Over the past decade, DePaul has developed a close relationship with the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as a natural expression of its mission-based commitment to educational opportunity in the city.
From the university's perspective, the decision in the late 1990s to expand access to the IB within CPS middle and high schools was encouraging, as it would provide more students with access to a college preparatory education and all the corresponding long-term personal and social benefits. Since that time, DePaul has worked consistently with many of the IB schools and administrators within CPS. Campus programs were developed (jointly with CPS in some cases and DePaul-specific in others); admission, placement and credit policies were reviewed; and systems were put in place to track the performance and outcomes of CPS IB students who enroll at DePaul.
In spring 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a substantial expansion of IB in Chicago Public Schools. By 2016, it is expected that one in 10 CPS students will be enrolled in the IB at the Primary, Middle Years, Career Certificate or Diploma levels. This is a significant development with important implications for schools as well as universities.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a non-profit foundation with a mission which aims to "develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect." The IB provides a continuum of educational programs for students between the ages of 3 and 19, designed to develop the intellectual, personal and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world. Founded in 1968, there are now more than 1 million IB students in 146 countries.
Although the IB began in Europe, there are now more IB schools in the United States — more than 1,400 — than any other country. Nearly half of those schools offer the IB Diploma, a comprehensive and challenging academic program designed to prepare students for success in university and life beyond. The program was originally developed for the children of diplomats and its early growth in the United States tended to be in relatively affluent school districts. But within the last 10 years, access to the IB has broadened considerably, demonstrating that high-quality education need not be restricted to an affluent few.
IB and CPS
In 1980, Lincoln Park High School within Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was one of the first schools in the country to offer the IB. Partly based on the success of that program, the IB was extended to more neighborhood schools in the late 1990s as a high-quality alternative to the city's selective enrollment schools. The program expanded to 14 high schools across the city, including Amundsen, Bogan, Clark, Curie, Hubbard, Hyde Park, Kelly, Lincoln Park, Morgan Park, Ogden, Prosser, Senn, Steinmetz, Taft and Washington.
Although the programs were typically small, they attracted students from predominantly low-income and first-generation families, as well as students of color. And as data from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research showed, these students made significant educational gains. In March 2012, the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research released "Working to My Potential: The Postsecondary Experiences of CPS Students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme," which detailed the academic and behavioral skills demonstrated by IB students in the city and the impact the program was having on college access and success.
Shortly after the release of the consortium's report, the mayor of Chicago announced a major expansion of IB in CPS. Chicago already had the largest concentration of IB offerings of any urban school district — now the number of Diploma program schools in Chicago is projected to grow to 22.
The IB presence in the Chicago area extends beyond CPS. Trinity College Preparatory High School in River Forest established an IB program in 1994 and other schools offering the IB include the British School, Hales Franciscan High School and Homewood-Flossmoor High School. In 2013, Gordon College Prep, a Chicago Catholic high school, applied for IB candidate school status.
The DePaul Partnership
DePaul attracts and enrolls IB graduates from across the country and internationally. However, as a Catholic university with a long-standing commitment to higher education opportunity, particularly for students from first-generation college families in Chicago, it was only natural that DePaul would take a lead in reaching out to IB schools in Chicago. What has emerged is a partnership grounded in a decade-long conversation with IB administrators, coordinators, teachers and students.
It is a partnership that continues to evolve and includes the following core activities:
IB course recognition policies. DePaul faculty conduct an extensive biennial review of IB curricula to update placement and credit policies. DePaul's IB policy has a number of features including the recognition of Standard Level (SL) and Theory of Knowledge (TOK) coursework for possible college-level credit as well as a sliding scale (rather than an all-or-nothing) approach where appropriate (as in the case of languages). The policies also include recommendations to meet with faculty advisors as needed to determine course placement.
Pre-college programs for IB students. IB students in CPS are well prepared for college in terms of academic skills and behaviors. But many are from first-generation college families and often do not have access to the social and cultural capital other students may take for granted. To help mitigate the effects of this reality, DePaul has worked closely with IB coordinators and teachers to develop and implement a number of programs to enhance IB student awareness of college-level academics and the college admission process, including:
- The week-long oral history workshop on migration, In Our Own Words, for IB students from immigrant families who have just finished their sophomore year. Participants explore issues of migration and identity, interview family members and present their immigration stories.
- The four-day IB Summer Academy, administered by CPS and hosted by DePaul, which is a direct response to the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research report that IB students are qualified for selective college admission but often lack good information and support concerning the selective college admission process.
Professional development. DePaul has hosted several regional conferences, professional development workshops and other programs for IB teachers and administrators. Most recently, the College of Education launched a professional development initiative with IB Middle Years teachers at several CPS elementary schools and is preparing an application to offer the IB Educator Certificate program at DePaul.
IB Students at DePaul
DePaul has typically enrolled between 40 and 50 IB graduates from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) each fall for several years. This represents almost one in 10 of the IB graduates from CPS. DePaul's experience with IB students is largely consistent with the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research findings. IB students are well prepared to succeed in first-year courses, particularly those requiring extensive writing. They are accustomed to a high degree of academic challenge and have already acquired strong academic behaviors such as organization and help-seeking skills. They also report making considerable use of the natural networks of other IB students and even former IB teachers from their schools as a form of both academic and social support.
Despite the fact that IB students from CPS are from predominantly low-income and first-generation families and have an ACT average that is typically two or three points below that of other DePaul freshmen, IB students at DePaul have higher retention and graduation rates than other CPS graduates and DePaul freshmen as a whole. IB students for the last several cohorts are retained at a rate of over 90 percent, and graduate in six years at a rate over 70 percent.