On the eve of Winter Break, Thurs., Dec. 15, 2016, the Prince George County School Board held a special meeting to discuss personnel and student matters as listed on the agenda. During that meeting school board member Robert Cox made a motion to eliminate all new MYP/IB enrollment beginning 2017-18 school year, in essence disbanding the program.
In a 4-0 vote, with Roger Franklin absent, the board decided the currently enrolled MYP/IB students would continue in the program until they conclude their coursework in the 10th grade, but that no future classes would enter into the program at grade six.
The school board made the decision for a few reasons according to board member Reeve Ashcraft.
“[We had] concerns over its effectiveness, over whether it was being implemented correctly at specific schools in the division. And we came to the conclusion that getting rid of it now does not mean that we are not going to bring something back later on in its place; maybe something better that runs through graduation where students are able to get the full benefits, possibly scholarships. And it was really just the matter of not seeing the results that we wanted to see out of the program, and also because of funding issues and the money we can save in the process. So it just came down to that,” Ashcraft said.
The program, which commenced in 2007, has prepared students for future advanced education, including advanced programs at the high school inclusive of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment. J.E.J. Moore Middle School Guidance Director F.W. Lewis has been involved in the program and believes it has a clear mission in its approach to helping students learn in Prince George.
“Many colleges are requiring students to do more projects, more teamwork, more interdisciplinary work, etc.,” Lewis said. “The IB-MYP program helps students prepare for that type of academic work as well as looking at how we can impact the world beyond Prince George County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the United States of America. MYP looks at the global perspective.”
MYP/IB students apply to enter the program. Students choose to be involved for MYP/IB’s rigor and unique approach to learning.
“It will help me later in life because it was a lot of work and homework and stuff- things I have to do at home, and projects,” sophomore Daniel Blount said. “It will help me with skills that I need to use later in life. So just time management, and my work ethic.”
The program starts in 6th grade and gives students an advancement on accelerating their education early. As of right now there are no other programs at Prince George that compare except Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment which do not start until 11th grade after students exceed the IB.
J.E.J. Moore Middle School teacher and MYP/IP director Michelle Bowen has lead the program during the last two years.
“IB is a concept-based, skill-based program with students completing a summative task at the end of each unit. Teachers were trained in designing units to teach these concepts and skills. IB provided a framework for teachers to complete this instructional delivery,” Bowen said.
“I feel like it (discontinuing MYP/IB) will take some opportunities away. Like, how we were able to do so many different projects, and field trips for IB. However, they will get more opportunities than us, because we did not get to socialize as much as we would have liked to with other people that were not in IB,” Daniel Blount said.
The MYP/IB program provided an opportunity for Prince George students to stand out from others in different counties.
“Part of the IB’s Mission Statement states, ‘The IB aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.’ Therefore, this program provided teachers with a structured framework to put this mission statement into action. One item that made IB students stand out from others is the mandatory community service component. Over the length of the program hundreds of hours have been given making our community a better place in which to live. Also students were able to be accelerated in Math and Foreign Language. Now that IB is being phased out students will no longer have an option for High School Credit in grade 7,” Bowen said.
“We were the only neighboring school district (Charles City, Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Petersburg, Surry, Sussex) that offered the program (Chesterfield County does has certain schools that offer the program). To me, I think it set us apart that we were willing to make that type of commitment to an academic program for our students. I was proud of that,” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, “We typically have averaged about 100 students in 5th grade applying for the IB-MYP program each year, which is about 20% of the population of the fifth grade (typically around 500 students in grade 5 each year); of those applicants 52 students are enrolled starting in sixth grade.”
Once the program completely ends in 2023, it may be hard to regain accreditation if they would decide to bring the program back.
“A lot of time, work, and money has been invested into establishing the IB-MYP and becoming an Authorized School here in Prince George. Once you get rid of a program, it is difficult to bring it back. If funding was available a few years from now I don’t even know if the International Baccalaureate Organization would consider our application.
Certainly, we would be starting at “square one” again and this would present quite the challenge…Obstacles that we have already overcome and addressed,” Lewis said.
“I will always remember the years I spent in IB… I am also upset this program is coming to an end because my older sister, younger sister, and I have been able to participate in IB, but my younger sister will not be able to due to the program ending,” junior Hannah Dankenbring said.
For most the news was delivered the day after the special school board meeting on December 15th.
At the school board regular meeting held on January 9, 2017, the topic was not reviewed or brought up during the open floor discussion.