TPS pursuing process toward International Baccalaureate

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 If all goes well, Tecumseh Public Schools may soon be able to offer its students something that is just making its way into southeast Michigan — an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The program is well-known, however, and is available world wide.

Tecumseh Superintendent Mike McAran said the idea of an IB program was brought before the school board last spring, with the board giving a go-ahead on pursuing steps to potentially bring it about.

“It’s a two- to two-and-a-half year process,” said McAran. So far, the district has filed an interest form, along with a $3,500 fee. The next step is to fill out a 70-plus page application, a process that IB representatives will help the district complete as Tecumseh is considered. The program’s officials then determine whether there are enough interested students in the school to warrant bringing the rigorous academic program to Tecumseh.

“I first heard about this when I worked in Sand Creek, but it was a small school and didn’t have enough students to do this,” said McAran. “I heard some more about it when I was Principal at Tecumseh Middle School.”

Technology Director, Todd Thieken, said more recently, teachers brought up the idea of bringing an International Baccalaureate program to Tecumseh.

“One of the positive things is that the teachers were already exploring this when we brought this up,” said Thieken. He said the higher level academic program would help students such as those who are gifted and talented or those preparing for higher level college programs to have a more extensive background.

“We have to have the ability to give higher end students something that challenges them here at school, and at the same time let some of their creativity be utilized in school and not be held back,” Thieken said. “I think IB takes AP (Advanced Placement) one step further because of its totally integrated approach with a worldwide organization.”

McAran and Thieken and some other district representatives recently visited a school that had an IB program.

“We were in an English class, and the class had read two novels for that week and had to compare and contrast those works on the spot,” said McAran. “You have to be prepared every day.” But it challenges the students, he said. Thieken said at the end of the day, those students held a seminar period where they talked about all they had learned across all the courses that day. “It’s very multidisciplinary,” Thieken said.

McAran said that having an International Baccalaureate program might be considered something of a “gamble,” because it’s different and needs to draw a certain number of students to be successful, however he said it’s one more draw for the area.

“It’s one more reason for people who can start an industry in this area to choose to move here when they see that they can get a good education for their students,” McAran said. He said an exploration continues on whether Tecumseh could partner with Adrian Public Schools in order to have the numbers to make such a program work. Adrian has a year’s head start on the long process, but should be ready to begin within two years.

“The big hurdle we would face if we were to partner with them is that Tecumseh likes block scheduling and Adrian is trimester, but we’ll keep looking at it,” said McAran.

“What the International Baccalaureate program is going to draw is kids who aspire for those higher level classes,” said Thieken. “This would include kids who are gifted and talented, kids that we maybe sometimes don’t do as much for. This is one of those things we could do for them, kids who are looking toward a higher end degree once they get into college.” McAran said students who have set their sight on schools such as the University of Michigan, MIT, or other prestigious universities would benefit from the more intensive academic studies.

The district already has budgeted the $7,000 to complete the application process and to proceed with some other components. If the program comes about, there is extensive training required in order to teach to internationally accepted standards, and a teacher would be designated half-time specifically for the program.

“This program is taught throughout the world and is done in basically every developed country,” said Thieken. “They have a specific set of standards, not only on what is taught, but what is tested. That’s why so much training is necessary.”

The district will be educating Tecumseh families about the IB program as the process progresses, with discussions likely to take place at school board meetings as well as through school activities and counseling.

“It’s become so competitive out there, and parents want their kids to get a good education and a good job,” said McAran. “We hope this is one way that we can help better prepare students and maybe provide another draw for Tecumseh Public Schools.”

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