Proviso Math and Science Academy has begun the two-year approval process to start an International Baccalaureate program within the school. Last week, Principal Bessie Karvelas, along with Proviso Township High School District 209 Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart and teacher Darlyne Delaney attended a conference in Houston to start the process.

The school would be applying for the “Diploma Program” which grants high school diplomas to students ages 16-19. 

The International Baccalaureate program is administered by a non-profit educational foundation headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and affiliated with more than 3,500 schools in 147 countries. IB programs use an international “off the shelf” curriculum, according to its website. Some classwork and the “rigorous assessments” are sent to international headquarters to be graded by mail. 

Principal Karvelas has experience with IB curriculum as principal of Lincoln Park High School and Von Humbolt School in the Chicago Public Schools. 

Karvelas told the board at the March 11 meeting students from lower economic backgrounds can benefit from IB training. She showed the board statistics from CPS showing IB students achieving higher grade point averages than even students at selective schools in Chicago. 

Students who enroll in IB divide their work into three areas: Students complete an independent 4,000 word paper called the “extended essay.” Karvelas said this is similar to the internship/mentorship independent projects already in place at PMSA. Students also complete a “theory-of-knowledge” course, similar to the current Nature of Knowledge class offered at PMSA now. Students must also perform 150 hours of “creativity/action/service” – similar to service hours – over two years. 

Students also attend traditional high school classes including science, math, foreign language, literature, social science and art. Four subjects must be taken at a “higher level” honors-like class.

The application process takes two years, Karvelas said. The school is currently in the “consideration phase,” she said. A site visit from IB staff will follow. At that point the school will be given permission to train teachers, apply for authorization and eventually be verified by the IB. 

The International Baccalaureate program will cost $4,000 to apply, Karvelas told the board. For the first two “candidate” years the school will pay $9,500 a year. 

If the school is verified, the charge will be $10,810 annually. Students would pay $151 per year to register, plus a $104 fee per subject/per year. Some of these fees may be covered by Title 1 funds for low-income students. Karvelas estimated the cost for training teachers would be around $10,000. All told, Karvelas gave a potential cost of $54,640 for the first five years if the school adopted the program, plus around $10,800 per year after that.

Karvelas did not suggest that the entire school be converted to IB, but that a program within the school be started. 

PMSA is also in the process of starting AP classes, and received a $50,000 grant from the College Board to get the AP project started.

At the March 11 meeting, Theresa Kelly, a board member, asked if Proviso East and Proviso West high schools would be able to participate in the IB program. 

“It sounds like we would eventually like all of our schools to have this program,” she said. 

But Karvelas said the program was not district-wide, but was administered by individual school. Each school would have to go through the application process individually, she said. 

The IB program is used by other area schools. Trinity High School in River Forest is an IB school. Oak Park District 97 phased in the middle school IB curriculum last year. 

Karvelas said bringing IB programs to her previous schools was especially helpful to lower-income and minority students. 

“The program encourages students to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners,” she said. “[Students] understand that other people with differences can also be right.” 

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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