 2004; Gazda-Grace, 2002; Mathews, 2003). The California Postsecondary Education Commission (1999) argued, “As educators and policy makers look for ways to set higher standards, raise student achievement, and strengthen school accountability, honors programs like IB and AP may become more popular in California schools. However, expansion of these programs should be targeted at underserved communities.”


A guidance counselor from Harlingen High School in Texas explained to Peterson (1987) that he introduced the IB program as a way of attracting attention to his school and his students.


“Half of my kids are Mexican Americans,” he said, “and some of them are very bright-particularly in Math. They ought to be getting into the best colleges, but what admissions office is going to pay much attention to a transcript or diploma from a small town they’ve never heard of deep in the heart of Texas? So I want your program for them.” (pp. 155-156)


Mathews and Hill (2005) described the IB as an instrument “for remaking the culture of ordinary public schools” (p. xii). Several of the IB coordinators I have interviewed see the program in such terms as well. They voiced the idea that “the rising tide floats all boats.” For instance, one coordinator theorized,


Being able to work with at least one group of students each day where you can soar and they’re tracking right with you, and they’re pushing you to be your best [is exciting], and I think what happens then is that that same motivation and excitement trickles down to every other class that teacher teaches.


Another coordinator suggested, “As we expose other kids to this program, some of that’s going to filter out into the other curriculum and other kids might just go up a notch as well.” She explained that “people who have gone [to IB workshops] have come back and said, even if they’re not teaching an IB class, they’re using some activity they learned in their class, or they’re using a rubric in their class.” In these schools, the IB program’s influence can be felt by more than those designated as IB students or teachers.


A dilemma faced by urban schools implementing the IB concerns which students to allow into the program. If the program was introduced as a magnet to attract a certain demographic to the school, should it only be offered to those students, or should it be extended to the other students attending the school as well? Schools might wonder if their newly refurbished reputation as an IB school will be compromised by an open enrollment policy that runs the risk of high attrition rates and low test scores. Furthermore, in American education, a tension has long existed between the social value of a credential and its availability. As more students gain access to a credential, it may lose some of its cachet. Jay Mathews (2003) forecasts that some elite schools might drop the IB program as it becomes more common in lower income schools or more accessible to lower income students; nonetheless, he has attempted to counter this possibility by conjoining what are often competing forces. Mathews bases his ranking of the best public high schools in America, published annually in Newsweek magazine, on the percentage of students in the school taking IB or AP exams. In other words, he equates access with excellence.


Several schools do offer open access to their IB classes. Some even set explicit targets for demographic representation, and some establish coordination between the IB office and programs like AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) or Puente, which are designed to prepare minority students for college (Mathews & Hill, 2005). Other schools, however, limit the number of students who may participate in the program. For instance, in 2001, Richard Montgomery High in Maryland had 900 applicants for 100 spots (Gehring, 2001). In these schools, where the program is offered as an exclusive “track” for gifted students, students often have to earn their admission to the program on the basis of test scores or “a writing sample . . . good grades, and glowing teacher recommendations” (O’Harrow, 1993, p. B3).


The founders of the IB certainly wanted to establish a program with a fine reputation, one that was well known and well respected; however, they also prized equity and access. Peterson (1972) recalled that during initial planning meetings, “Representatives of [the United Nations School of New York] pressed most forcefully and most successfully the need to develop, within the International Baccalaureate, machinery and programs which met the needs of academically less able students who were not seeking entry to the highly selective universities” (p. 17).


Peterson decried the use of the epithet “elite” to describe the IB (Fox, 1985), and he derived special pleasure from the engagement of minority students in the IB program (Mathews & Hill, 2005). Although the tension between the accessibility and the desirability of the IB diploma has yet to resolve itself in the American context, the implementation of the IB as an exclusive track in certain schools does appear to betray one of the founding ideals of the program.


Ensuring adequate preparation.


Particularly in low-income urban schools, guaranteeing student access to the IB program requires more than instituting an open enrollment policy. Preparing students for higher education meant one thing when students were simply being moved from one college preparatory track to another, as was the case at the International School of Geneva in the early 1960s. It means another thing when students have never been on a course toward college. Bridges must be established if a school is to ensure the participation of all or a vast majority of its students in the IB, especially when that majority has been traditionally barred from rigorous learning opportunities because of factors like ethnicity, language use, and socioeconomic status. One IB coordinator in an inner-city school articulated this challenge when she spoke of a “disconnect” between “the feeder middle schools in the area” and the IB Diploma Program:


Kids aren’t used to critical thinking; they haven’t developed any critical thinking skills or their reading and writing skills to a level where you can challenge them in high school. So when they come here, they seem to be blown away by what we’re asking them to do and they get frustrated.


Although there is some debate within the IB community as to its effectiveness, the Middle Years Program (MYP) may be one way of preparing students for the demands of the Diploma Program (Caffyn & Cambridge, 2005; Reimers, 2004). Introduced in the early 1990s, the MYP and the Primary Years Program (PYP) were designed to instill in younger students the “habits of mind” that would enable them to participate fully in the Diploma Program as high school juniors.


In a low-income California high school that has offered the IB Diploma Program since 1986, the number of diploma candidates has increased by five times since the MYP was introduced six years ago at a feeder middle school in the district. Many of the current IB diploma candidates are minority students, often the first in their families to attend college. Based on this success, plans are currently under way in the district to introduce the PYP into two elementary schools as well. The IB coordinator at the high school indicated that he expects that the numbers of diploma candidates will continue to rise each year as this pathway is implemented.


Ensuring adequate opportunities.


Because so much of their budgets is tied up with remediation and testing, or because they are located in unsafe or run-down neighborhoods, inner-city schools frequently do not offer as many extracurricular activities as do schools in more affluent communities (Hart & Atkins, 2002; McLaughlin, 2000). When an inner-city school implements the IB Program, it will need to find ways to provide students with the resources and the opportunities to fulfill their CAS requirement. Such provisions may require more oversight and coordination than would be necessary at schools with existing rich menus of nonacademic programs and clubs. Furthermore, because many low-income students have responsibilities at home after school, these students may have less time to engage in CAS activities. Reflecting on the cohort of diploma candidates at her school, one coordinator explained, “One of the girls is the mom of the family ‘cause there’s no mom, just a bunch of kids, and dad’s working. There are a couple folks in that sort of situation.” CAS coordinators may need to show ingenuity as they parlay those contributions that students already make into forms of involvement that will satisfy the IB’s standards and stipulations for participation outside the academic arena.


As the IB Program moves into inner-city schools, these schools will need to ensure that they have not only made the program accessible to students but also prepared them to thrive in it. They will need to provide adequate resources and supports for their students to meet the various demands of the assessment system. Without such consideration, these school sites may improve their reputations but at the expense of both the founding ideals of the IB and the first principles reflected in its assessment system.


THE IB’S EMPHASIS ON DEVELOPING INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCE


AN OVERVIEW


The IB’s interest in promoting intercultural understanding and respect features prominently in its mission statement:


The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through international understanding and respect. . . . These programs encourage students across the world to become compassionate and lifelong learners, who understand that other people with their differences can also be right. (IBO, 2005)


It also stands out in its recruitment material. In a letter to potential IB schools, the president of California-IBO explains, “IB is dedicated to building a new kind of literacy needed for successful participation in today’s global society” (Solarez & Forster, 2004). The “School’s Guide to the Diploma Program” produced by the IBO argues, “The IBO’s goal is to provide students with the values and opportunities that will enable them to develop sound judgment, make wise choices, and respect others in the global community” (IBO, 2002, p. 4).


Intercultural respect and competence surface so often in the marketing of the IB programs because they are deeply embedded in the curriculum. The IB strives to incorporate a range of perspectives and experiences into its curriculum. For instance, in the Individuals and Societies domain, students study the history of a region rather than of a country. In American schools, this means examining historical developments in Mexico and Canada, alongside developments in the United States. Professional educators cite the international perspective of IB curriculum as a vehicle for promoting cosmopolitan attitudes among students: “Studying history with the concentration on a ‘region’ rather than on a country forces the student to expand his/her horizons and to view his own country’s history from another perspective” (Godsey, 1990, p. 385).


The IB Diploma Program also requires students to study a second language so that they are brought “into contact with ways of thought which might differ from their own” (IBO, 2002, p. 10). Reflecting on the IB English curriculum, a coordinator explained, “It’s a World Lit curriculum, which is pretty uncommon. It’s often American Lit and British Lit in high school.” One coordinator suggested that the curriculum “provides students . . . with the international awareness necessary for living in a global community” (Tookey, 1999-2000), and the director of admissions at a prestigious liberal arts college similarly contended that the IB structure and curriculum push students to “transcend [their] narrow national/cultural perspective” (Bencivenga, 1987, p. 17). Furthermore, researchers have described the IB’s curricular design as one in which students gain exposure “to a variety of viewpoints, [thereby] fostering tolerance and inter-cultural understanding among youth of the world” (Nugent & Karnes, 2002, p. 34).


THE FOUNDERS’ INTENTIONS


The teachers at the International School of Geneva who first imagined the possibility of the IB Program were moved to action by practical problems. At the time, their school offered four discrete tracks in preparation for four different national entrance exams: the Swiss Maturite, the English G.C.E. “A” Levels, the French Baccalaureate, and the American college boards, a situation that entailed “providing a great number of very small and therefore very expensive classes” (Peterson, 1972, p. 9).


Philosophical concerns motivated the teachers as well. By segregating students according to nationality, the teachers felt that they were precluding students from learning about and from one another. They believed that they were forsaking a rich opportunity to cultivate intercultural understanding. Peterson (1972) explained the value of exposing adolescents to different cultural viewpoints: “The years between sixteen and eighteen were the formative period at which a youth could gain most from contact with a culture different from that of his homeland. . . . It was this point of view that . . . underlies the whole of the project” (p. 9).


Peterson (1972) believed that the “needs and ideals of an international school” required students to learn from each other. He went on to explain, “For the teachers to promote understanding of the life and civilization of other countries is one of the accepted ideals of the [international] school” (p. 11). He also identified the ability to communicate as “much more of a ‘felt need’ [for pupils in international schools] than it is for pupils in national systems [because] they move around the world, they see their parents moving, and they expect to go on moving themselves” (p. 11). For these reasons, the founders of the IB sought to develop an educational program that would allow students to retain ties to their own culture, while also exposing them to other cultural perspectives. Hill (2002) identified “the need to promote international understanding” as an “ideological” (p. 193) goal that inspired the founders during the various stages of problem definition, program design, and implementation.


In addition to seeing it as a valuable life skill for their globally mobile population of students and an important intellectual virtue, the founders also recognized the ethical dimensions of this capacity to tolerate and respect other perspectives. They saw intercultural competence as related to the fostering of compassion and the eventual promotion of world peace (Hill, 2002; Walker, 2002). To this end, although the value of intercultural competence stands as a first principle in its own right, it also remains connected to the first principle that presupposes that quality education must attend to students’ moral and social development, as well as their intellectual development.


Although the unique demographics of the student body and the unique challenges posed by their internationally mobility stimulated the founders of the IB to conceive of it as an ideal of their program, fostering intercultural competence remains integral to the IB today, even as the program has spread beyond the privileged enclave of European international schools. However, in spite of both the deep roots and the present-day insistence on intercultural competence by IB insiders and outsiders, in the American context, it stands as the most contested and the least assured element of the founders’ vision.


IMPLICATIONS FOR AMERICAN SCHOOLS


It would seem that intercultural competence should have a natural place in American education. We often hear the catch phrase, “We are a nation of immigrants.” Diversity and multiculturalism have remained buzzwords in American education since the 1970s. Increasingly, researchers, educators, and policy makers write about the role of education in a global society. The Bush administration explained its decision to fund the MYP and the PYP in low-income school districts by insisting on the urgency of advancing global citizenship:


We are ever mindful of the lessons of September 11, one of which is that all future measures of a rigorous K-12 education must include a solid grounding in other cultures, other languages and other histories,” Education Secretary Rod Paige said a year ago as he announced new global-education initiatives in American schools. “In other words, we need to put the ‘world’ back into ‘world-class’ education,” he said. (Archibald, 2004a)


However, in the aftermath of September 11, some have criticized this first principle of the IB as unpatriotic. According to an article in the Washington Times, “Critics of the International Baccalaureate Program at Reston's Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School have focused on the program's promotion of cultural egalitarianism, pacifism and what they say is its anti-Western bias” (Archibald, 2004b). Writing for a local newspaper, one parent voiced the opinion that the IB promotes “moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty” (Archibald). Parents in Owego Apalachin, New York, also used op-ed pieces to thwart plans to introduce the IB to their school district, representing its curriculum as an anti-American (Mathews & Hill, 2005). Even in a country as diverse as the United States, some communities resist the notion that “other people with their differences can also be right” (IBO, 2005).


Such critics undermine the view that the IB has gained ground in America because it appeals to the “ethnic stew” or “ethic salad” characterizations of American society, and so too do historical accounts of the IB’s debut in the United States. The IB caught on in America in the wake of the 1983 report, A Nation at Risk. The program offered a way of measuring how American students stacked up against students from other nations. Learning from and about other countries took a back seat to competing with them. Even today, many students pursue the IB diploma for competitive reasons. They hope to distinguish themselves from their peers and to beat them out when it comes to winning the coveted seat at the university. The IB appeals as much, if not more, to American notions of meritocracy than it does to American values of multiculturalism. In other words, the first principle of working with and learning from others and of developing cross-cultural respect and understanding faces challenges that may be unique to the American landscape, with its post-September 11 patriotism and its individualistic, competitive culture.


IMPLICATIONS FOR INNER-CITY SCHOOLS


Implementation strategies, such as the use of the IB as a magnet, may also work against the first principle of intercultural competence. Paradoxically, the magnet system also represents the greatest opportunity for this first principle to be enacted in American schools, particularly in de facto segregated inner-city schools.


When used as a magnet, the IB can either work toward or against the goal of promoting intercultural dialogue, understanding, and respect. In some inner-city schools, the IB has been used as a means of desegregating the school, a mission that appears entirely consistent with the founders’ goal of promoting intercultural dialogue and exchange. Of course, in these schools, culture is now often cast as socioeconomic status and ethnicity rather than nationality, but by desegregating schools, the IB enables young people who would not ordinarily have the chance to interact to work together and learn from one another. Peterson (1987) described magnet schools like Rufus King School in Milwaukee, Harlingen High School in Texas, and Lincoln Park High School in Chicago as schools that “have found the IB as a bridge over ethnic separation” (p. 155). According to the Web site for Lincoln Park High School (2004), the IB was brought in as a magnet in part “to regain an integrated student body.” Underneath a picture of five students, each of a different ethnicity, the Web site notes,


The students in the International Baccalaureate Program at Lincoln Park High School are from different cultural backgrounds. They work together, sharing their knowledge and experiences, bringing richness to the classrooms and the projects. The diversity opens up the limits in your world and brings a lot of fun. (Lincoln Park, 2004)


IB coordinators at three urban schools have told me that they ensure that their program represents the demographic makeup of their school by personally inviting students to join the program and by relying on other teachers to recommend students to the program. One coordinator explained,


At the beginning of every year, I make a speech at our first staff meeting and I say, “Listen, if you see kids that you know can do this, send their names and their student numbers to me or their counselor, so we can get them in.” And they’ve been very, very helpful. We even have the ESL department funneling kids in that they know can do this. In fact, one of our kids . . . came to us out of ESL 3 into [pre-IB courses] his second semester here. And he has done fine. So it’s really pretty cool. The staff has been totally behind this program and behind getting kids in because they want it to look like the demographics of the school too.


Another coordinator shared the following anecdote to explain why she was seeing “more neighborhood kids” in the IB Diploma Program:


I have one girl in my history class, who’s like, “I think I’m in the wrong class. I have not taken any honors classes.” And I’m like, “Whatever. Just stay. You’ll be fine. You’ll learn. I’m here to work with you. You’re here to learn.” So, I think if everyone’s kind of taking that role, that we’ll see more of a shift, which will be good.


However, in many American schools, the IB program does not serve a broad mix of students. It may be implemented in a homogeneous school, where the students all look alike and share common backgrounds. According to recent research, offering the IB to homogeneous groups of students may undercut the program’s potential to foster intercultural learning. One small-scale, qualitative study found that the IB can facilitate students’ development of international outlooks and intercultural understanding in the international school setting, but the researchers concluded, “IB is unlikely to have as strong an effect in promoting international education with students in a monocultural, monolingual national school” (Hayden & Wong, 1997, p. 361).


Even in what appears to be a desegregated or integrated school, the IB may be offered as a track for a certain subset of students. “What you often end up with is a school within a school” (Beyers, 1997, p. B01). Although the IBO leaves the determination of admission criteria to each school’s discretion, the practice of limiting student access to the program clearly runs counter to the norms of inclusion and equity that the program’s architects attempted to establish. Furthermore, because tracking often segregates students by ethnicity or socioeconomic status, this implementation strategy may make opportunities for learning about and from others harder to come by naturally in the classroom. Because the IB’s architects were initially motivated by a desire to make obsolete a system that tracked and segregated students (Peterson, 1972), the implementation of the IB as a track for a certain subset of students can be seen as a “lethal mutation” (McLaughlin & Mitra, 2001) of the first principles of equity, access, and intercultural competence around which the founders of the IB constructed their program.


If they are to remain true to the first principles of the program, inner-city schools that implement the IB must find ways to attract students from outside the school’s neighborhood at the same time that they ensure that local students will be prepared to fill IB seats. They must seek to create cohorts of students that represent a range of backgrounds and life experiences, and they must recognize and use this diversity in the service of educative experiences.


CONCLUSION


In the United States, the IB appears caught in the middle of contesting forces and interests. The pedagogical traditions of progressivism and standards-based reform exert competing pressures on the program. The push to broaden access by reaching a diverse group of students and the pull to protect the program’s prestige by serving a select group of students also contend. Against the backdrop of American conventions like tracking and high-stakes testing, the question the IB confronts is whether it will find ways to balance these demands effectively or whether it will allow its founding ideals and first principles to be co-opted or even subverted by one demand or another. Although the IB appears to have arrived at an important crossroads in the United States, the program’s history serves as a reminder that it has long managed to negotiate competing interests. Indeed, it is this ability that may explain the rise and resilience of the IB Diploma Program in this country.


There are many ways both to portray the IB’s ability to accommodate competing interests and to account for the program’s growth in America. For instance, one can point to its “universality of design” and argue that this feature helped to insulate the program against countervailing winds at the same time that it helped propel it to fertile ground in school sites that are worlds apart. Its universality is evident in that it is not held hostage by any particular national conception of education; it is not limited to exploring one country’s art or history; and “it can work for any motivated student,” as one IB coordinator put it, regardless of his or her background. The broad applicability of the program’s first principles also affirms the universality of the IB’s design.


Another way to understand the spread of the IB is to see it as a set of paradoxes. First, the organization stands as a paradox in that it has demonstrated the capacity for change and constancy over the years. Although most of the work that the IB has done regarding its Diploma Program curriculum amounts to tinkering around the edges, its decision to support regional and subregional offices around the world and its decision to adopt the Middle Years Program and the Primary Years Program represent significant institutional changes. Furthermore, the recruitment efforts of the IB in North America have shifted dramatically in the last 10 years with the organized “effort to find more ways to attract low income and minority students into IB” (Mathews & Hill, 2005, p. 175). The IBO has also expressed a new interest in serving such students with its recent approval of a strategic plan that focuses explicitly on making the IB accessible “to people who are socio-economically disadvantaged” (Wallace, 2004, p. 2). Despite these changes, the founders of the IB would most likely still recognize the program they created if they were to see it operating in any school today. This constancy can be attributed to the enduring relevance of the program’s first principles and to willingness on the part of educators to enact them.


Second, the program reflects a paradox in its attempt to overcome cultural differences by offering a universally acceptable standard of education at the same time that it honors distinctive cultural traditions and “ways of knowing.” The assessment system tries to transcend national differences while the intercultural competence aspect of the curriculum keeps the curriculum rooted in cultural contexts. The standards to which the curriculum and the assessment system are aligned apply to all students regardless of their backgrounds, their school environment, or their cultural contexts; however, these standards stipulate that students should understand how culture influences and impinges on knowledge production.


A third paradox embodied in the IB concerns its ability to incorporate the ideological beliefs of both the standards-based reformers and the pedagogical progressives. Regardless of whether we label it a paradox or a design principle, this balancing act focuses the spotlight on the greatest lesson that the IB has to offer to American education and American school reform: The IB demonstrates that schools do not have to be set up and teaching does not have to be structured as either progressive or standards based. The program successfully reconciles what might otherwise be considered incompatible bedfellows. It recognizes that high-stakes assessments can complement project-based learning and that disciplinary knowledge and student-centered knowledge can be developed simultaneously. Philosophically, the IB represents a potent alternative to the dichotomous thinking that characterizes so much of the educational policy debates in American schooling; it shows us that we do not need to accept the choice that has emerged in so many of our schools between a rich curriculum and a rigorous assessment system. It shows us that a complex vision of what a well-educated person should know and be able to do requires a complex educational program, but one that any school site that pays attention to programmatic first principles should be able to implement and honor.


Mathews and Hill (2005) wrote that in 2004, the total number of IB schools in the United States comprised “less than 2 percent of the total number of high schools in the country, but IB’s influence on American education had grown out of proportion to its numbers” (p. 214). As long as this influence continues to work in the direction that Mathews and Hill suggest rather than the other way around, American high schools may yet find a way to bridge the ideological divides between all those who wish to reform them.


Notes


1 I have collected these data as part of an ongoing multi-year, multi-site study that I am conducting on the implementation of the IB. I present these quotations as supplemental empirical evidence of how the IB has been understood and implemented by some American school administrators and educators. In order tTo protect my sources, I do not use their names or the names of their schools. The variety of sources used for this articlepaper—, empirical, journalistic, biographic, and academic—, reflects my best effort to go beyond my own experiences with the IB to learn as much as I can about others’ experiences with the program. As an alumna of an IB school, I have also taken care throughout the data collection, analysis, and writing processes to monitor my subjectivity (Peshkin, 1988).


2 The divide between the standards-based reformers and progressive educators has been written about extensively by researchers such as Cuban (2004), Labaree (2003), and Angus and Mirel (1999).


3 The terms “elite” and “elitist” have also been applied to both the standards-based reformers and the IB program. When the Committee of Ten proposed in the 1890’s a core curriculum in which all students would experience the same intense academic preparation, it was accused of elitism. This charge arose not only from what the committee members suggested, but also from who they were: a group of high-powered university professors for whom serious, academic training had obviously worked (Angus & Mirel, 1999). A modern-day standards-based reformer, E. D. Hirsch has also been branded an elitist for failing to account for and accommodate students’ unique interests, cultural backgrounds, talents, and abilities in his curriculum, Core Knowledge (Lindsay, 2001). In the early 1970’s, Peterson published an essay entitled “Is the IB an elitist project?” (Fox, 1985), and more recently, a flyer inviting California schools to attend an informational meeting about IB faced the charge of elitism head-on, asserting, “contrary to some impressions, this is not ‘elitist,’ but is an opportunity for all children” (Solarez & Forster, 2004).


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 2, 2008, p. 322-351
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14538, Date Accessed: 10/21/2021 12:57:05 PM

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About the Author
  • Jerusha Conner
    "Villanova University"
    E-mail Author
    JERUSHA OSBERG CONNER is an assistant Professor at Villanova University. Her research interests include urban school reform, student engagement in learning, and youth voice in school reform. Recent publications include “Participation in Social Change: Shifting Adolescents’ Developmental Pathways” in Beyond Resistance: Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Policy and Practice for America’s youth, edited by S. Ginwright, P. Noguera, and J. Cammarota (Routledge); and, with coauthors M. Galloway and D. Pope, “Stressed-Out Students-SOS: Youth Perspective on Changing School Climates” in International handbook of student experience in elementary and secondary schools, edited by D. Thiessen and A. Cook-Sather (Springer).
 
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