Johnson City Schools conducting nationwide study to try to bolster IB program

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – Johnson City Schools is in the midst of a nationwide review of successful International Baccalaureate programs to figure out how students at other high schools are earning IB diplomas while few at Science Hill High School are doing the same.

As we reported in May, only 19 out of 184 SHHS students earned IB diplomas since the program’s inception more than a decade ago, which is the equivalent of a 10% success rate. Following our investigation, the Johnson City Board of Education directed the new superintendent to come up with a strategic plan.

“We’re looking at basically, what are successful IB high schools doing in the nation? Not just in Tennessee,” Johnson City Schools Communications and Instruction Director Dr. Debra Bentley said. “What are they doing to recruit students and to retain those students throughout the IB program? We want to find out what can we do to maintain those students. What supports and props do those students need?”

Since our report in May, four more students earned IB diplomas, according to Dr. Bentley. In addition, 22 students have signed up for IB this upcoming school year compared to 15 the year before. It’s too soon to tell how many of those students will earn IB diplomas.

Dr. Bentley admits the diploma numbers are too low, especially considering the city has invested more than $350,000 in the high-level, two year college readiness program over the years.

“It is time for us to step back now,” she said. “Our ultimate goal is to increase the numbers of students who do pursue the IB diploma. Science Hill High School has the opportunity to increase the numbers.”

No one has argued SHHS’ IB program benefits some of the district’s brightest students. Those who secure diplomas earn scholarships and college credits. However, some have questioned the overall return on investment for the district and whether the school system has marketed the program effectively.

Dr. Bentley says the district’s study will take three to five months to complete. The study will culminate with a recommended plan of action presented to the new superintendent.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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