The Georgia Board of Regents has not fully appreciated the value of the International Baccalaureate diploma, according to Thomas B. Lockamy Jr., superintendent of the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, who objects to its being downgraded in comparison to Advanced Placement courses offered in state schools.
The IB diploma, which is recognized in 138 countries, is not given the same academic accreditation as Advanced Placement courses in Georgia even though some of the world’s most outstanding universities do so, Dr. Lockamy said at a World Chamber of Commerce symposium held in Atlanta Oct. 28.
During a panel discussion titled “The Disconnect Between Education and Business,” Dr. Lockamy lamented the level of education U.S. students were receiving in comparison to students elsewhere, and he cited test scores showing that U.S. students ranked 29th among nations in science and math proficiency.
In a telephone interview with GlobalAtlanta, he later said that students who take the IB courses should receive weighted credit because these courses are more challenging. “Students who want the HOPE scholarship know that it is easier to get by taking less difficult courses,” he said. HOPE scholarships require a 3.0 grade average.
By not supporting the IB programs, he also said that the Board of Regents hurts financially disadvantaged students who are enrolled in the programs. He argued that if a disadvantaged student successfully completes the IB program, he or she should be awarded a year of college credit, thereby saving the state from having to spend a year’s worth of HOPE funds for that student.
Jason Buelterman, the IB program coordinator for the Savannah-Chatham County school system, added in an email exchange with GlobalAtlanta that the state does mandate quality points to a student’s grades for IB classes, which apply to the HOPE scholarship.
“The issue is, however, that this is not sufficient motivation for a student to engage in IB classes,” he said, especially because the student can opt for a less challenging Advanced Placement course.
An IB student, he said, is required to take six IB classes as a junior, six more IB classes as a senior, complete a 4,000-word research paper and a rigorous philosophy course in addition to completing 150 hours of community service work outside the classroom.
Such students, Mr. Buelterman said, receive the same amount of credit as a student who takes only two advanced placement classes as a junior and one as a senior. “This leads many students to get out of the IB program, especially those concerned about the effect of such a rigorous course of study on their eligibility for the HOPE scholarship,” he said.
According to Dr. Lockamy, some of the most outstanding universities in the world, such as Tokyo University in Japan and Oxford University in England, provide full credits for IB courses. Closer to home, he said, the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla., has provided IB graduates with college credits and has a track record of their superior performance on its campus.
Meanwhile, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is moving ahead with the expansion of the IB program in the elementary, middle and high school levels in addition to the IB programs already in place. Dr. Lockamy may be reached by calling (912) 395-5585 or by sending an email to Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about the IB, click here to watch GlobalAtlanta’s interview with Monique Seefried, chair emerita of the International Baccalaureate board of governors.