US Schools Embrace International Baccalaureate Program
An educational curriculum designed for the children of globetrotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 schools across the U.S., showing surprising improvements in test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools. Caroline Porter has details.
Houston, Chicago, Tampa, Fla., and other cities are embracing the International Baccalaureate program as a way to overhaul low-performing schools, attract middle-income families who might otherwise favor private schools, or offer more choice.
"It's not a program for the elite," said Samuel Sarabia, who runs the IB program for Houston Independent School District, where 10 schools have IB programs, including two where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Five more low-income schools are in the midst of an IB conversion process run by the nonprofit International Baccalaureate group.
The program began in Geneva in the 1960s as a two-year high-school diploma offering for the children of diplomats and itinerant business executives. It later expanded into elementary- and middle-school programs.
Today, there are 1,651 IB programs in the U.S.—including 1,493 public schools—up from 503 in 2003. About 90% of them are in public schools, and most are aimed at U.S. students, not the children of diplomats.