Northville Students: Prepare For Things to Get Global
In two years, all students in grades 6-10 will start learning the international language of education.
Northville Public Schools' secondary students will take a lot of global leaps in classrooms during the next couple of years.
At an informational meeting Wednesday night, district officials discussed progress in obtaining an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which is already being weaved into some sixth grade and higher classroom studies.
The program focuses on eight subjects: English, a foreign language, humanities, science, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology.
Students may not immediately notice the IB program changes. The differences will come via teachers, who attend IB training and then flow these new methods – such as boosting global views or student self-awareness – into class work already being taught.
Bob Behnke, assistant superintendent for instructional services, told the 50 parents in attendance Wednesday that IB is also modifying its own training as the 2010 state-mandated core standards are adopted. "Both the standards and the IB will match," he said.
Northville is half a year into the application process for the $300,000 program, paid for by the Northville Education Foundation. The district has agreed to adopt the IB Middle-Year Program, which will be given to all students in sixth through 10th grade starting with the Class of 2017. The prestigious IB Diploma program will also be offered as an option for juniors and seniors for the Class of 2016, said Behnke.
Most Northville sixth through 12th grade teachers will be trained in using the IB program. The system, created in 1968 and run by a non-profit company in Geneva, Switzerland, is used in 3,294 schools in 141 countries.
“It’s a great proven system for teaching students knowledge expansion, while also keeping to a high rigor of curriculum study,” Behnke said. For example, he said that studies show that students with the certificate get about five points higher on ACT scores, and those with the IB Diploma score even higher.
Behnke said since the district has just started the years-long IB approval process, as described above, students now in ninth grade or higher in the district may see some form of the program in classes, but will not be able to earn the Middle Year certification or IB diploma. Current eighth-grade students will be able to obtain the IB diploma, but not the certification (not a requirement for the degree).
Students in seventh grade this year will be the first Northville students to be able to earn both certification by 10th grade and also the option to continue on with the diploma in 11th and 12th grade, Behnke said. Tenth-grade students wanting to gain the Middle Year certification must complete a year-end project; but it isn’t mandatory to go onto the IB diploma.
Superintendent Mary Kay Gallagher said that one way that the program is different from regular study is that a topic is taught across all eight subject groups. A foreign sport learned in gym class, for example, could be further explored as a different culture in language and humanities classes.
Behnke said students are also taught to think more deeply about topics. The teens are expected to ask questions of themselves, such as “How do we live in relation to each other?” and “How do I affect my environments?”
Kary Couchman, an English teacher at Northville High School, told parents at Wednesday’s meeting that she’s been able to incorporate the IB program into her assigned reading.
“We’re doing Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and instead of just discussing the characters, we also talked about how people are different from one another, and about mental health issues,” she said.
However, she was quick to point out that the basics are still expected from all students. “They still have to read and write their assignments, and spell things right and use commas correctly. Those things aren’t lost,” Couchman said.
The program isn’t new to Michigan, it’s taught in 53 schools in the state, including at some magnet schools such as the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, and in districts such as Novi and Livonia. The schools offer various combinations of the Diploma Program, the Middle-Year Program certification and the IB Primary-Year Program certification.
Some parents at the meeting were concerned about how the IB program would be matched against the district’s current advanced placement programs, or what used to be called “gifted” classes. Behnke said the AP programs will not compete with the IB system, and can be taken at the same time if desired.
Parent Marsha Valenti, who has a 10-year-old son in the Alternative Learning Program at Amerman Elementary School, said she’s excited to hear about a new option.
“We need to have the ability for our children to compete on a global scale,” she said. “I like how the IB program allows students to apply the topics they learn to everyday life, and not just memorizing facts.”
Jennifer Pearson, manager of the Northville Education Foundation, said the IB program fits in exactly with the mission of her group.
“We want the education experience for all Northville students to be excellent, and this program does that,” she said.
The foundation’s “Invest in Your Kids & Community Campaign” has raised $58,450 toward the $300,000 cost of the IB program.