The IB Experience: Part 1

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As the school year winds down and our current seniors emerge from the hellish dungeons of IB testing, it seems like a good time to reflect on the IB experience, in all its forms. This two part article will explore perceptions and understanding of the IB program before entering it and explain what the IB Diploma and Certificate tests are like. For the first segment of this article, I spoke to several seniors including Jordan Picone and Rosa Lowenstein, both of whom have been here since sixth grade. 

When students first arrive at Obama, the impression given is that the school is all about IB. In fact, much of the true IB experience does not emerge until students actually enter junior year and the IBDP. The preceding five years are similar to those experienced by PPS students throughout the city, just with a nominal focus on certain IB associated terms and qualities. One senior for whom this was true is Jordan, who entered Obama at the Reizenstein building. He believes that, had he known what Obama’s education was going to be like, he might have instead transferred to another school to take AP classes and meet new people. Although Rosa always knew she would stay at Obama and take the IB diploma exam throughout high school, she did concur with Jordan that she was not adequately prepared for the IB program coming into junior year, even though some clarification had been given during sophomore year. She noted that her class got only “super-condensed information” about classes and the IB exams, and that many of the important points of her IB classes only became apparent to her while she was taking them. Jordan and Rosa both agreed that even though the IB program is Obama’s main selling point, the ability to skip a year of college or several courses is often severely overstated, and the IB tests are not given enough explanation when students are entering the school. Rosa believes that if some people had known more about the IB program at the beginning of their time at Obama, they would have been able to make more a conscious decision about aiming for certificates or the diploma, as well as whether they actually wanted to stay in the program at all. She did point out, though, that, given the complexity of the IB program, it is difficult for administrators and teachers to explain what the experience will be like, especially at early stages like middle school and the beginning of freshman year. Even Jordan, who is skeptical about the benefits of the IB Diploma, said that if he had known more about the IB program, he still probably would not have left, especially since most of his friends attend Obama.

Many of the other seniors I spoke with agreed that they did not have a clear understanding of the IB program before entering it, and and even for some time afterwards. This lack of clarity persists among MYP students today, and some explanation would help students make decisions about whether or not they want to take the IB Diploma exam or certificates, and even if they want to stay in the IB program at all. Although the complexity of the IB program presents difficulty in explaining it to others, it can surely be done, and a clearer understanding of the program would be beneficial to all of Obama’s students. That being said, there is no doubt that the IB program at Obama offers one of the city’s best educations, and that the program is worth it if students really put their minds to it.

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