CAPE ELIZABETH — The high school is exploring the possibility of becoming an International Baccalaureate school.

The School Board unanimously approved a stipend for social studies teacher Sarah Harrington to lead a group of eight teachers to study what the program would mean for Cape Elizabeth High School and possibly apply to the IB program next year.

No changes would be made to the 2018-2019 school year curriculum. 

IB programs challenge students to excel in their studies and encourage personal and academic achievement. Much like an Advanced Placement exam, students would take an externally scored test at the end of the year. 

In a memo sent to interim Superintendent Howard Colter, Principal Jeff Shedd called the International Baccalaureate a “challenging and internationally recognized curriculum” used worldwide. 

“Compared to the Advanced Placement program, the IB program tends to emphasize self-reflection, student inquiry and research, and a more in-depth, interdisciplinary approach to learning,” Shedd said.

School Board Chairwoman Susana Measelle Hubbs said she’s excited to see the high school looking into the possibility.

Up to a maximum of $2,000, based on the hourly rate in the collective bargaining agreement, will compensate Harrington for her work. Those funds will come from the high school’s fundraiser-supported student activity account, which is outside of the school budget and will not impact any school accounts, according to Shedd. 

He said he asked Harrington to lead the IB study because of her interest in curriculum, her experience teaching Advanced Placement U.S. History and her leadership experience, which includes chairing the social studies department. 

Harrington stepped down as department chairwoman to accept the new position. She will be replaced by teachers Mark Ashe and Mary Page, whose stipends were also approved by the School Board. 

So far, Harrington said the committee has met twice to review general materials about the IB; generate initial thoughts, questions and concerns, and talk with experienced IB educators.

The plan is to continue these discussions and visit some participating schools in the region.

According to the program’s website, more than 4,500 schools worldwide deliver IB programs. Among those are  Kennebunk High School, Greely High School in Cumberland, and Gray-New Gloucester High School, which were IB-authorized in 2007, 2009 and 2012, respectively. 

“We hope to have a parent and student presence on those site visits and during the reflection afterward,” Harrington said Feb. 27. Three members of the committee will also attend introductory IB workshops in April. 

Kennebunk High School IB Coordinator Bruce Lewia said enrollment in AP courses has also increased since the IB program was added to the curriculum.

“It’s not one or the other,” he said. 

This year, 99 of the high school’s 170 seniors are enrolled in at least one IB course and eight are pursuing a full IB diploma, which means taking a course in every “area of knowledge” offered through the program. Enrollment, Lewia added, fluctuates every year. 

At least 14 teachers teach an IB course and some teach more than one, according to Lewia. Since becoming authorized, every teacher who joins the high school is trained through the program, so even if they don’t teach one of the IB courses, they’re aware of what’s going on. Ninety percent of teachers have been trained so far. 

“We’ve really embraced it as a school,” Lewia said. 

If CEHS embraces it, Harrington said the committee will prepare a presentation to deliver to department chairs, faculty, and the School Doard.

“Right now it is too soon to say where our work will lead,” she added. “No matter what comes of our efforts, for me it’s exciting to be part of the intellectual exploration of an internationally renowned program.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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