Parents in the North Atlanta school cluster say they want to make sure that all students have a chance to succeed academically, not just those headed toward International Baccalaureate classes.

“I think a universal theme that we heard over and over again was a focus on improving performance of all of our students,” NAPPS co-president Jane Rawlings said at a North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools meeting on Nov. 16.

The majority of the discussion involved the growth of the International Baccalaureate curriculum and the long-term strategies to implement the program to ensure the success of every student.

Members of a panel composed of members of school governance committees, called GO Teams, from eight schools in the cluster told NAPPS members that all teachers should be certified to teach gifted classes. Some representatives said their school’s three-year plans call for every teacher at their schools to be gifted-certified by 2020.

Jackson Elementary GO Team member Maria Diedrich said with all teachers becoming gifted-certified, the quality of education every student receives should increase.

“I don’t see it as a negative that we’re going the IB route because now you’re going to have ideally smaller classroom sizes because you have additional teachers and teachers with this additional certification that can only benefit the kids,” Diedrich said.

Laura Troup with Sarah Smith Elementary’s GO Team said there is a focus on making sure every student is making substantial progress throughout the school year, regardless of whether they are enrolled in the gifted program.

“We’re paying close attention to all levels of achievement to make sure that that happens,” Troup said. “With these upcoming IB changes, we know that it’s extra important.”

Lisa Jern of North Atlanta High School’s GO Team said that while the high school graduation rate for native English speakers is 85 to 95 percent, the rate for those who English is their second language is only about 50 percent. “That’s a population we can’t ignore,” Jern said.

The IB curriculum provides students with six subjects, including math, science, a second language and the arts, write a 4,000-word essay, perform 150 hours of community service, and a “Theory of Knowledge” course over two years.

The curriculum places an emphasis on critical-thinking skills, and gives students the chance to earn more than a year of college credit. The IB exam is recognized in over 120 countries around the world as a university entrance credential.

Kevin Wade, a member of the Sutton Middle School GO Team, said IB diplomas are allowing students in North Atlanta public schools to attend top colleges, including Ivy League schools.

The Next NAPPS meeting is Jan. 18 at noon at Jackson Elementary School.

–Justin Fedich