A potential magnet-school concept is up for discussion in the Lawrence school district.
The program, International Baccalaureate, is organized through a nonprofit educational foundation with the stated goal of helping develop in students “the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.”
So far the concept has caught on in six schools in Kansas, and Rick Ingram, a member of the Lawrence school board, says it could be a good fit for the Lawrence district.
“It does focus on kids and their place in the world in a broader, more global sense,” said Ingram, a professor of psychology at Kansas University. “But it’s also a rigorous course of study that really helps kids distinguish themselves. In places like college applications, coming from an IB program is really good.”
At this point, the concept simply has been floated as an idea by Ingram during the board’s goals-setting process. Other board members have asked questions about how much the program would cost, both to enter the program and to train educators to implement the curriculum.
“It’s just an idea,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent, who is working to compile board members’ goals into a single document. “It’s a topic for discussion. … We’d have to learn a lot more about it. The first step on any kind of goal in this area would be just to investigate it.”
Ingram figures it would be worth a look, especially as the district aims to make the most of its resources. The district already has volunteers, facilitators and staffers working on the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group, studying ways to shrink the district’s roster of 14 elementary schools to either 11 or 12 within two to three years.
Why not explore implementing the International Baccalaureate program at a relatively small elementary school, he asked, in an area with relatively low enrollment? Students districtwide could choose to attend the “magnet” school to get the challenge they want.
The program would introduce a stronger version of school choice into the district, Ingram said, and potentially make more efficient use of all the district’s schools.
“It would create some additional opportunities for academic achievement, and draw some students into a particular place,” Ingram said. “I would like to think about starting it in one, maybe two schools. And if it’s two schools, maybe one elementary and one middle school.”
Among the Kansas schools taking part in International Baccalaureate: Shawnee Mission East in Prairie Villave and Shawnee Mission Northwest in Shawnee, and Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kan.