Milwaukee Public Schools expanding its International Baccalaureate offerings to students

Like Advanced Placement, IB offers students a chance to earn college credits

MacDowell Montessori IB High School has expanded its IB classes to middle school. Corri Hess/WPR

Last spring, Marquese Gladney and his MacDowell Montessori IB High School classmates researched domestic violence.

“We learned there are different types of domestic violence — you can be controlled or suffer in silence,” Gladney, 14 said. “And we learned what the signs are.”

The group hung up posters across the school that included information for domestic violence shelters.

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Other students ran a clothing drive. Another group held a bake sale for a Milwaukee homeless shelter.

It was all part of an eighth-grade capstone project for MacDowell’s International Baccalaureate, or IB, program.

By the time these middle schoolers are juniors and seniors in high school, they’ll be able to take college-level IB exams, not unlike Advance Placement exams, that could earn them college credit.

Wisconsin is expanding its IB offerings to high school students looking to challenge themselves and earn college credits before graduation.

MPS has added three more schools to the program, now offering 11 IB sites with 15 total programs. MacDowell just expanded its existing program to include middle school.

In Wisconsin, there are currently 34 IB programs offered in 25 different schools, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Andrea Corona, principal of MacDowell, said the difference between AP and IB is that IB is benchmarked internationally.

“The coursework and the tests our students are taking are the same exact ones students are taking in England, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe, China, so you know at the end of your 12th grade year that your students are globally competitive,” Corona said. “It’s a different curriculum. There is a lot more emphasis on global citizenship and global mindedness.”

International Baccalaureate was founded in 1968 in Switzerland for the children of diplomats. The program is now in more than 5,000 schools in 156 countries and territories.

Adding middle school at MacDowell will help students prepare for the work and projects they’ll do in school, and help teachers design more rigorous work, Corona said.

For example, now that Gladney is a freshman, he will spend his time in IB biology and IB health learning how stress impacts the brain and body and how to manage it.

Typically, about 10 percent of MacDowell’s 340 IB students take all the exams. But Corona said most students take at least one of the tests. MPS pays testing costs for students who receive free or reduced lunch, which is about 75 percent of district students.

Gladney plans on taking at least the math and biology test, and maybe history. But his teachers are hoping he’ll take them all, including Spanish and art.

“We really feel strongly that access to this type of curriculum is the best preparation for post-secondary work, whether it be college or an apprentice,” Corona said. “Our goal is to figure out what our students want for the future. And we try to remove obstacles for them through academics and programs to achieve their goal.”