Jackson County High School continues to provide the only International Baccalaureate programme in the county. The curriculum has course requirements set by the IB organization, but student choice is built into every course.
The full IB Diploma Programme for high school juniors and seniors takes two years to complete, but students are able to take 1-3 IB classes as course candidates. JCHS’s IB program is in its second year.
According to the IB, “IB students graduating with the IB diploma are able to study at universities all around the world, often with advanced credit. Students report that their involvement with the IB has given them the tools needed to succeed in college.”
It’s not all talk; the IB program is an intense two years of studying. Classes include language and literature, language acquisition, history, science, math and an IB elective. The program also includes an extended essay, which is a 4,000-word paper that resembles a master’s thesis. Students also participate in a Theory of Knowledge course where they learn critical thinking skills and gain the ability to understand where knowledge comes from. Another component includes creativity, activity, and service (CAS). Here, students explore extracurricular and community service opportunities.
Students also take exams at the end of the year. Exams have multiple parts: an internal component (such as a lab experiment), a drafted component (such as an essay), and a sit down timed exam. JCHS in its first year of the program had an 85% pass rate on these exams, with one student earning a perfect score in IB Film.
“The exam and the entire IB program allows you to see the whole picture of a student. Everyone learns and tests differently, and the IB exam allows you to see this nuance,” said Michelle Golden, IB DP Coordinator for JCHS.
The classes are small and hyper-personalized. Students are required to ask questions on topics they are interested in and explore them in hands-on, meaningful ways. IB program participants such as seniors Ashley Hayes and Emily Kimbrell have enjoyed their experiences and new approaches to learning.
“I like that IB is more hands-on...it’s much more of a challenge,” says Hayes. Hayes conducted an experiment last year on the effectiveness of essential oils because she and her mom use these products. This year, she’s studying the difference in Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts coffee advertisements for her extended essay.
Kimbrell likes the personalized nature of IB, “We have discussions about college. Teachers collaborate and talk about [how to support] individual students. All of my teachers know what I want to do and they’re focused on personalized learning.”