IB program found in area schools offers rigorous courses

Odi Opole, Web Editor

Here’s a tongue-twister: International Baccalaureate.
Sounds like a fancy institution, right?
Try internationally recognized academic program.
Two schools in the Johnson County area currently offer IB: Shawnee Mission Northwest and Shawnee Mission East.
BV sophomore Archana Vasa heard about IB through peers at a summer camp for gifted students. She said she would like to see the IB program at BV.
“IB is a really new thing, and a lot of schools are getting it,” she said. “It would be cool if we got it, so we can keep up with educational trends.”
The program emphasizes learning through small-group discussion, writing and integration of six core subject groups. The IB program also promotes a global education by standardizing curriculum throughout the world.
“If you’re taking an IB American History class here, you’re learning the same thing that’s being taught in England, India and Beijing,” said Bill Sanderson, IB Coordinator for Shawnee Mission Northwest.
As an IB Coordinator, Sanderson is responsible for the operations of the program at his school. He recruits students, meets with students and parents and supervises the use of the curriculum.
Sam Ellerbeck, an SME alumni and IB graduate, said the classes are discussion-based.
“Group work is important,” Sam said. “The coursework cuts out social time, so working on IB stuff and hanging out with friends kind of became the same thing.”
AP European History teacher Jason Peres said IB and AP programs have similarities.
“IB and AP classes are two separate roads going to the same place,” he said. “The goal is to create someone who is a well-rounded student.”
Sanderson said IB classes are similar to college ones because the work is more analytical and essay-based.
“I know IB will prepare me better for college, and help me get in to college,” SME senior Logan Heley said.
Both AP and IB classes include a higher level of work — and both require you to pay fees. Sanderson said the amount paid by a student taking 7 AP Exams is close to the amount paid by an IB diploma student.
“It kind of raises the bar,” Sanderson said. “If you’re going to put money into it, you better do a good job.”
Ed Ellerbeck, parent of two IB alumni said while IB is beneficial, it also can be very challenging.
“It’s definitely a good option to have, but if you’re not a hard worker, you shouldn’t do it,” he said.
Sanderson said that freedom is another big difference between AP and IB, because in AP you pick the classes you want to do, and in IB you have a full schedule.
“It’s good because it forces you out of your comfort zone,” Sanderson said. “It makes you take those classes you ordinarily wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. There’s always a student saying, ‘Wow, if I wasn’t in IB I would never have done Spanish 6.’”
Sanderson said IB also gets students involved in both their local and national community through the Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) part of the program.
IB requires 150 hours of activity in those three categories. Sanderson said he believes CAS is a positive aspect of the IB program.
“It’s good because it’s not academic, and it’s not numbers in a book,” Sanderson said. “It’s people, and it’s real.”
Heley said that sleep deprivation is one disadvantage of being in IB.
“I know that other IB students don’t get enough sleep,” Heley said. “One thing I’d like to see, later on, is the life expectancy of IB students versus non-IB students.”