McAllen, TX's International Baccalaureate Program
A decade after becoming the first South Texas school district to produce International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme graduates, McAllen Independent School District aims to bring the programmes to all of its schools by 2014.
The academically rigorous International Baccalaureate programmes encourage students to take a globally informed view in all of their studies, adopt international perspectives and appreciate cultural diversity, and develop original and critical-thinking skills along with a passion for lifelong learning.
IB graduates can also earn college credit, with public universities in Texas granting at least 24 credit hours for a student with an IB Diploma.
McAllen ISD, with funding and support from the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation, chose IB after considering several different programs to give students an advanced, competitive edge.
Since MISD opened the IB Diploma Programme for 11th and 12th grade students at Lamar Academy in 2001, it has become an IB district, with many of its elementary school campuses adopting the Primary Years Programme and five of seven middle schools adopting the Middle Years Programme.
Today, the program's 99.4 percent diploma success rate makes it one of the premier programs in the world.
Lamar Academy IB Coordinator Marissa Sarabando says it's a model catching on throughout the region, as well.
“Along with growth in our district, at least three other IB programs have been developed in neighboring communities and school districts,” says Sarabando. “The merits of an IB education are evident in the Rio Grande Valley region.”
Back to School
Lamar Academy 11th grade IB History Teacher Samuel Friedman says the programme's standards are tough, and he should know. Friedman graduated from the program in 2005 and returned to his alma mater in fall 2013 to teach. He credits the program's rigor as "the best part" of taking IB classes.
Friedman says IB students bring an eagerness to dig deeper into subjects, allowing him to focus on teaching "the useful side of history." Knowing his students will do the background reading and other work he assigns gives them more time in the classroom to explore and analyze events far beyond traditional instruction.
“I always know it would be the kind of place I'd like to work," Friedman says. "It’s very nice to teach at a school where, by and large, kids want to be there."
Appreciation for the program extends to many of Friedman's peers. A series of McAllen ISD IB graduates participated in a video now on the district's website. In it, they thank the district for providing the program and credit it for their success at colleges including the University of Texas, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard.
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