International Baccalaureate World School Status is a rating that is not casually doled out, so it is a privilege to qualify for such a high certification. This is a common consideration for parents when selecting a high school to ensure their children have access to best college-prep courses and the highest academic standards. While it is fairly common for high schools to have IB Certification, it is much less likely for primary and middle schools to qualify.
However, there is an effort afoot to grow the number of IB qualified primary and elementary schools nationwide. Recently, An elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama was the first in its area to qualify for the coveted certification. This certification is important because it recognizes schools who’s teaching methods and curriculum meet rigorous standards and who’s students attain superior levels of academic achievement.
Last week, the Cornerstone school in Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood got a letter from Geneva, Switzerland. The letter welcomed the pre-K through eighth grade non-profit Christian school to International Baccalaureate World School status – making it the first IB elementary in the Birmingham area.
The distinction means rigorous standards for the Cornerstone School kids, and an emphasis on critical thinking skills rather than rote memorization. Also, students will be challenged to understand their role in society, and the world.
“We know that our world is small, and that our children are growing up in a very fast world with lots of technology, and it’s not just about us here in Birmingham, Alabama,” Nita Carr, the school’s executive director, said in a press conference at Cornerstone School on Monday. “We have to not only educate our children to thrive in a world that’s become very small, but also understand that world. And so we joined with the International Baccalaureate organization in Geneva, Switzerland.”
Carr said the school chose to pursue IB status three years ago due, in part due to the school’s core values: Excellence for Christ, excellence for our kids, excellence for education.
“We look at those, and we said, if we’re going to be excellent then we think we need to do the International Baccalaureate process.”
“International Baccalaureate schools have huge, hard standards – they are rigorous, but the children thrive in it,” Carr said.
The IB Primary Years Program curriculum is meant to expand upon the standard subject learning students encounter in elementary school, and is centered on six “transdisciplinary themes”: Who we are, where we are in place and time, how we express ourselves, how the world works, how we organize ourselves, and sharing the planet. The program allows students to begin learning at least one second language from the age of seven.
Carr gave an example of how the school was addressing the “how we express ourselves” aspect of the IB framework: “Our four-year-olds this year did a huge art exhibit, and they could tell you about every artist you could imagine, and how they express themselves through art,” Carr said. “On the other hand, our fourth graders were writing stories, and they were talking about how they express themselves through storytelling.”
“We don’t just teach the basic facts, we help the students understand what those basic facts mean to them in this world.”
There are three other IB schools in the Birmingham area: Hoover High School, Jefferson County IB, and Ramsay High School, which begins its IB program this fall. Phillips Academy in Birmingham is currently working towards gaining the IB primary program.