Anna Pavichevich (far right)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson announced the expansion of International Baccalaureate (IB) and Early College STEM (Science Technology Math and Engineering) programming at eight neighborhood schools throughout the city on Tuesday.

Through this new investment, 3,800 more students will get access to the high-quality academic programs.

Fiske ES and Amundsen HS will expand their IB programs to serve all of their students. Belding ES, Little Village, and Pickard will launch new IB Middle Years Programs.

Additionally, three high schools will transform into Early College STEM schools. Students at Crane, Solorio, and Infinity will be able to access 21st century STEM curriculum, earn college credit and work toward an associate degree for free while still in high school. These three high school will partner with a city college and an industry leader to help develop unique curriculum that prepare students for careers in science and technology. External partners will also provide mentorship programming, internships, and other work-based experiences for students. Through ECCS, students will have a head-start on earning a college degree and graduate more prepared to explore careers in science and technology.

The IB programme has been a part of Amundsen HS for nearly two decades. Expansion of both the IB and Middle Years Programme for the high school was announced Tuesday. Principal Anna Pavichevich participated in a Q&A to explain the benefits of IB, and why she decided to transform her high school into a Wall-to-Wall IB school.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How long has your school offered the IB programme?

A: Amundsen HS has had its International Baccalaureate Programme since 1999 and MYP (Middle Years Programme) since 2003.

Q: Who specially are these two programmes for?

A: There’s something called the Primary Years Programme and that is for younger children to grade five. Then grades 6-10th is the Middle Years Programme.

When you’re entering an IB programme through the district for the purposes of school selection like a magnet program, then that happens in ninth grade. Some of the kids may or may not have been in one of those programmes in seventh or eighth grade, but when they enter high school, they come with the intention that for 11th and 12th grades, they’re going to go into the diploma programme.

Q:  Can you discuss the benefits for students who take part in an IB programme?

A: This is a highly rigorous educational experience, but it’s standardized across the world. It’s one that is tested not only by time, but by millions of students who have engaged in the program around the world.

It’s very aligned with Common Core. That’s number one. It’s very aligned to preparing students for success. Universities all over the country and the world give credit to students who have passed IB assessments.

Schools look very highly on students who have engaged in an IB programme. There’s a lot of data to show schools are more likely to accept IB students than students who have not gone through IB.

For example, at DePaul University, if you have earned an IB diploma, students could be issued enough credits to amount to waiving their freshman year. You get credit for all of those classes. Every college or university in Illinois gives credit to students who have either earned certificates or earned the IB diploma.

Q: In what ways do instructors push students?

A: An IB programme really pushes inquiry. There’s something called the IB Learner Profile and  there are characteristics. They want students to be inquirers, reflective, balanced, risk-takers, caring, open-minded, good communicators, honest, have principles, act with integrity, and more. It’s not about being just good students, it’s about being active, compassionate and lifelong learners.

Q: Can you give some classroom examples? How exactly are they learning? How are teachers making sure they comprehend the lesson beyond memorization?

A: For example, the art class isn’t only about producing pieces of art. It’s about creating art that they’ve researched. It might be connected to a certain type of art. It is really driven by artistic theory and the students need to be able to write and analyze art using knowledge about artistic theory.

An art project is going to include doing research, it’s going to include creating the actual piece of art and it’s also going to include a deep analysis of the art connected to actual art theory.

In IB they give us a series of exams over two years that cover a variety of skills that lead toward that final score in whether or not you’re demonstrating proficiency or mastery.

You’ll take some of your courses, some of your assessments your junior year. They’re called internal assessments. It could be an oral exam you do with a teacher. In music, they’ll give a historic period in time and tell you to write a song. So students have to show proficiency collectively in all the areas of the diploma program so English, math, social sciences, art, music, world language.

Q: Are all students given the same assignments or do teachers work with each student differently?

A: A big part of IB is that it’s inquiry based so students get to find their own path. First semester sophomore year, students do a personal project in their English class. They pick a topic that has meaning to them and then do the research. They have to do the analysis on it and they need to be able to create a presentation and present to a group who then score them and provide feedback.

From very early on, students are pursuing things that interest them. For example, in math they might need to create their own problem and create their own project around a mathematical concept they’re showing. It’s a lot of inquiry and individual choice.

There’s also a lot of overlap so there’s collaboration among teachers. One day you may see the physics teacher outside with the P.E. teacher. Maybe they’re having the students calculate the trajectory of something.

Q: Why do you think IB programmes are so important?

A: We really need to develop a future generation of students who are looking outside of their phone screens. One of the concerns I have about this generation is that they’ve become really introverted or inhibited by their use of technology so that they’re not taking an opportunity to lift their heads up, look around and see everything. Nobody is really communicating and so this really pushes kids outside of their own boundaries.

Q: It sounds like students who participate in IB programmes are encouraged to look beyond college. Is this true?

A: Yes, and so there’s a big disconnect between high school and college sometimes. Although we prepare kids for scoring well on the SAT, we’re maybe not necessarily preparing kids to have the tenacity that they need in order to be successful or really to do the kind of writing that’s expected of them in college.

Q: What are some of the biggest differences between schools with IB and those without?

A: It’s called the International Baccalaureate program and so it’s very international minded. In order to earn the diploma not only do you need to pass the assessments, but you need to have done a certain number of community service hours that are not unlike the CPS service learning hours.

This is really designed around promoting an international understanding, creating a better world through education where students are going outside of their own needs, benefits, communities into the larger global context of understanding their kind of place in the world.

Everything they’re learning isn’t about getting them into the best college they can go to. Everything they’re learning is really about making them better global citizens.