J.M. Alexander kicks off first year of IB program

by Tori Hamby

A new partnership between IB programs at J.M. Alexander Middle and North Mecklenburg High schools could help more students graduate with an IB diploma, IB program administrators say.

Unlike years past, when parts of the IB Middle Years Program, the International Baccalaureate Organization’s curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, was housed in the now closed Davidson IB Middle School, IB students from North Mecklenburg’s program will work closely with younger students to help them understand and prepare for the challenges of the more rigorous Diploma Program.

“Its always nice for students who get into programs like the IB program to know what it’s going to look like at the end,” said North Mecklenburg High Principal Matthew Hayes.

In order to receive an IB designated diploma, students must take, and pass, six exams in different subject areas. Last year, 33 out of 36 students who took the test received IB designation at North Mecklenburg High, Keyes said, but about 240 students enter the program as ninth-graders.

“You get 220 or 240 students coming into the program in the ninth grade,” Hayes said. “But you only have 80 in the diploma program. There are a lot who drop out.”

The recent addition of a Primary Years IB program at Blythe Elementary should also boost the high school’s program in years to come, Keyes said. Students who live outside of Blythe’s boundaries may apply to attend the school, but all Blythe students are taught using the IB curriculum. Students who choose to progress to the Middle Years program in middle school must apply.

“The (Primary Years) IB program is capable of serving every kind of student because it feeds into a child’s natural curiosity,” said Blythe’s IB coordinator Katie Crompton.

The move

Although the partnership will focus on preparing Middle Years IB students for high school and the Diploma Program, Hayes and J.M. Alexander Principal Jo Karney said the older students plan to tutor non-IB students at the middle school.

The IB program’s move to J.M. Alexander will bring big changes to both IB and non-IB students. Karney said while students not classified IB won’t participate in IB classes, they will benefit from attending a school that is “internationally minded.” Non-IB and IB students will also have opportunities to interact during elective classes, such as orchestra and band.

The move will bring about 250 students to the school on Aug. 25, giving the program room to expand. About 25 additional sixth-grade students have been added to the Middle Years Program this year.

“We are focusing on expanding at the sixth-grade level,” Karney said. “As those students move up into the seventh and eighth grades, the program will really begin to grow.”

In the meantime, the school will hold a back-to-school country fair Saturday, Aug. 13, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. The fair will be held on the school’s athletic field to welcome students and provide students with a casual, fun setting to meet and socialize with new classmates. Karney said North Mecklenburg High cheerleaders, JROTC members and other student volunteers will also be on hand to help with the festivities.

“We hope that it can help set the tone for a great school year.”