Saturday, January 17, 2004

Parents and teachers at Woodson High School in Fairfax succeeded in ousting the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate curriculum.

This is the first year that college-bound Woodson students are no longer enrolled in the European program pushed by the United Nations and have returned to the U.S. College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program.

“The school was an AP school. They were just in the process of converting over to” the IB program, Fairfax County School Superintendent Daniel Domenech said of the Woodson battle that started in 1999.

There was “a significant backlash against the IB program” as he became county superintendent, Mr. Domenech said in an interview.

Woodson parents and teachers rebelled because they found that IB’s required standard-level courses making up half the curriculum’s two-year high school diploma program were not accepted by top-ranked Virginia colleges that their highly achieving children aspired to attend.

“It is the death knell,” E.J. Nell Hurley, mother of four daughters in Fairfax public schools, said of the IB program.

Mr. Domenech credited Mrs. Hurley, an unsuccessful candidate for the Fairfax County School Board in elections Nov. 4, for leading the fight to remove the program from Woodson.

“The admissions director for the University of Virginia told us, ‘If you are at an IB school and you are not going for the IB diploma, don’t waste your time applying to UVa. or any other top-rated schools. Your child’s application will go to the bottom of the admissions pile,’” Mrs. Hurley said in an interview.

She said the University of Virginia gave just nine academic credits to a J.E.B. Stuart High School graduate with an IB diploma, after two years of IB courses, while the university gave her oldest daughter, Ellen, 36 credits — a full year of college work — for AP courses taken at Woodson.

Mrs. Hurley said her younger daughter, Caitlin, told the J.E.B. Stuart graduate: “You did all that work and you got nine lousy credits?” She then said: “Mom, I’m not going to do all that work and get so little recognition for it. It’s not worth it.”

Bradley W. Richardson, director of IB North America in New York, said that while many colleges do not give credit for standard-level IB courses, “over 150 universities in North America now give credit for the full IB diploma and, therefore, are giving credit to standard levels.”

Mrs. Hurley said she was inspired by teacher Susan H. Shue, chairwoman of Woodson’s social studies department. Mrs. Hurley said Mrs. Shue stressed that IB was usurping control over the school program.

“She had the guts to stand there in front of the brand-new principal and the area director,” Mrs. Hurley said of Mrs. Shue. Mrs. Shue did not wish to be interviewed.

Mrs. Hurley said Mrs. Shue told school officials that “because the whole school has to become oriented around the IB program, the master schedule has to run around the IB students. … That’s part of the requirement to be an IB school, that the IB diploma is the premier drive on running the entire school, and it hurts every other student.”

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