IB students lobby Shawnee Mission board to keep program intact

SM Northwest IB candidate Braden Pomerantz addressed the Shawnee Mission Board of Education.
SM Northwest IB candidate Braden Pomerantz addressed the Shawnee Mission Board of Education.

Dozens of proponents of the Shawnee Mission School District’s International Baccalaureate program crowded the McEachen Administrative Center Monday to deliver a message to the Board of Education: Don’t cut a program that’s enriched students’ experiences.

Students and parents who support the program began organizing vocal opposition to the idea of cutting back on the program after Superintendent Jim Hinson noted at a Super Chat at Indian Woods Middle School that Shawnee Mission was looking at changes to IB in favor of programs that offered broader college credit, like College Now and Advanced Placement.

IB, which uses a standard set of extremely challenging curriculum for 11th and 12th graders, is offered at nearly 4,000 public and private high schools around the world. It is available at SM East, SM North and SM Northwest in the Shawnee Mission district, where IB candidates move through their final two years in a closely knit cohort, attending nearly all of their classes together.

While the Board of Education had no items on its agenda Monday relating to the future of IB, proponents used the open forum portion of the meeting to make their case for keeping the program intact. The camaraderie the IB format engenders, along with the program’s focus on longer term analytical writing assignments, provide a distinct experience for academically talented students looking for a unique challenge. Those factors shouldn’t be ignored in weighing IB’s effectiveness against that of College Now and AP, said current SM Northwest IB candidate Braden Pomerantz.

“Unfortunately, college credit runs out once a student actually gets to college,” Pomerantz said. “The values of in-depth analysis and global perspectives [that IB offers] stay with a student forever.”

Brian Koon, the legislative liaison for Kansas Families for Education and a district parent, echoed those sentiments.

“When I hear that one of the signature programs of this district is on the chopping block, I get a little bit upset,” Koon said. “I was just last spring attending a presentation by an IB coordinator explaining the many benefits of the IB program, and frankly I was very impressed. It sounded like just the sort of program I want my own children to benefit from.”

The district has put forth no formal proposals on what changes, if any, it will propose for the IB program.

IB students voiced their support for the program at the board meeting.
IB students voiced their support for the program at the board meeting.