For juniors and seniors at The Hall, AP classes are the go-to for those who want to excel in their learning and earn college credit. The Advanced Placement courses offer college level courses for high school students which allow colleges to catch a better glimpse into the minds of their prospective students. For many years, the AP classes have been a large part of high school education, and most high schools have implemented them into their curricula.
Lately, the Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco have applied to be a part of an international program known as the International Baccalaureate (IB). This program promotes many educational values which Schools of the Sacred Heart strive to pass on to their students. Sacred Heart students are already being trained to be open-minded, knowledgeable, caring, risk-takers, and principled, and the IB wants to create students who can be those things and more.
The authorization process started in 2013 and ever since then, Convent and Stuart Hall have been in a candidacy stage for this program. Now, the process is almost complete, and the 2016-17 school year will bring the program to junior students at The Hall. Over the past summer, several of our teachers, including our artist-in-residence, Ms. Hellstrom, travelled to Rice University in Houston to become trained as IB teachers. When asked about her experience, Ms. Hellstrom said, “It was a very intensive, several day training that involved learning about the IB, learning about how the IB is scored and learning how to create a curriculum.” In particular, Ms. Hellstrom stated how it was sort of a “boot camp” for her, as her goal going was to finish her curriculum for the following year.
The International Baccalaureate is a world-renowned curriculum which offers a different approach to education. Students in the junior and senior grade levels will be enrolled in seven courses which will span their final two years at The Hall. Students will take one IB course in each subject category of mathematics, science, language, English, history, and the arts, along with a separate, IB-specific course known as Theory of Knowledge. The Theory of Knowledge class is centered on the overarching question of “How do we know?” In this class, students will learn how to be “aware of the interpretative nature of knowledge, including personal ideological biases – whether these biases are retained, revised or rejected” (IB.org). This is a central class around which the entire program revolves, and it is one in which students will be able to look back to throughout the rest of their educational careers.
The IB will be bringing something new to The Hall and San Francisco. As of now, the only other school in the city which provides the IB is the French American International School. Even in the entirety of our Sacred Heart community, only the Carrollton School in Florida and Forest Ridge in Seattle provide the IB, though Josephinum Academy in Chicago was recently accredited and will be providing IB classes in the fall. By implementing the IB, the Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco are pioneering a new method of education. And, while Convent has been around since 1887, Stuart Hall High School is only 16 years old! In that time, they have already established themselves as one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. There are several other top tier private schools in the city, and they have established their reputations as well. But one thing that will set this apart will be the IB program, as it is something that will continue to further the academic value past the many other established high schools in the San Francisco County.
Students who enroll in the IB Diploma program will be dedicating their junior and senior years to IB classes. The seven classes students take will be graded in two ways: 1. By Stuart Hall High School where students are given grades on an A-F scale, and 2. By the IB program where students will be graded on a 7-1 scale. For the majority of people who enter the IB Diploma Program, they will be taking three Higher Level (HL) classes and three Standard Level (SL) classes, with the option of taking an extra HL class in place of an SL class. But along with the completion of these classes, students will also have to complete a 4,000 word “Extended Essay” on a topic of their choosing. This essay is written over the course of their junior and senior years with the help of an advisor. This essay is graded along with your classes and is incorporated in your overall “score.” The IB Diploma is awarded at graduation along with your high school diploma. The diploma is awarded to students who score 24 or more points in their total IB “score.”
Already, Mr. Marquette and Ms. Chuakay are working hard with Ms. Pfeiffer and Ms. DeMartini-Cooke over at Convent in finding ways for our daily schedules to be able to merge with the IB program. The IB schedule will be something different than what you are used to. For the most part, the students in the program will all be taking their classes together. Being co-ed, this means that students will probably be travelling between campuses much more often than before. This is good for the school, as they are striving to really bring the two high schools together; the IB program is a bridge that will help with this goal. During the second quarter of their sophomore year, prospective IB students set up a meeting with Mr. Marquette and worked with him to plan out a course list for their junior and senior years. In February, as the rest of the school pre-registers for next year’s classes, students interested in the IB will be registering in their IB courses. Students may either elect to enroll in the IB Diploma program, or take normal classes with one or two IB classes à la carte. Students enrolled in IB classes will not be able to switch courses or drop out once they have begun, as each course spans over the last two years of high school. Along with the seven required courses, the school will continue a non-IB theology class. As a Catholic school, it is still their duty to teach the students the values of religion and faith. This is one of the school’s priorities which the IB fails to provide by itself, as theological teachings don’t fit within their intended goals for students. But, with the extra class, students will still be receiving lessons on ethics, morality, and social justice that regular junior and seniors take.
The IB Program is meant to be a program which challenges students in the ways they are educated. There will be different teaching methods, grading scales, and standards. That said, the IB is already much more in line with our current classroom experience than any other externally-graded curriculum. The IB Program consists of a larger amount of writing than regular classes here at The Hall, so prospective students should be ready prepared to write. While the IB Program will take a lot of time to complete, there will still be time to enjoy other hobbies, such as sports, music, acting etc. In fact, the IB requires students to accomplish at least 150 hours of extracurricular activities in order to complete the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) element. So for those thinking that this program will eat up all of your time and prevent you from having fun outside of school, you shouldn’t worry. Students will still have time to play their respective sports and compete wholeheartedly, and in fact those activities will actually “count” for something due to the make-up of CAS.
The International Baccalaureate program will be coming to the school next year for the 2016-2017 school year. It is something that all current and even prospective students should look into going into their junior years. The IB will bring a new level of academic excellence at The Hall, and it will be a program which should grow to be a staple of Schools of the Sacred Heart San Francisco education.