Canyon Del Oro High School recently has been authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization to be one of its world schools, beginning next year.
The goal of the International Baccalaureate Programme, led by IB Coordinator Amy Cislak, is designed as an academically challenging and balanced program that prepares students for college and beyond by having students study six courses at standard and higher levels during their junior and senior years. In addition, students are asked to take courses where they apply their knowledge and understanding outside of a classroom.
Cislak, who previously coached the Dorado softball team, has overseen the two and a half-year process to be authorized by the world-renowned program.
“I essentially stopped coaching to start this program. It has been a very personal experience for me,” Cislak said. “I wanted to make it, for our school, our students and our staff, a program that people felt really great about, where they were excited to work with this population of students, and they were excited to build this program. It is obviously a little more work for teachers and it’s going to be more work for students, so it was really important to me that everyone saw the value that it was worth it.”
At CDO, 50 students are signed up to begin taking part in the IB Programme next year. Of those sophomore students, one has verbally agreed to go to Northwestern College, another to Cal Tech. One student is looking to go into the Air Force and is already taking flight lessons. Another student wants to go to Georgetown University to become an attorney.
“They don’t necessarily share the same interest but they are all passionate about something,” Cislak said. “So the way one student feels about softball, the student next to them might feel the same way about jazz.”
The classes are similar to those that one would take in their first years in college. Students will have the opportunity to take advanced English language classes, Spanish, German, French or Russian, history, chemistry, environmental systems, math, art, music, computer science, and many others.
While taking classes, students are also asked to participate in something creative, action related or service related (CAS).
Cislak gave the example of a student on the basketball team, qualifying her for the action aspect, but she also organized a fundraiser: service, and made shirts for the event: creative.
“We don’t just want kids to be just super smart,” Cislak said. “We know that kids can study until 10 o’clock at night, but that’s not what being a well-rounded individual is. We want them to be able to still play sports, volunteer in the community, be involved, and travel.”
Students are also asked to write an extended essay as part of an independent research project with an in-depth study of a question relating to one of the subjects they are studying, much like that of what one would do for a thesis in college.
Along with preparing students to be involved with the IB courses, 16 teachers at CDO had to be trained and prepped to teach the classes in the format required by the International Baccalaureate Organization.
Teachers underwent a week training to learn about the pedagogi and methodology of IB. Teachers also had to work on their curriculum, to better understand their scoring and assessments to make sure they are up to the standards of IB.
“In theory, if a student is an IB student in Germany, they should be able to move to our school and be able to pick up right where they left off,” Cislak said.