First International Baccalaureate seniors at KHS

by Carol Bousquet

June 10, 2010

York County Coast Star

KENNEBUNK- Kennebunk High School’s graduating class of 2010 has a unique distinction this year:  11 of its seniors are candidates to receive International Baccalaureate Diplomas and 46 are candidates for IB Certificates, the first such graduates in Maine.  It’s an honor they have toiled for in a program that takes the rigors of advanced placement courses and adds a level of inquiry and international mindedness not experienced by their peers.

“They’ve learned to think, to question, to learn how to learn,” says Susan Cressey, IB program facilitator at KHS.   “IB is a full program.  It forces you to take courses in your strengths, but those you’re not as strong in too.”

“It’s not for every kid,” says Phillip Hussey, IB Certificate candidate.   “It’s for people who like to question things.  It’s a style of learning.”

During their junior and senior years, IB Diploma students are required to take six core courses in languages, experimental sciences, math, art, and individuals and societies.  They also discover what type of learner they are in a Theory of Knowledge class.   A social service project requiring 150 hours of commitment, and a 4000 word essay on a global topic of their choice are also part of the IB curriculum.  IB certificate students take one or more of the core courses.

Cressey says she and other IB teachers do feel the pressure to learn the new teaching style, and more IB training is to come.  Cressey sent student essays to outside experts to evaluate, exams to IB headquarters for grading.  She says she feels she is being graded just like her students.

“It [IB] provides teacher evaluation as well, how students compare with their peers around the world,” Cressey said.

While not well known in Maine, more than 2,000 IB schools are located in more than 100 countries around the world.  Cressey attended her first IB conference in June of 2006.  The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel, understanding budget constraints in the district, provided $30,000 to fund teacher training and curriculum development.  Corning also made contributions, allowing even more teachers to participate.  Graduates with IB credentials are attractive to businesses with overseas operations.  Cressey is hoping to win more grants and business support to further training.

EFKA founder Ted Damon recognized the significance of the IB program.  “The kids are not trained to memorize but to investigate and analyze and inquire,” says Damon.  “It’s more hands-on, real world experience.”

KHS became an IB diploma and certificate school in the fall of 2008.  Students can elect to take IB classes and earn an IB certificate, or pursue the two year IB diploma program.  The 11 IB diploma and 46 IB certificate students will receive their final grades from the International Baccalaureate Organization on July 5th.  A ceremony to present them with their IB diplomas and certificates will be held in December.  IB candidates did receive diplomas at KHS when they marched with their peers on June 6.

The EFKA is a non-profit grant-making organization that supports innovative programs for students and staff in RSU21.  All fund s are raised privately.