The school announced Wednesday, January 4 that after an intensive two-year application process it was awarded status as an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School.
As one of only 751 high schools in the United States with this distinction, Ballston Spa students now have access to a challenging college and career preparatory program.
"Bringing the IB program to Ballston Spa High School is going to give our kids a lot of opportunities," said parent Eileen Block. "Our district is really providing our children with a level of learning that was not possible when I was in high school."
The liberal arts-based IB curriculum begins with preparatory classes in ninth and 10th grade and culminates the student’s senior year with examinations in six subject areas. The subjects include everything from experimental sciences and mathematics to classes of a more philosophical or artistic nature.
"I’m especially excited about the Theory of Knowledge class," said 10th grader Allyson Block.
The curriculum itself is supplemented with two levels of difficulty, "higher" and "standard;" community service requirements; and an extended essay that spans the duration of the two-year program.
"Over 22 of our staff members have prepared to implement the IB curriculum," said Principal Kristi Jensen. "They have spent the last year drafting course outlines, preparing lessons and learning about the rigor of the program. They are very excited that we are now an official International Baccalaureate World School."
The addition of the IB program to the high school’s academic portfolio gives B’Spa graduates a considerable advantage during the dreaded college application process. Graduates of IB World Schools are recognized by universities as well-rounded critical thinkers that are more likely to be successful in college. Universities see the student’s academic success through increased educational standards as a good predictor of their future. In some cases, colleges even go as far as granting the IB diploma holders second-year status upon admission.
"The mission of the IB program aligns with our district’s goals," said IB Coordinator Laura Schmitz. "[It] is a challenging, broad, balanced program of education designed to equip students with the academic skills needed for university study."
And with Newsweek ranking five IB World Schools in the top 10 best high schools in America, the program seems to be working.
In a report conducted by the Educational Policy Improvement Center (EPIC), the correlation of the high school IB program standards and established college-ready standards found the two to be "highly aligned."
"What is perhaps most notable about our findings is the degree to which IB standards were found to be related to the kinds of key cognitive strategies that our previous research points to as being so important for success in colleges and universities," reported EPIC CEO David Conley. "We have learned that it’s not enough for students to study content in isolation; they must use their content knowledge to solve problems, make conjectures and inferences, and think deeply about the big questions of the disciplines. The IB standards seem to be particularly well suited to achieving these aims."
This nontraditional method of instruction helps students apply meaning to what is being taught, and that results in better understanding and long-term comprehension.
"The classes will be taught in a way that is relevant to today’s society and my own life," said student Lydia Freehafer. "Because of this, I will be able to better retain the material [I am] taught long after the lesson has ended."
This new curriculum brings with it a realm of possibilities for students and the Ballston Spa Central School District and the faculty couldn’t be happier.
"It is a tremendous accomplishment and a wonderful opportunity," Jensen said.
Ninth and 10th grade students interested in the IB program are invited to attend an informational meeting Thursday, January 12, at 2:30 p.m. in the Ballston Spa High School cafeteria.