by Rob Gira, Executive Vice President, AVID Center
The International Baccalaureate Organization is an important ally in AVID’s efforts to provide rigorous opportunities for all students. Like AVID, IB includes K–12 structures, with examination opportunities at the high school level. IB offers more than examinations, however. The IB curriculum is inquiry-based and aims to produce students who are college and career ready, a great connection to AVID’s standards. Also similar to AVID, IB has benefited from the research of Dr. David Conley, perhaps our most pre-eminent thinker on the topic of college and career readiness. The International Baccaulaureate’s focus on student development in its primary years, middle years, and diploma programs is an excellent complement to AVID and we co-exist and even collaborate effectively on many campuses, especially middle and high schools.
We are preparing an upcoming additional blog featuring best practices involving AVID and IB, which we think will be useful for practitioners.
Despite a solid working relationship between the two organizations, educators are occasionally confused when they are offered the opportunity to implement both AVID and IB. It is AVID Center’s position that IB and AVID are complementary approaches, and we welcome the opportunity for AVID students to participate in IB coursework and exams, whether they are pursuing the IB diploma or not. That philosophy is shared by Bob Poole, the Regional Development Specialist for the IB Americas region. In this role, Mr. Poole has served as a liaison to AVID Center and has presented at our National Conference. Bob was, for many years, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator, at a large and diverse comprehensive public high school in Canada, so he understands IB at a grassroots level. He also works to help colleges and universities recognize IB and gain better understanding of its approach.
I recently asked him to participate in an interview to help dispel some of the myths associated with AVID and IB working together. I think you will see in his responses that coordinating our efforts is not as challenging as we sometimes make it. As a long-time staff member at AVID as well as a former IB principal, I think it is critical that we leverage our efforts so that we have more on-ramps for students and fewer off-ramps. That’s the AVID way.
Gira: Why are you such a believer in the collaboration of IB and AVID?
Poole: Both organizations have a similar goal for the success of students. This includes college success, life skills, and approaches to learning that will serve for a lifetime. We (AVID and IB) recognize the potential in all students. We focus on the student as the center of the process. We deal with the whole child and provide the framework and the opportunity through which students can learn to be successful. Thus it seems that collaboration is just natural. Working together we can help more students to success.
IB provides a widely recognized, rigorous curriculum and assessment scheme that gives AVID students the perfect opportunity to demonstrate and apply the skills they have learned through AVID. The teaching practices in IB classrooms, the emphasis on learning skills and the many options for students to work towards their strengths all come together to allow AVID students to make that final step to post-secondary admission and success. IB has ample evidence that IB students are admitted, retained, and graduate at higher rates than the general population and those statistics include many students in IB schools with AVID strengths behind them.
See CPS study for example.
Gira: What are the common myths associated with IB?
Poole: The most common myth is that the IB is only accessible for a small number of elite students who already have high GPA’s, college level skills, and reading and writing ability beyond the norm. IB has a great deal of evidence to the contrary. There are countless stories throughout the IB world of students from highly disadvantaged backgrounds starting with minimal skills and knowledge who have grown through their IB experience to success and admission to selective universities. Amongst our alumni you can find moving stories of the difference created in their lives by their IB experience, much like the ones you can hear from AVID students. The IB is taking many steps to be sure that access is available to all. We have a great deal of evidence that disadvantaged students do well in IB given the opportunity.
Gira: What can we do in the AVID world to help more students gain access to and succeed in the IB program?
Poole: In some quarters there is a culture of misunderstanding. Some schools and teachers do not see AVID and IB as natural allies but rather have an ‘us and them’ viewpoint—these classes are not for “those kids”. In some schools that is the view from both AVID folks and also from IB folks. However I would like to emphasize the “some”. There are many, many IB/AVID schools. The numbers are growing rapidly. Amongst these schools the teachers do assume that IB is a good goal for AVID students. The AVID and IB Coordinators work together, with administrative support, to make this pathway functional and successful for students. One of my goals and I think AVID’s as well is to make available, to the many schools that ask, examples of schools that have successfully integrated AVID students into IB classes and the Diploma Programme. So specifically in answer to your question, within AVID we need greater understanding of the real nature of IB programmes and the value added that they can provide to AVID students. It is a challenging programme, no doubt, but quite appropriate as a placement for AVID students to demonstrate their strengths.
One of our challenges will be to work together to find ways to integrate some aspects of our expectations so that the limits set by scheduling constraints in schools do not exclude students from participation in both programs. We both have well-defined expectations with regard to classroom experience and participation. In a limited school day this can create difficulties that we should consider. There must be ways to develop models that will allow an easier collaboration that still meets the organization expectations, within the typical schedules available in schools today.
Gira: What are some of the exciting new opportunities that IB is generating?
Poole: Current focus in the IB is on the continuum; ensuring that we have a consistent integrated pathway through the grades with one programme leading on to the next with students carrying skills and attributes forward that will lead to success as they advance through the grades. This emphasis on the continuum is reaping all sorts of benefits for teachers, students, and school culture. A part of this focus has led to changes within the Middle Years Programme (MYP) that will bring it more directly into this continuum and will provide an excellent base for students moving into Diploma courses or the full Diploma Programme. The continuum is cross pollinating good practices throughout the K–12 years. Attributes from the Primary Years Programme (PYP) are now central to all programmes. Approaches to Learning (ATL), first developed in the MYP are now a part of both PYP and more importantly the Diploma Programme. Teachers in grades 11 and 12 will also be expected to work with students on ATL as they have done in the earlier years. Approaches to Learning will be familiar to AVID students and teachers although perhaps by a different name.
For more on AVID and IB, see: AVID and IB: Success with a Schoolwide Approach and Course Placement: Why Do We Need to Understand the Process?.
Mr. Poole’s initial involvement with the IB was as the Diploma Programme Coordinator at a large comprehensive public school in Canada beginning in 1986. Through the late 1980’s and the 1990’s Mr. Poole’s involvement with the IB grew steadily along with the growth of the programmes in schools in the United States, Canada, and around the world. Since 2000 Mr. Poole has been on the staff of the IB Organization and currently serves as Regional Development Specialist for the IB Americas region, working to increase understanding and recognition of the IB Programmes among universities and governments. He also is the IB Americas liaison with the 39 Associations of IB World Schools in the Americas with whom the IB works in partnership to further recognition in specific parts of the region.