Telluride Mountain School to offer IB program this fall
By AMY M. PETERS, Planet Contributor Feb 9, 2017
After three years of preparation, Telluride Mountain School officially was authorized as an International Baccalaureate World School on Jan. 9.
The only independent school in the state of Colorado to offer the program, TMS will launch the IB Diploma Program for grades 11 and 12 beginning this fall.
All juniors and seniors will participate in the program. IB will replace current “honors” courses in the junior and senior years and there will be regular and higher levels within the new IB curriculum. Freshmen and sophomores still will be able to take honors classes.
“To go for the IB diploma is a big deal,” said Head of School Karen Walker. “It’s taking and passing six international exams and you have to take three higher-level courses.”
If students elect not to take the diploma, they don’t have to take the higher-level courses, and they may choose the individual IB exams they wish to take.
“Next year’s seniors will take IB courses,” Walker said. “But will not be eligible for the IB diploma given they were not enrolled in the IB program as juniors.”
Associate Head of School Andy Schoff, also a math and science teacher, is the lead administrator of the IB program.
“We’ve engineered the entire curriculum of course offerings and will now develop a calendar of assessments both internal and external. Because these assessments are big projects, we want a calendar to dovetail all assessments. The timing is critical and they can’t all happen at once.”
In implementing the IB program, Schoff was determined to maintain key TMS values —namely, travel and experiential learning — which are not necessarily key components of the IB curriculum.
All juniors and seniors will take the same core classes: Creativity, Activity and Service, The Extended Essay and Theory of Knowledge, which Walker will return to the classroom to teach.
“I’m having to grow. This is definitely pushing me out,” Walker said. “It’s what we’re asking all of the IB teachers to do.”
Since the Daily Planet reported on the school’s plans for the program last spring, 10 teachers have been certified in Level One IB instruction and are currently “piloting” the curricula they submitted for the rigorous authorization process.
For example, Emily Durkin, math and science teacher, is piloting an honors biology class for three seniors this year in anticipation of teaching IB biology to juniors and seniors next year.
“It’s a little bit of piloting and it’s a little bit choice of pursuit,” Durkin said. Her students elected to study neurobiology, which IB students probably won’t study next year.
“Because we live where we do, we will opt for the ecosystems unit over the neurobiology unit,” said Durkin.
Ross Perrot, Spanish teacher for grades 7-12, will be teaching IB Spanish for grades 11 and 12 next year. He said that the IB Level One training he completed last year was “one of the most beneficial faculty professional developments I’ve ever done.”
Jesse James McTigue, who will be teaching IB History for grades 11 and 12 next year, agree. From a professional standpoint, McTigue sees opportunity in the IB program.
“When my kids go off to college,” said McTigue. “I can see spending a sabbatical year teaching at another IB school across the world.”
Perrot has already adapted his teaching to the IB and is “guinea-pigging” his students, using IB exercises in class this year. He finds the IB formalized assessments to be very thorough. Teachers themselves grade work internally but send samples out to IB for validation. In a small school like TMS, almost all student work will be sent to IB for evaluation as high, medium and low samples.
The IB program provides teachers with themes to guide curricula through the year. Previously, Perrot said his teaching approach was comparatively “hodge-podge” in that he instructed in grammar, vocabulary and reading but didn’t necessarily tie these elements together.
“We think that this curriculum will lift the general tenor of our academic program,” Walker said. “The kids in lower grades will be looking ahead and saying, ‘Oh, we have that diploma program coming’ and they’ll be seeing the caliber of work that the juniors and seniors will be doing and that will raise awareness of what strong academic work looks like.”
In terms of affecting outreach, the school may attract new students, though there is not a lot of room. Walker claims that TMS is not looking for additional revenue from increased enrollment because the school already raised money to absorb the cost of implementing the program.
“When you invest in a new program for a school, there are start-up costs,” Walker said. “I consider that a capital investment. That said, we are looking at program investments for all grades.”
The biggest upside to the IB program, said Schoff, is a “unified, common direction. We are now an IB World School with a shared destination.”