Fredericksburg City Public Schools will begin to phase out the International Baccalaureate program this upcoming school year, division officials announced Monday.
The division will not participate in the primary and secondary IB programs during the 2021–22 school year and will offer only the Diploma Program to junior and senior high school students. The high school IB program will end after the 2022–23 year.
“Considering the opportunities and challenges FCPS students and staff face going forward to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not feasible to continue to focus on the complex needs and requirements of the elementary and middle school IB programs,” a news release from the division states. “IB compliance, training, and management demands are considerable.”
Division Superintendent Marci Catlett and Deputy Superintendent Matt Eberhardt said the decision was made following a year of listening to teachers, parents, students and community members.
Teachers must undergo extensive training for the IB program, which emphasizes global awareness, self-reflection and interdisciplinary studies. Eberhardt said it was challenging—and expensive—to keep up with training requirements in the midst of the pandemic, with teachers also scrambling to adapt to virtual and hybrid instruction.
Training cost the division $500 per teacher—more for the weeklong, in-depth training sessions, he said. Turnover and pandemic disruptions left between one-third and one-half of division staff untrained.
Enrollment in IB classes at James Monroe High School, which were first offered in 2016, has been low, according to the release. In addition, there has been a steady decline in literacy and math scores division-wide over the past five years, Eberhardt said.
“Is this because of IB? We don’t know,” he said. “But we do know that IB teachers have to have lots of training and spend lots of time planning IB course curriculum and that may have distracted planning and teaching time that could have been devoted to math and literacy.”
The division sent out a survey to the school community earlier this year about the IB program.
Eberhardt said there were about 140 responses. They generally indicated “a mediocre response to the quality of IB.”
The surveys did note the benefits of IB, which include the development of a global and local awareness for students, rigorous content and cross-curricular instruction. The division is looking to continue offering these benefits by expanding AP course offerings, dual enrollment, internships and virtual options.
“We want to keep the global awareness and the beauty of looking at the whole child—and the self-reflection piece, which is critical to teachers and students,” Eberhardt said.
Fredericksburg began offering the IB middle years program in 2017 and the primary years program in 2019. The only other school division in the state that has offered the IB program in grades K-12 is Falls Church.
Catlett said Fredericksburg can go through the process of becoming reauthorized to offer the full IB program at any time “if appropriate.”