Saturday, January 17, 2004

Critics of the International Baccalaureate program at Reston’s Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School have focused on the program’s promotion of cultural egalitarianism, pacifism and what they say is its anti-Western bias.

“Administrators do not tell you that the current IB program for ages three through grade 12 promotes socialism, disarmament, radical environmentalism, and moral relativism, while attempting to undermine Christian religious values and national sovereignty,” Jeanne Geiger wrote last year in the Reston Connection, a local newspaper.

Mrs. Geiger opposed her children being enrolled in International Baccalaureate (IB) classes at South Lakes. “The proposed sociological ‘outcomes’ follow politically correct thought and behavior assessments,” she said.

Rena J. Berlin, Fairfax County’s IB coordinator at Langston Hughes Middle School, said she knows Mrs. Geiger and other critics “very well,” but believes “that all students who learn how to think globally, how to make connections between subjects, and how to ‘learn how to learn’ will be better prepared to be IB diploma students when they get to 11th grade.”

Mrs. Berlin said her school has “students from around the globe. … ”

“Our IB programs dig deep into education and the feeling of the community, and the programs make us part of our world.

“After all, it is our students who will change the world and we need to allow them to be the fine citizens of America and the world that they have the potential to be,” she said.

Mrs. Geiger and a friend, Anne Hall of Reston, have rallied opposition against the IB program for several years.

Mrs. Hall echoed criticisms of parents at Woodson High School in Fairfax — where the IB program was dropped — that most U.S. colleges and universities award course credit to incoming freshmen only for high-level IB courses “similar in difficulty to the Advanced Placement (AP) courses.”

On IB exams, she noted, high school students are scored on a scale of one to seven and Fairfax County recognizes four as a passing grade. For AP exams, students are graded on a scale of one to five and Fairfax County recognizes three as a passing score.

But colleges set the bar higher, Mrs. Hall said.

“More selective institutions only award credit for AP exam scores of four and five, and high-level IB exam scores of six and seven, and will not consider any standard-level IB exam scores.”

She added that “some schools will not award any IB credit unless the student has earned the full IB diploma,” which requires them to take more than six required IB courses, write a 4,000-word extended essay like a college thesis, and do 150 hours of extracurricular activities or community service during 11th and 12th grades.

“Information from eight Virginia universities shows that an Advanced Placement exam score of three has a 52 percent acceptance rate, a higher-level IB exam score of 4 has a 33 percent acceptance rate, and a standard-level IB exam score of four has a 2 percent acceptance rate.

“Parents and students who do not have six-figure incomes or trust funds available for college tuitions will be interested in this distinction,” Mrs. Hall said.

Sandra Wade Pauly, IB North America’s university and government liaison, acknowledges that “IBNA has always faced a unique challenge” in convincing U.S. colleges and universities of the worth of its “holistic and interdisciplinary approach” to learning.

She said IBNA is funding a push to convince more colleges and admissions officials to accept its high school diploma program.

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