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Watkins Mill Cluster to Get IB 'Middle Years' Program

Board of Ed approves funds for International Baccalaureate at Montgomery Village Middle School and Neelsville Middle School.

For the past half-decade, parents in the Watkins Mill cluster have had their sights set on one step to biggest bang for the school system's buck: the middle school precursor for the high school’s International Baccalaureate program.

After years of impassioned testimony and advocacy at school board meetings and public hearings, that longing finally came to fruition as the Board of Education last night endorsed a fiscal 2013 operating budget that outlines one new outlay in its belt-tightening $2.13 billion: roughly $400,000 to bring the IB Middle Years Programme to Montgomery Village and Neelsville middle schools.

Once the specialized curriculum goes into effect two years from now, Montgomery Village and Neelsville will be the county's sixth and seventh middle schools employing the program.

International Baccalaureate’s arrival to Watkins Mill High School in the 2004-2005 school year helped engage the cluster’s most competitive students and raised the school’s academic reputation. The 1,600-student high school had been next in line as MCPS rolled out the IB precursor that prepares middle schoolers, freshmen and sophomores for the academic and philosophical sea change that is an IB education.

Then the economy soured, and budgets froze.

MCPS administrators had agreed with the advocates' pleas, but didn’t have the roughly $133,000 per school needed to launch the Middle Years Programme.

“It doesn’t feel like a lot of money, but when you’re cutting a lot of programs across the board—” said Marty Creel, MCPS's director of enriched and innovative programs.

Now, Creel said, the school system has been compelled both by parents’ outcry and by restructuring at Neelsville required by its failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress.

THE PROGRAM

All 600-plus students at MVMS will be a part of the IB curriculum, renowned for its rigorousness and emphasis on critical thinking.

“IB has a reputation as being for exceptional students. It’s not an elitist program and it’s not just for bright students; it’s really trying to make sure kids get a well-rounded education,” said MVMS Principal Edgar Malker. “It’s really about changing the way we do instruction, aligned with the way International Baccalaureate expects instruction. … It’s going to a radical change. We’re looking to transform learning for our students for the 21st Century.”

First, the schools must go through a two-year application that requires teacher training and approval by International Baccalaureate.

IB administrators have never denied an MCPS school’s application, Creel said. Presuming this application process goes smoothly, MVMS will launch IB for the 2013-2014 school year.

That’s just when Susan Young’s daughter will be starting 6th grade. For five years, Young championed the call for IB at MVMS when she was the Watkins Mill cluster coordinator and president of the Montgomery Village Middle School PTSA.

“I never thought I was going to have one of my kids see the benefit of the Middle Years Programme, but now she is,” Young said.

The International Baccalaureate program at Watkins Mill has been the linchpin of the school’s push to revamp its reputation, Young said, making it what school advocates like to call “the hidden gem” of Montgomery County. But IB could be having more of an impact, Young said.

“Part of our struggle—although this has gotten better—is that not enough kids are in the program because a lot of time parents just don’t know about it,” Young said. “The MYP, it creates a culture, this IB culture is just a way life, and then it just feeds right into the high school.”

TIMELINE

  • MCPS will apply to IB administrators this spring (for WMHS, MVMS and Neelsville)
  • MVMS will select and hire an IB coordinator to be in place by July 1
  • An administrative “leadership team” will be trained in August
  • In September, the leadership team will begin training MVMS teachers
  • The following fall, IB officials will visit the school for evaluation and feedback
  • Launch the Middle Years Programme at the start of the 2013-2014 school year
  • Once those students move on to Watkins Mill High School, expand MYP to the 9th and 10th grade
Scott Murphy February 16, 2012 at 12:01 PM
This is huge. IB is not only about rigor and college preparation, which it does second-to-none. It is also about developing thinkers, problem solvers, communicators, a global perspective, in a rapidly changing world. To bring the MYP to our middle schools will not only prepare students for success in our IB program at Watkins Mill HS, but it can also transform the adolescent years and leave students better prepared for whatever path they choose. I would also like to publicly commend the steadfast support of parent leaders in our community, such as Ms. Martha Crews, president, and Ms. Susan Young, vice president, of the Watkins Mill Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), who have been such strong advocates of this initiative for several years. Thank you!
Sharon Cranford February 16, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Congratulations to everyone who worked so hard to make this a reality. It is indeed a milestone achievement for the WMHS cluster. As a parent alum (Sean 2002 and Colin 2005) I could not be more pleased.
Pete Young February 16, 2012 at 01:25 PM
This achievement represents the best possible example of positive community advocacy, by fighting FOR what we want in our community and working in a positive way with the MCPS to achieve a goal. I hope this can become a pattern to contrast with many efforts to fight against change in our community and schools!
Susan Young February 16, 2012 at 01:55 PM
I am so happy about this! What a great, sustained effort by this community. Martha Crews and I led the fight, but the whole push started in a meeting with the wonderful principals of all of our cluster's schools, was guided by the wisdom of Senator Nancy King, and supported by the entire community. One of our proudest moments was a Board of Ed hearing with 100+ members of the Montgomery Village community, all in orange, literally standing behind us as we delivered our testimony. That was a watershed moment.
MD February 16, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Can we have a user tax for this and any other education budget? Its great that parents want the world for their kids, but non-parents shouldnt be made to pay for it. Education isnt a right!
Jeff Hawkins February 16, 2012 at 06:57 PM
This very, very good news! Congratulations to all those who made it possible! Thank you.....
Bob Hydorn February 16, 2012 at 08:34 PM
Congratulations to the Watkins Mill Cluster for having 2 middle schools approved for the IB Programs. Great work by the cluster and especially Martha Crews and Susan Young, for all of their long hours and hard work to make this happen
LenGray February 16, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Using your rationale MD, one would have to pay a tax to drive on the roadways, or walk on the sidewalks. I do not walk a lot, so why should I pay for the sidewalks, or ride a bike; I don't want to pay for the bike paths. I do not use the swimming pools or tennis courts, so why should I pay for them. Maybe, just Maybe I have to pay for them to make the county a nice place to live, increase our property values and so on. Get a life.
shewithnoname August 31, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Wow. I can't believe the parents of Watkins Mill have been so suckered by this global citizen, social justice programme. The IB MYP has NOTHING to do with improving academics. Zero, nada, zilch. www.truthaboutib.com
shewithnoname August 31, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Of course, "guided by the wisdom" of a Democrat. You should be ashamed of yourself, pushing this highly charged political indoctrination on children and the taxpayers of Montgomery Cty.
Bob Hydorn August 31, 2012 at 06:19 PM
WOW, who woke you up after all these months? May I ask where you got your information that it will not help to improve overall education for our students?

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