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IB program integration takes place at 3 Federal Way schools

The International Baccalaureate (IB) program, a highly intensive rigor-oriented program at Thomas Jefferson High School, will now receive students who are familiar with the challenging program, thanks to the inclusion and certification of the IB's Middle Years Programme (MYP) at Kilo Middle School and Totem Middle School.

This certification and alignment is the end game of several years of work, according to Christine Baker, principal at Totem Middle School.

"We've been working on this for several years," she said. "We were all candidate schools during the process. Getting all the schools to work together, to understand the Middle Years Programme criterion, assessments, all the other parts of the program. It was a completely different way to look at teaching and learning and cooperation from sixth through tenth grades."

The IB program's website describes MYP as "designed for students aged 11 to 16. It provides a framework of learning which encourages students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers. The MYP emphasizes intellectual challenge, encouraging students to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and to the real world. It fosters the development of skills for communication, intercultural understanding and global engagement, qualities that are essential for life in the 21st century."

"It's really about transforming all three schools with a common goal of rigor and acceleration, and getting more students to become IB diploma students in 11th and 12th grades," Baker said.

Baker added that the three schools' work to be certified for this program should not have much impact on the district's upcoming adoption of Common Core Standards, a federally mandated educational framework that will be rolled out over the next couple of years.

"What we've been doing, and will continue to do, is to make sure there are not two separate things going on in the schools," she said.

Margaret Peterson, principal at Kilo Middle School, said she feels the three schools' inclusion in MYP furthers the district's overall goal of making its students global citizens.

"You're part of something that's bigger than the school, the district or the state, because it's global. These are standards that are important and beneficial to kids, because it helps our students to think beyond Federal Way. It's that global approach to learning," she said.

The culmination of this project is also something fairly unique in her extensive career as an educator, Peterson said.

"In order to do this, we had to work closely with Totem and TJ. Our teachers are starting to get to know one another, and we're achieving vertical alignment from grades 6-12. I've been in the district for 25 years, and I've never seen it happen yet," she said. "I think this is going to take all three schools a big step up to the next level. (The MYP and IB are) just good preparation for life."

Liz Drake, principal at TJ, also sees this most recent certification as an important step for making sure Federal Way students are well prepared for life beyond Federal Way.

"(IB) is an amazingly prestigious program that enables students…with an IB diploma certificate, in some cases, they can get into a university as a sophomore," she said. "It's very well thought of in universities. The students who are on this IB track are being prepared for that diploma program from sixth grade on."

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