The International Baccalaureate program, a curriculum model adopted by Napa’s Bel Aire and Mt. George elementary schools, is growing by leaps and bounds worldwide.

More than 300 new schools were authorized to offer IB programs in 2012, and more than one million students are attending nearly 3,500 IB World Schools across the globe, according to the International Baccalaureate foundation. As of 2012, the IB program was being offered in 144 countries, up from 132 in 2008.

Founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate is a not-for-profit foundation that offers four educational programs for children ages 3 to 19.

It puts a strong emphasis on “inquiry” and encourages students to develop independence and take responsibility for their own learning. The curriculum is meant to incorporate local and global issues, and students also have the opportunity to learn a foreign language.

At Bel Aire, Mandarin Chinese is the “second language of the school,” and students attend Chinese class once a week. At Mt. George, students take Spanish.

As an example of the “in-depth learning” provided by the IB program, Bel Aire principal Janine Burt described how Bel Aire’s fourth grade students spent six weeks studying ecosystems during one school year. Their lessons included a field trip to study marine life at the Marin Headlands, presenting their findings to their peers and parents, and creating their own textbooks by using classroom iPads.

Burt said the IB program is only just starting to gain popularity in the U.S., but the program is “very prestigious worldwide.”

It’s not uncommon, she said, to receive a call from a parent who has lived or worked overseas and is looking for a local IB school.

“IB is that hot ticket that they want,” Burt said.

Making it official

Burt, who is in her third year at Bel Aire, implemented the International Baccalaureate program at both Bel Aire and Mt. George. Several years ago, Mt. George was being considered for closure due to low enrollment, and Burt — as principal at the time — searched for programs that could help distinguish the school and attract more students.

Mt. George, which is no longer struggling with low enrollment, received official authorization from the International Baccalaureate foundation in 2011. Later that year, the school changed its name to Mt. George International School.

Bel Aire is seeking authorization from the International Baccalaureate organization so that it may officially adopt the “IB Primary Years Programme,” which is aimed at preschool and elementary school-aged children.

A team from the IB foundation will be visiting the school in September or October to observe classes and review the curriculum, Burt said. The team also will talk with parents, students and teachers. Their findings will then be reviewed by a committee, who will determine whether or not to grant authorization.

If approved, Burt said it’s unlikely Bel Aire will undergo a name change, but the school may add the subtitle, “An IB World School.”

Test scores

Last year, both Mt. George and Bel Aire exceeded the state’s goal on standardized tests and earned Academic Performance Index scores above 800, despite markedly different demographics. The state’s goal is for each school to reach 800 points on a scale that ranges from 200 to 1,000.

Mt. George earned an API score of 888. Only 2 percent of students are English-language learners at that school, and 11 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, according to the California Department of Education.

Bel Aire earned an API score last year of 806. Out of nearly 500 students, 40 percent are English-language learners and about 70 percent receive free- or reduced-price lunch, Burt said.

If Bel Aire can make adequate yearly progress on this year’s standardized tests, the school will be pulled out of Program Improvement — a designation the elementary school has been under since 2007 for failing to meet test standards.

Adequate yearly progress is a statewide accountability system set up by No Child Left Behind, which requires each state to ensure that all schools, districts and student subgroups make progress in math and English. Student subgroups include students who are socio-economically disadvantaged, English learners and students with disabilities.

If a single subgroup fails to make adequate yearly progress two years in a row, then the whole school is put in program improvement. Program improvement applies only to schools that receive Title 1 funds. To be eligible for Title 1, schools must have a large percentage of low-income students.

Burt said that making adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years “is going to be a challenge,” but she feels confident in her students’ abilities.

The IB program, she said, changes the way students think about learning and provides them with more confidence, determination, and resilience.

“It teaches them that, ‘If I work hard enough, I can learn anything,’” Burt said.

(18) comments


This sounds like a scam on the kids, families and taxpayers. Another shocking and uncertain game NVUSD is playing using our kid as pawns to avoid criticism for its total failure to educate our children. Instead of old fashioned good teaching we get this series of experiments in education to see how to confuse the public and cover up for totally failing education and test scores. The district is panicked and totally without leadership. It's like the coverup of the capital appreciation bonds dumped on us by the district to manipulate the tax rates and bankrupt taxpayers. Read the front page article in the Thursday Chronicle.


*Scores at these two schools are above the required level.
*Teaching by the inquiry method and using critical thinking is good old-fashioned teaching. Rote learning is never remembered after a test!
*The public is not confused.
*Test scores have never been higher at Bel Aire.
*The district is not panicked.
*The bonds were voted for in an election and a public committee oversaw the use of the funds. The funds were also earmarked and could not be spent outside of said earmarks.
*Tax rates have not been manipulated.
*Nothing about good educational practices is shocking.
Please tell us what experience you have had, aside from being a student, in the realm of public education and strategies you believe should be implemented.


Excellent, another Californian willing to be skeptical of the glowing accolades heaped upon an outrageously expensive "program(me). A scam and a sham, I concur.

IB claims to promote "inquiry". However, anyone who dares to INQUIRE about IB's content, finances and affiliates, is immediately labeled a conspiracy theorist, xenophobe, paranoid, ignorant, right-wing fundamentalist nutjob, etc.

Food for thought - IBO has partnered with the Aga Khan's Development Network to put a more Islamic face on its educational "program(mes)". The Aga Khan claims to be a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed.


The education system in California is a shell game run by the teachers union. The game changes constantly to confuse the students and families just like in the carnival shell game it always succeeds in hiding the elusive prize of success (quality education). The losers are always the students, their families and the taxpayers. The only choice families have is to get their kids into private schools. Poor families have no choice and their kids suffer for the rest of their lives with failed educations.


The teachers' union is made up of teachers. They are the members. Do you know any teachers? You certainly underestimate the intelligence of parents. Are you a parent? Tell us about yourself.
publiusa: Do you believe in chem trails, the illuminati, haarp, that the government is controling weather and causing earthquakes and hurricanes, and Beyonce flashed signs of he who must not be named at the Super Bowl???


OMG! This is not a political brainwashing plot, that is absurd! They do not force politics and if there ud anything I disagree with my kid can opt out of that project, I have a child at Mt. George and the big difference there has been independence, technology and innovative approaches to problem solving..,if you call that brainwashing why not call any form of education the same... It called teaching! Treating children like individual thinkers rather than sheep and allowing individual growth rather than a factory lime production!


Having had the pleasure of working in an IB school for five years, I can assure you there is no communist plot. There is in depth study, inquiry-project based instruction, where worksheets are minimized. Skills ARE taught, through an integrated structure of curriculum delivery. Students are taught how to think, not what to think and yes, this intimates some teachers and parents. Students are taught how to ask a wide variety of questions. This also intimates some teachers and parents. They are also taught the importance of respect, responsibility and integrity. It is true that it is not a curriculum that one pays for; there is a structure for teachers to design the curriculum, providing an opportunity for curriculum ownership and learning from each other. It is very hard work, and many teachers find it too difficult. (Teaching from a scripted text book is much easier!) If followed, IB provides an enriching experience for students and teachers.


sidesaddle said:

"Students are taught how to think, not what to think and yes, this intimates some teachers and parents. "

While I think she meant "intimidates", not "intimates", the "Students are taught how to think, not what to think" is just one of IB's many specious and empty claims. Allow me to rattle off a few more:

* The point is not the point.
* Less is more
* IB creates lifelong learners and global citizens
* AP is a mile wide and an inch deep. IB is an inch wide and a mile deep.
* critical thinking, not rote memorization

At the elementary level, the CURRICULUM in public schools is generated by the State Department of Education. IB teaches "values and attitudes". There is absolutely zero scholarly evidence that the IB PYP or MYP improve student academic achievement. Zero.


Wow...thank you folks for the details. So much for taking the article at face value! (I know..should know better by now!) Sounds like parents really do need to research the program to be sure it does fit with their own family values and culture.



Glad to see that there is one independent thinker left in California, good for you. Teacher35 and I have nothing to gain financially by sharing what we know with others about the IB organization and its "programmes".

On the other hand, IBO has to pay its Director General $600,000+ a year, maintain his 3 homes and its two new global centres .........


Both my kids go to Mt. George, one will graduate this year and has been there since kindergarten, and I can assure everyone there is no more brainwashing there than anywhere else. The Parent Club pays for many of the IB "extras" and we continue to excel at the same standardized tests that are administered to every elementary school in the state. So get off your soapboxes and open your minds a little. There's no nefarious plot to brainwash our kids. Far from it. They're encouraged to think outside the box, to do things a little differently, and we have some pretty awesome results to back it up.


What a shame.... the parents don't get that this program is UNESCO brainwashing for world government under the UN? How sad.

See what damage it has done in a district in NH. This website dissects all the stuff you are NOT told about the program.

Also ObeserverNY is correct in her research.


IB is a "non-profit" organization based out of Geneva, Switzerland. IBO is an NGO of UNESCO. This article is misleading, from the headline which includes the word "curriculum", to the need to emphasize IB's global footprint vs. its actual popularity in American public schools.

There are only 348 IB elementary schools in the entire U.S. Since March, 2009, 25 U.S. elementary schools have dropped the IB PYP. I wouldn't exactly call that "growing by leaps and bounds".

IB is also outrageously expensive. On average, it costs approx. $200,000 per year, per site, to host IB. The PYP is nothing more than a "framework" of themes that uses constructivism as the pedegogy. It is not a curriculum, many IB PYPs use Rosetta Stone for the 2nd language (an additional purchase).

Btw, in the 9 years that I have spent researching IB, I have never encountered a school that was turned down for IB authorization, as long as the checks were good.


When I was doing my student teaching in Sacramento, the high school was just implementing an IB program. Another school I taught at in Sacramento had the IB program in place when I was there in 1995. (PS: I went to Mt. Goerge, grew up 3/10ths of a mile up 2nd Avenue,)


One of my teacher daughters teaches in a private school in Santa Cruz County. People pay a considerable amount of money to school their children there. Their program is somewhat like the IB program, but continues from pre-school through 12th grade. Heavily involved in world learning from the beginning, the senior trip is generally to India. It's great that some students in Napa have the opportunity for this type of elementary education experience for free. It would be nice if more of our schools cound qualify.


I can just imagine some of the comments this article will engender. International? Second language? World School? Global issues? Independence? It must be a communist plot! Well, to this teacher, the International Baccalaureate program sounds just great. I'll look forward to learning more and maybe visiting the schools sometime soon.


You'll find out sadly that you won't be teaching skills but checking children's "attitudes" -- this is a shameful intrusion on their political views.

Teachers will find out that this is no more than a brainwashing program and that if your political views don't fit with the UN, you'll be having trouble.

MANY many teachers leave the program after they see what goes on in it.



I'm sure rpcv will be thrilled with IB. Don't be such a hater ..... LOL!

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