Telluride Mountain School plans to adopt a two-year International Baccalaureate program for grades 11 and 12 to be implemented beginning in the fall of 2017.
Amy M. Peters, Planet Contributor Mar 11, 2016
According to the International Baccalaureate Organization, a not-for-profit educational foundation, there are more than 4,000 IB schools around the world. IB programs are offered through several public schools in Colorado but TMS would be the first independent school in the state to offer the IB diploma.
Founded in 1998, TMS serves about 100 students in pre-k through high school. Currently, there are about eight students in each of the upper school grades at TMS.
The IB Diploma Program, established in 1968, organizes teaching and learning through six subject groups: studies in language and literature, language acquisition (at TMS that is Spanish), individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts. The diploma program core aims to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills by requiring a theory of knowledge course, through an extended essay (an independent, self-directed piece of research culminating in a 4,000-word paper) and through a creativity/activity/service component where students complete a project related to those three concepts.
Implementing an upper school IB program requires training for about a third of TMS staff. According to Associate Head of School Andy Shoff, the feedback TMS received from exploratory focus groups last year was “the strongest positive (they) ever see.” The community is “exceptionally excited” and teachers are open to the transition to IB.
“However, teachers do have questions,” Shoff said. “What does this mean for the culture of the school? For me as a teacher? That takes some training, some education. Some work time.”
A critical piece of the IB program that appeals to TMS is the learner profile, where students strive to be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.
Head of School Karen Walker points out that TMS already has an encompassing experiential education program across all grades beginning with the preschool and kindergarten Montessori program, which serves children ages 3 to 6 in multi-aged classrooms. She says that in conjunction with the switch to IB for 11th and 12th graders, TMS will “step up intentionality” in grades one through eight via its Global Citizens Program.
In order to accommodate the new IB program, Walker says, TMS may have to scale back certain existing programs. For example, a three-and-a-half week trip to Southeast Asia may have to be reduced to two weeks. For juniors and seniors, two days of skiing during the week may have to become just one, particularly for students pursuing the diploma.
Ultimately, says Walker, the switch to IB is not a change of direction for TMS. Rather, she says, it’s a continuation of what they already do. Except now they will receive important recognition from an esteemed, external evaluation.
Jesse McTigue, upper school English and history teacher, agrees. Now that she has completed the online class work required to teach IB history to juniors and seniors, she understands how the IB coursework clarifies the IB mission. The only real change in teaching will be in what she emphasizes in the history curriculum and how much.
“As far as the rigor, TMS is known for rigorous academics,” said McTigue. “The quantity of work is in line with what we already do. The focus is on depth versus breadth. And the learning is already aligned with our experiential trips. It’s not radically different. It’s just a remodel.”