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Rigorous new program planned for North High

May 22, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Twenty-nine sophomores have been accepted to take part in the first year of a rigorous new program several years in the making, North Hagerstown High School's director of International Baccalaureate said.

According to Kevin Jackson, who will oversee the program at North High, 35 to 40 sophomores applied to become part of Washington County Public Schools' inaugural IB class. The program, which is open to juniors and seniors, offers a complete curriculum that is on par with college-level classes, he said.

Students in grades eight to 10 around the county who are interested in IB may contact the school about joining the program, Jackson said.

"I give the analogy it's like taking your first year of college while you're still in high school," Jackson said.

According to information provided by International Baccalaureate Organization, the program requires students to study six subject areas, including languages, the arts, sciences, math and computer science, write an extended essay of 4,000 words and commit to 150 hours of creative, physical and service activities outside school. The diploma, which students earn through final-exam scores, is recognized at universities around the world.

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Linda McPheron, a diploma manager in the organization's New York City office, confirmed Thursday that IBO has granted North High permission to go ahead with the program. According to the International Baccalaureate Programme Web site, 1,131 high schools, including 479 in the United States, offer the Diploma Programme.

According to a school system staff presentation to the Washington County Board of Education last year, study groups that met several years ago to suggest new programs for the school system first recommended establishing an IB program. Estimated costs to the school system include a $4,500 application fee, $1,500 for the first level of training for IB teachers, $8,180 to cover an affiliation fee, $5,000 for materials and $8,000 for teacher workshop compensation.

According to Jackson, the school system also will cover half of the cost of fees for students' exams, which are graded by examiners trained by IBO. The tests are given to students in their second and final year of the program, and according to presentation estimates, they would cost the school system $435.

In addition to the sophomores who have applied, 24 ninth-graders and 32 eighth-graders have been accepted into the program, Jackson said. Though the program will be open only to juniors next year, Jackson said underclassmen who live outside North High's enrollment area may apply for special permission to transfer to make their transition easier.

The school's application requires candidates to explain the contributions they could bring to the areas of creativity, action and service, and it asks them to discuss a time they faced a great challenge that required them to plan ahead to succeed.

According to Jackson, students of many backgrounds can benefit from committing to the demanding program.

"These kids don't have to be straight-A students to do this. They have to be ... motivated and hard-working," Jackson said.

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