Thursday, December 6, 2007
Originating Partner and Intention (Continue to Build Capacity)
Success in learning
International Academy plans to expand with site in Troy
December 6, 2007
BY PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI
FREE PRESS EDUCATION WRITER
The success of students at Oakland County's International Academy can be measured a variety of ways -- from test scores to the colleges its graduates attend to its repeated recognition as one of the top public high schools in the country.
It's also apparent in the increasing number of students applying for spots in the school, and the number of schools across Michigan considering similar offerings.
Already, 10 other schools in the state offer International Baccalaureate curriculum -- rigorous courses that challenge students' analytical and critical-thinking skills -- and 19 others have applied to add the program.
The International Academy is planning to expand from about 700 students now to 1,400 students over the next four years, which would make it the second-largest IB school in the world.
Macomb County's school districts will open an IB school in fall 2008, similar to the one in Oakland County. And Grosse Pointe Public Schools are expecting a report this month about adding an IB program.
"What IB is actually training you to do is step in the shoes of a practitioner," said Bert Okma, principal and founder of the International Academy in Oakland County, an IB school that's been ranked by Newsweek magazine as one of the top 10 high schools in the country since 2002. "It's not just asking you to know biology, it's asking you to think like a biologist."
IB programs use a comprehensive approach to determine if students are learning the material, with assessments that include oral and written reports, traditional testing and community-service projects. Educators say they are more rigorous than most other college prep programs, stressing an interdisciplinary approach to the subjects covered.
The International Academy is run by a consortium of Oakland County school districts, on campuses in Bloomfield Hills and White Lake Township. A third site is to open next fall in the Troy School District, in the former Baker Middle School, which is currently being remodeled to house the high school students.
The Troy district elected to open the branch in order to increase the number of seats available for its own students from 25 to 75. The school will open with ninth-graders and will add another ninth-grade class each year until it has all four high school grades. When it's fully opened, it will double the size of the International Academy.
"I have a coworker; his daughter is going to the International Academy and he's really pleased about it," said Margaret Estes, whose son, Michael, 13, has applied for the Troy school. She likes the international aspect and the rigor of the curriculum. "I heard the program will be more focused on science and mathematics, more so than in regular schools."
Unlike the other two campuses, the Troy campus likely will take students from neighboring counties to fill spaces not claimed by Oakland County students, said Troy spokesman Tim McAvoy.
Macomb County's school is to open next fall in Clinton Township, with admission open to students from any county school district.
It will share the former Seneca Middle School with Chippewa Valley High School's ninth-grade academy, which is only expected to need about half of the building's 1,100-student capacity. Like the Troy school, it will open with ninth-graders in the fall, adding a grade each year until the high school is complete.
"It's not for all kids, but it's a wonderful opportunity for the ones that want to step up and get challenged," said Gayle Green, assistant superintendent for instruction and special projects with the Macomb Intermediate School District. "We've been talking about it for a year and a half, but have really gone full steam on it for the last six or eight months."
An IB program doesn't guarantee college admission.
"Anytime a student goes beyond the regular college preparatory curriculum, it's certainly value added," said Jim Cotter, director of admissions at Michigan State University.
But IB students can get college credit for their high school classes. Exactly how much credit depends on the test, their score and the college or university's policy.
Getting credit "depends a great deal on the level of examination they take and the subject area in which they take the examination," Cotter said.
Contact PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI at 586-469-4681.
Posted by James at 10:05 AM