A controversial advanced learning program for high school students will be pulled from the Coeur d’Alene School District.
The school board voted 4-0 Monday night to end the district’s affiliation with International Baccalaureate, an optional course of rigorous study intended to give students a deeper understanding of world affairs and help them prepare for college.
It was an expected outcome for a program that has come under increasing scrutiny and criticism by some that its lessons are tinged with leftist and un-American ideas.
IB classes ranging from chemistry to Chinese language to art and music will be eliminated at Lake City High School after juniors and seniors currently enrolled complete their studies.
The school board previously spared IB, but turnover on the board left it vulnerable this year. Two new members were elected last year, and two others were appointed in recent months to seats vacated by resignations.
Board members said the IB program falls short in its enrollment, test scores, available college credit and costs. The Advanced Placement program at Coeur d’Alene High School is a better value, several said.
“In times of diminishing funding, it has to be recognized that we may not be able to afford to be all things to all people,” Board Chairman Tom Hamilton said. He added, “I’m not a believer of choice at any cost.”
Several teachers and one former student urged the board to spare International Baccalaureate and commit to improving it.
“This program is an exceptional educational system. It is the best that I’ve ever encountered,” said Derek Kohles, a Lake City social studies teacher. “I am concerned that we are moving backward if we take away this program.”
Kohles told the board that students in IB go on to better schools and have better success than those in the AP program. “Different programs work better for different students,” he noted.
Dr. Alison Granier, a 1998 Lake City High graduate, said she was far less prepared for college than fellow students who took advanced education courses not available to her. The district should find ways to boost the enrollment and performance of IB, she said.
“It’s very short-sighted and very crippling to our community to do otherwise,” Granier said.
Some critics of IB have attacked its lessons for promoting what they see as a liberal or socialist agenda influenced by the United Nations.
Hayden lawyer Duncan Koler, a leading opponent, told the board Monday that IB is full of “concepts that are politically charged, such as social justice, sustainability. These are code terms.”
He also said IB is a waste of tax dollars. “Never has so much money been thrown at so few students to produce so few results,” Koler said.
The district has spent nearly $1.35 million on IB in the past nine years, including for curriculum costs, training, subscription fees and staffing. Last year the program cost $50,630.
“We’ve spent a lot of money on very highly motivated, very capable students and put them in very small classes,” Koler said. “We’ve practically tutored and coddled the best and brightest of our kids.”
Whatever misgivings school board members may have about the IB curriculum, they sidestepped that debate Monday and focused on lackluster student performance and enrollment as reasons to toss the program.
Just 54 students in the district were enrolled in IB last year, half as many as in AP. Courses with exam results above the worldwide average were 31 percent in IB and 58 percent in AP this past year.
An IB “primary years” program started a year and a half ago at Hayden Meadows Elementary School may be in the crosshairs next. School board member Terri Seymour asked the district to “take an objective look” at the value of that program, in a process similar to one that led the board Monday to kill IB at the high school level.