Our Back Talk update Tuesday about Woodrow Wilson’s progress toward instituting an International Baccalaureate program generated a few neighborhood comments, along with a call from Woodrow principal Ruth Vail wanting to set the record straight: Woodrow still needs approval from the IB group to offer the program, and there’s a lot of work to do before that approval can be requested.

Vail and Woodrow associate principal for teaching Dinah Escanilla sat down with Back Talk to discuss the program, its progress and what changes it will bring to the school; you can listen to the podcast by clicking here. (Be forewarned: It’s a 30-minute podcast.)

Over the summer, about 25 Woodrow teachers and administrators traveled to New York, New Mexico and Florida, among other places, to begin preparing to offer IB courses. The Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation, established to support the IB process, has raised the $17,000 needed to apply for the IB designation, and DISD has been providing the necessary travel and support funds to begin training teachers and preparing the curriculum. DISD’s board is expected to approve Woodrow’s redesign and support the IB process at its September meeting, and some members of the Woodrow community will be visiting area schools already offering the IB program.

Among the issues addressed on the podcast…

• Even after the redesign, all neighborhood students who want to can attend Woodrow, regardless of their interest in the IB program. The school will accomodate students in its attendance zone before beginning to evaluate applications from students in other DISD attendance zones.

• Although students in 9th and 10th grades can take pre-IB courses (preparing the student for IB coursework), the actual IB program wouldn’t begin until junior year.

• Students will be able to take both AP and IB courses, sometimes in the same classroom.

• Woodrow’s goal is to ensure every student at the school — regardless of the student’s involvement in the IB or AP program — graduates with at least 12 credit hours toward college, hopefully encouraging more students to move directly from Woodrow to a junior or four-year college.

• Assuming the IB program is approved for Woodrow, it’s likely the earliest the full program can be offered is the 2011-2012 school year, and the IB diploma program will only be offered to students who will be juniors at that time. And that timetable is not set in stone, it’s just the earliest likely starting point based on the work that needs to be done and the approvals that need to be obtained.

• IB certificates will be available to students who pass IB courses with high-enough grades on a comprehensive final test similar to the AP tests that students take now.

• IB diplomas will be available for students who complete the IB curriculum; an IB diploma carries with it 24 credit hours of college work.

• If the program is instituted at Woodrow, the goal for each hypothetical senior class of 250 will be to award 50 IB diplomas each year, encourage 100 other students to take and pass AP tests and encourage an additional 100 students to earn dual-credit (concurrent high school and college credit) from courses offered at Woodrow. These numbers compare with about 70 students in each hypothetical senior class involved in the AP program now and about 20 students earning dual-credits — in other words, the goal is to more than double Woodrow student involvement in "enrichment" classes.

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