By Meredith Pruden

In 1982, North Atlanta High School was the first school in the southeast to offer its students the International Baccalaureate Programme and the only school to do so for more than a decade, according to Dean of Academics and eight-year IB teaching veteran John Denine.

Founded in 1968, The IB Programme is administered by the International Baccalaureate Organization and is in actuality a trio of age-specific programs: Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Programme offered at NAHS. There are now nearly 2,000 schools in 124 countries offering the programs to more than half a million students.

Unlike the PYP and MYP, which are mandatory to all students at participating schools, the NAHS Diploma Programme is voluntary. However once enrolled, students are expected to take only IB coursework.

“That raises rigor and gets kids thinking about the world in much different ways,” Denine said regarding the full school approach of PYP and MYP. “It’s a real world education.”

The education can begin as early as 3 years of age in the PYP and ‘focuses on the total growth of the developing child,’ according to the IBO Web site. It does so through an interdisciplinary approach that studies more than simply academics and frames each topic on three questions, according to the IB Web site: “What do we want to learn?”; “How best will we learn?”; “How will we know what we have learned?”

The MYP considers the ‘middle years’ to be grades six through ten, which requires Sutton Middle School to partner with NAHS creating what is essentially one school under two roofs with two principals, which Denine said he considers an excellent opportunity for the separate administrations to work together toward greater achievement. The MYP highlights the importance of critical thinking and active participation in the modern global environment and also mandates several additional core subjects that must be taught including art education, physical education, technology and world language.

It will soon be possible that by the time a student enters the Diploma Programme at NAHS he or she already will have received eight or nine years of world language instruction, according to Denine. Once at NAHS, students can choose from among French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese to either continue already learned instruction or begin instruction on a third language.

“We’re the only school public or private to offer all of those languages, and we’re really proud of that,” Denine said.

In the end, Denine said the reason to choose the IB programs is the high level of college preparedness its graduates have thanks in no small part to its interdisciplinary, problem solving approach to modern education that also emphasizes a student’s personal responsibility in his or her learning.

“IB trumps every other thing I’ve found,” Denine said. “I would not teach, or work or send a kid to a school that wasn’t IB. It asks for a much higher level of accomplishment. You know you’ve got it if you come out of this program.”