In its one decision Monday to allow Memminger Elementary to transition into an International Baccalaureate school, the Charleston County School Board did several good things.
It gave parents, and the school principal, what they asked for.
It gave the struggling school a path to recover the academic respect it once enjoyed.
And if the school does its part right, the board gave students an opportunity to begin their education in a program that sets high standards and rigorously enforces them.
An IB program, well executed, could lure back to the downtown school families that long ago Memminger for public schools with better scores — or for private schools. Memminger officials expect to have about 200 empty desks when it re-opens in its new building this fall.
Community and parent support are critical to the success of a school, and a reinvigorated base of support should help Memminger.
The process of being approved as an IB school isn’t easy or quick (it can take three years), but the principal is eager to get started.
Memminger might also face some obstacles thrown up by the community. Families worried about the children who would not be successful in such a difficult program need assurance that those students won’t be shoved aside. IB isn’t for everyone, and most schools that offer the program also offer a less strenuous course of study.
The community also needs to understand the IB program itself.
It was created in 1968 to provide a quality education for children of European diplomats who weren’t living in their home countries. As such, it has an international perspective. Those who stick with it and graduate with an IB diploma have succeeded in a broad curriculum that includes foreign languages, research, and “service learning.”
IB has its critics. Some don’t like that the curriculum is globally focused instead of reflecting a purely western perspective. They say it is un-American that students are taught about being good world citizens as opposed to being good American citizens.
The fact is, the two are anything but mutually exclusive. Surely skeptics should realize that the United States, when seen in the context of the world, will hold up just fine.
And surely there is no way an international curriculum will shortchange the nation that remains a world leader.
Critics also fear losing any local or state input to an international formula.
It is that consistency that appeals to some parents, however. It’s been done over and over all across the world, and it works.
The world for most students entering first grade is small — their family, their friends, their neighborhood, maybe a trip out of town. They have a long way to go before they’ll be analyzing different forms of government or comparing world cultures.
But a strong IB program can give those young students the tools they will need to take on such challenging assignments before they graduate.
And before they are accepted to — and enter — college.
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