CARLSBAD — Despite parent praises and encouragement from the city’s mayor, the Carlsbad Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees decided not to expand the IB (International Baccalaureate) program.
Before looking to spread the academic program to more schools, trustees stated that the administration needed to dedicate its focus and finances to other district initiatives, primarily lowering class sizes.
“The door won’t be closed (on expanding IB), but we need to get this class size thing down,” said Trustee Ann Tanner at the Nov. 13 meeting. “We are in the middle of trying to reduce class sizes at the moment and it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
At the urging of parents and Mayor Matt Hall, the Board initially asked staff to provide information on what would be required of the district to expand the IB program to the middle school and high school levels.
Run by a nonprofit education organization, IB has established programs for students ages 3 to 19 that culminates with subject-based tests that are accepted by some colleges and universities for credit, similar to Advanced Placement tests.
The IB program, which incorporates foreign language and rigorous academic classes, debuted in CUSD at Jefferson Elementary School in 2006. Since then, the school’s Academic Performance Index scores have risen, and faculty, teachers, and parents have stated repeatedly that the program contributes to enhanced student learning.
Hall pointed to the program as a marker of academic success in his 2013 State of the City address earlier this year.
Stephanie Brown told the Board that her daughter became excited about school for the first time when she started attending Jefferson Elementary.
“She goes to school with a smile on her face and she comes home with a smile on her face,” Brown said, attributing her daughter’s excitement to the IB program.
Another parent said that because of the IB program at Jefferson, her children have developed a sense of, “I can jump into any problem and solve it.”
But in order to expand the program to a middle school and high school, the district would need to dedicate extensive resources to its development.
District staff explained that it would cost anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 annually in the first few years of implementing the program to hire a site coordinator of the program, train staff, and cover program and testing fees. Sustaining the program in later years would cost at least $100,000 each year.
Laurel Ferreira, who coordinates the IB program at Jefferson, emphasized to the Board that there were funding options and support resources available to help the district start the program at other schools.
Data from other high schools that utilize the IB program showed that fewer students participated in and finished the program than in the AP program, according to staff. In one high school with 2,600 students, about 2 percent of the students completed the IB program.
While the Board recognized the achievements of the IB program at Jefferson, trustees expressed that taking on expansion of the program is better left to future years.
“Finances are obviously an issue when it comes to IB,” Tanner said, highlighting the program’s expense compared to the number of students who completed it at the high school level.
“We don’t want to bring in brand new things in the middle of the year,” said Board President Elisa Williamson. She pointed out that bolstering the IB program was not part of the goals set by the Board for the current school year.
Yet trustees did express interest in exploring funding possibilities in case the Board reconsidered expanding the program during the next school year.