School officials: International Baccalaureate program on track at Hilton Head High

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comApril 22, 2012 

Just over a year since it was put on probation, the International Baccalaureate diploma program at Hilton Head Island High School is on track, school officials say.

The program exceeded three of the four goals set for it after an independent audit last February.

The IB program, developed by a nonprofit Swiss foundation, aims to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills students need in a globalizing world, according to the IB website. High school juniors and seniors can participate in the two-year diploma program that gives them a chance to earn college credit.

According to a presentation given to the Board of Education on Tuesday, the school has increased enrollment in the program and exceeded goals set for the percentage of students passing IB exams and earning the IB diploma.

In February 2011, the school board put the program on two-year probation, following a cost-benefit analysis that found it cost the district about $660 per participant in 2010, including dues paid to the IB organization, books, supplies and travel for teacher training.

IB programs at Battery Creek High, Broad River Elementary and Robert Smalls Middle schoolswere discontinued. The Hilton Head schools are the only ones in the district with the program.

Hilton Head High Principal Amanda O'Nan said the audit was actually good for the school.

"It gave us the opportunity to hold a mirror up and look at the school and program to see if it was what's truly best for you community," she said at Tuesday's school board meeting.

At its next meeting, the school board is expected to consider allowing transfers into the school -- as well as into Hilton Head Island Elementary and Hilton Head Island Middle schools -- for the IB program.

More than 40 students requested transfers for the next school year into the Hilton Head schools, including 20 for Hilton Head High.

Although transfers into the program have been allowed in the past, the IB program wasn't included as a transfer option for next school year.

INCREASING ENROLLMENT

About 20 percent -- or 100 -- of the high school's 498 juniors and seniors were enrolled in an IB class last year.

This year, that's up to 149.

O'Nan said the school has stepped up recruitment for the IB program, and teachers are being asked to identify students who might be good candidates.

Plans to continue enrollment gains include presenting information on the program to freshmen and sophomores and strengthening relationships with guidance offices at middle schools in southern Beaufort County.

O'Nan said she believed the recent approval of Hilton Head Middle's and Hilton Head High's International Baccalaureate Middle Years programs -- which run from sixth to 10th grade -- could help, too.

She told the school board she believes that approval will have a snowball effect since more students will have been enrolled in the IB curriculum throughout their education.

The one goal the school hasn't met is increasing minority enrollment in the program.This year. only 21 percent of students enrolled in at least one IB class were minorities. That's down from 23 percent in 2010-11, and short of the 25 percent goal.

School officials say allowing the transfers might help them increase diversityin the program. Data on the ethnicity of students requesting transfers were not available Friday.

O'Nan said she hopes to boost minority enrollment from 21 to 27 percent next school year. The school recently hosted an information session with a translator in effort to reach out to the school's Hispanic population.

INCREASING SUCCESS

Although enrollment in IB classes is up, only a small number of students pursue the diploma.

To get it, students must pass six IB course exams, write two essays and complete community service.

Last year, seven of the 14 eligible students earned the diploma, compared to 10 in 2010.

The school has several strategies for increasing the percentage of students earning IB diplomas, and hopes to have an 87 percent rate by the 2014-15 school year.

This year, the school hopes 47 percent of the 37 students pursuing the full diploma earn it.

According to the IB website, about 80 percent of diploma candidates earn the diploma worldwide.

The school also hopes to increase the percentage of students passing the IB exams and therefore earning college credit. Last year, students passed 57 percent of the 170 exams taken.

To increase that rate, the school plans to analyze each teacher's pass rate and remove teachers and classes from the program if students are consistently performing below average. They also plan to train more teachers.

"The more teachers trained, the more options you have when scores don't look the way they should," the plan says.

The school board will review the school's progress again next spring before deciding whether to end the probation period.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

International Baccalaureate program approved at Hilton Head Middle, High schools; March 12, 2012

Board takes school closing option off the table; Feb. 15, 2011

International Baccalaureate program at Battery Creek could end; probation possible at Hilton Head High; Feb. 4, 2011

International Baccalaureate website

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