COTTONWOOD - Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District held an information meeting Monday night about the International Baccalaureate program the school board is considering. About 100 people attended the meeting at the district office.
An IB program would be an alternative charter school, offering a global perspective, strict dress code, mandatory foreign language and a focus on thematic teaching using the latest technology. The IB program is recommended by the Arizona Department of Education as a rigorous alternative to traditional teaching methods. The program would be open to all students in or out of the district.
Superintendent Barbara U'Ren told the audience the purpose of the meeting was to determine if there is enough interest in the program to move forward or not.
The meeting was presented by Stephanie Jones, GPA coordinator for the district, and by Denise Dix and Kevin Dix, both teachers within the district.
An overview of an IB program was given with a PowerPoint presentation.
Three programs are available for primary, middle school and high school. The district is considering only the primary years program at this time for kindergarten through sixth grade. The program could be expanded to middle school and high school.
The IB Primary Years Program focuses on six themes: who we are; where are we in place and time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves; and sharing the planet.
The Primary Program uses six specific subjects: language (including foreign language); math; science; social studies; arts (including music); and personal, social and physical education.
Denise Dix said an IB program could be in place within the district by the fall of 2011. That would depend on the number of students interested in enrolling. She said it takes three years as a candidate school to become fully authorized as an IB program.
Following the PowerPoint, the meeting was opened to questions.
One woman asked how much interest is necessary to start the program.
Denise Dix said enough students are required to build a class size. Kevin Dix said ideally there would be enough students for two classes at each grade level up to sixth grade.
A couple of questions addressed the cost of having an IB program. The answers were somewhat vague, explaining that costs must be weighed, that increased enrollment might offset costs, and also that some grants are available.
Denise Dix said that IB programs would be funded the same way all schools in Arizona are - by enrollment.
"We are trying to stop declining enrollment," Kevin Dix said.
During the presentation, it was mentioned that currently in the Phoenix metropolitan area, about the only school districts showing growth in student population are the IB campuses.
One parent asked why the district couldn't use the IB method of teaching now. Jones said the IB method requires a tremendous amount of work and time for the teachers. She said switching to an inquiry based learning system is a difficult process that takes special training.
One woman, a parent and former teacher, asked how much local control the district maintains with the IB program.
Kevin Dix said there is tremendous flexibility, that teachers make curriculum decisions based on state standards. He said the only requirement is that the curriculum could be taught in another country, not what is being taught.
"They don't have a set curriculum," he said.
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