International Baccalaureate vs. Advanced Placement • Why IB?
by LS Head Dr. Kelley Waldron
As college admissions becomes progressively more competitive, parents are becoming increasingly more educated consumers of their children’s school programs and curricula in hopes of giving their child the added advantages now that will pay off in the long run. As a school that made the decision to transition from an Advanced Placement (AP) program to International Baccalaureate (IB), we are often asked how these two programs compare and why we have invested in the latter. We were authorized to begin delivering the IB program in the spring of 2008 and have gained much momentum and positive response from the stakeholders in our community. This position paper explains our IB program in more depth and why we feel it is a more valuable education and preparation for our students than a traditional AP program.
WHAT EXACTLY IS IB?
You might receive different answers to this question depending who you ask in our school community. If you ask our students, they will tell you it is a challenging but very rewarding and meaningful curriculum, more empowering than traditional methods. If you ask our teachers, they would probably explain that it is an approach that involves much more student ownership of learning and emphasizes critical thinking and communication of knowledge more than just memorization. If you ask a parent, they might tell you it is that program that gives their child a competitive edge in both college admissions and preparation that may even have some pay-offs in terms of gaining college credit.
IB is all of these and more- it is a program than emphasizes depth over breadth, with the philosophy that a challenging curriculum means understanding of the material in authentic applications, not just memorization of facts and figures. The IB program is comprehensive in providing students with exposure to advanced content in the various subject areas while also emphasizing intellectual skills and dispositions that transfer across subject areas and will lead them to success in whatever field of study they decide to pursue at university or in their careers.
There have been a number of studies undertaken to look at the success of IB students versus traditional college preparation programs. Acceptance rates of IB students at the most universities are higher than that for non-IB or traditional applicants, suggesting that IB students are respected and desirable to college admissions offices. Graduation rates at four-year universities of IB diploma students surpass those of the national average substantially, confirming that IB gives students the attitudes and skills necessary to be successful in college and beyond. This distinction is important in a time when grade inflation seems to be an ever-present concern and savvy parents and students are doing everything they can to polish off resumes and applications to get in the doors of universities. IB is not just about an impressive transcript, and colleges know that. They know that IB prepares students well not only for the rigor of classes and content, but trains students to engage in meaningful problem-solving and to be able to ask relevant questions and answer those questions creatively- skills not easily taught within the demands of college classes. They also know that students who complete IB programs are passionate pursuers of the “why?” questions, which is what generates new ideas and leads you to deeper understandings.
21ST CENTURY RELEVANCE
While we are a college preparatory school and make every effort to complete that task with excellence, we are cognizant that we are preparing our students for success now and in their futures beyond university as well. We believe that the IB program provides one of the most relevant curriculum to meet the demands, desires, and needs of the 21st century learner. Increasingly, what determines success is not how much information or knowledge a person has but how well they are able to use and apply it in new and creative fashions. The ability to learn how to learn is of value in a time when technology is allowing information and knowledge to expand at exponential rates and is a critical skill for any professional entering the workforce.
In the IB diploma program, students take six IB courses over their 11th and 12th grade years, one in each of the major academic disciplines. Students also complete an extensive research project, the Extended Essay, in which they choose a subject and topic of their choice and work with a faculty mentor to produce a 12-16 page piece of original research. IB diploma students take a class called Theory of Knowledge which asks them to think about themselves and their place as learners in a global society, making interdisciplinary ties between all the subject areas and gaining a better understanding of how each discipline works.
Lastly, IB diploma students must complete Creativity, Action, and Service hours that require students to not just be active learners in the classroom but to do so in their communities as well. The combination of two year courses and the three core components of the IB diploma program provide a much more comprehensive approach to learning than an individual class or course, producing well-rounded, reflective, knowledgeable, and caring students.