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March 19, 2014

Middle schools to offer International Baccalaureate program

TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools is working to expand its International Baccalaureate programs, which use an educational model that champions curriculum intended to promote independent and critical thinking, as well as multicultural understanding and awareness.

The program is in its second year at TCAPS International School at Bertha Vos, and administrators plan to implement programs at Interlochen Elementary School, East Middle School and West Middle School in the fall.

All schools piloting the program will work toward official authorization as an IB World School.

TCAPS Superintendent Stephen Cousins said the district surveyed parents and found that 38 percent wanted to see IB programs as an option for their children.

“That’s a big chunk of parents,” Cousins said. “We’re looking at providing more differentiated programming for families and students that felt that was appropriate for them.”

The IB curriculum is more project-oriented than a traditional classroom. It also emphasizes the importance of a global understanding and integrates foreign language into students’ daily coursework.

The Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District received a $3 million Kellogg Foundation grant last year for developing IB programming in Elk Rapids, Kalkaska, Leland and Traverse City public districts. The grant pays for the first three years of the programming, professional development and materials at schools working toward IB authorization, Cousins said.

Last year Elk Rapids Middle School became the first northern Michigan middle school to receive official IB authorization, something Cousins hopes to see in TCAPS schools down the road. He said the process typically takes two to four years.

TCAPS and TBAISD officials also are exploring what IB programs would look like at the high school level and may choose to integrate them in area high schools in the future.

“For me, the biggest thing is that we’re really trying to provide differentiated programming so that we can meet the needs of all the kids, and not pigeon-hole them into one specific program,” Cousins said.

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