Robin Ye is a recent graduate and former Student Body President of the International School of Beaverton. He will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall, where he plans to study Economics and Political Science. As a member of the Oregon Department of Education Youth Advisory Council in 2011-2012, Robin participated in education public policy discussions and discovered his passion for education reform.
“IB For All.” That is the motto at the International School of Beaverton (ISB). The teachers swear to it, parents buy into it; the students live it day in and day out. ISB is a unique school, in theory and in practice. The “I” in ISB comes from its unprecedented goal: to fully immerse every ISB student in the full International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
For five grateful years I attended ISB, graduating this past June with the fruits of my labor: the IB Diploma. Comparable to its American Collegeboard mainstream counterpart – Advanced Placement (AP), the IB Diploma Program is a rigorous, standardized worldwide curriculum offered in more than 140 countries. The IB Program is a balanced and challenging two-year foray into six subject areas – Literature and Language, Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, the Arts – and three other “core requirements,” otherwise known as the bane of IB kids’ existence.
To attain the IB Diploma, students – in addition to their regular coursework – must participate in extracurricular experiences to fulfill Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) hours, write an in-depth research thesis focusing on a subject they are studying, and take a Theory of Knowledge course “designed to encourage each student to reflect on the nature of knowledge by critically examining different ways of knowing (perception, emotion, language and reason) and different kinds of knowledge.” Of the six core courses, at least three are expected to be taken at a more intensive “Higher Level” difficulty. Finally, at the end of the two-year program students partake in a 3-week testing marathon covering all that they have learned in the 11th and 12th grade. Is that what I really just completed?
In May, it seemed that the rest of the country became aware that we were doing something right. For a school that has no sports team to rally around and is often designated as “not a real high school,” this was a resounding achievement for the growing ISB community. ISB isn’t an easy place to explain or understand, but it’s certainly a school to keep an eye on. ISB is a public 6-12th grade school “option” school in the Beaverton School District, with the criteria of admittance being simply whether or not your number was pulled out of a lottery. It’s hosted in the remains of a former elementary school and located in a lower-income, higher-minority area in Aloha, Oregon. It’s reaching capacity with a student body of over 800 (400 in the High School) and, if rumors hold true, could be the last IB Program offering school in Beaverton in the near future. It is already the largest Diploma program in the Pacific Northwest.
With the Beaverton School District – the 2nd largest district in the state – in financial shambles, it’s not surprising that private schooling becomes an ever more enticing and reliable option for those who can afford it – or for those who can’t afford it, but see no other alternative for their children’s schooling. As some families have told me, a spot at ISB is truly like “winning the lottery.”
As my friend, poet, fellow cat-lover and commencement speaker Jake Kane said about IB at our graduation this June:
“The outlook for our generation is dismal.
The state of the world is abysmal.
It is up to us to make everyone see that the world is home to more than just you and me. In essence, though it pains me to say it, we’ve got to teach the whole world ‘bout IB, and its focus on global perspective, so we can all engage in collective changes that will, over time…
Create a thriving utopia that’s free from conflict and hunger, so we focus on more fun things… like rhymes.”