NHHS Now Offers International Diploma

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By Kelly Mitchell | NB Indy


After a two-year accreditation process and lots of blood, sweat and planning, Newport Harbor High School has officially embarked on the first year of the much anticipated International Baccalaureate program.

Newport Harbor is now officially recognized as an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, offering the IB diploma, which is recognized world-wide and valued by American universities.

The IB program provides an intellectually challenging and academically demanding curriculum for students in schools around the world. IB emphasizes critical thinking and research skills as part of the learning process. It aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

IB programs encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

Students take classes in English, science, mathematics, social studies, and foreign language. In addition, a 4,000-word extended essay, a Theory of Knowledge class, and 150 hours of community service are required for the full diploma, which is awarded from the IB office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The application process to become an IB school is intense, and requires a minimum of two years. Newport Harbor passed with flying colors, but it was not an easy process.

Joe Robinson, a veteran teacher at Newport Harbor, is the IB coordinator for the school.

“It’s a full two years of rigorous work,” Robinson explains.  “A two-part application that involves literally hundreds of pages of school data, descriptions of our programs, faculty, student population, course outlines etc.  The process terminated in a three day visit by an IB team who interviewed everybody from the superintendent to groups of students and parents to see if we were worthy.

“(Principal) Michael Vossen and I sweated bullets during those three days.  We finally got our certificate in March 2010 – We started the process in 2008.  Our first IB classes started this fall.”

Dana Dang, a sophomore, tells why she wants get an IB diploma.

“I am interested in doing the IB Program because it seems like a great opportunity to excel in many more ways than I had planned to before.” Dang says.

“I am very interested in getting the diploma because I do not know if I want to study abroad. I want to keep my options open. My schedule is very hectic. I have to take all honors classes in order to be in IB, and I will have six classes all four years.  I do think this is a challenge I can handle because if I put my mind to it, I know I can do it.”

She says her dream school is Brown. Some other colleges she will likely apply to are Georgetown, Yale, Notre Dame, UC Berkeley and Pepperdine.

Dang adds, “An IB diploma can help me get into Oxford if I wanted to go out of the country, and also other colleges in the near future will recognize it and I hope that it will help a lot to get into the school. I am a dancer which won’t take me very far in my college career so I need things that will help back me up.”

Some might wonder how IB courses are different than other high-level courses, which are also highly looked upon by universities.

Robinson gave an example of how an IB course differs from a traditional course.

“IB focuses on critical thinking, and has as its basic goal to produce students who are clear thinking, ethical, inquisitive learners – people who love to learn and who know how to acquire and evaluate information – people who are passionate about learning and life.

“IB classes tend to be different from other classes in that they involve less pure rote memorizing and far more inquiry and question-asking.  In a Spanish class, for example, a student would certainly memorize the two forms of “you,” but he or she might also ask why there are two forms, and what effect having two forms has on the social structure of a Spanish-speaking society.”

Principal Michael Vossen shared how he sees IB benefiting the students at NHHS.

“The three major benefits we see for our students are 1) Our IB students are taught how to think about and analyze what they are learning rather than simply memorizing and regurgitating facts; 2) There is a globally oriented curriculum; and 3) The IB diploma is widely respected by colleges and universities both within the US and abroad.”

When asked what he is most looking forward to seeing happen with first year implementation of the IB program at Harbor, Vossen added, ” I am looking forward to the feedback from students, teachers, and parents on the benefits of the program. Our teachers are very excited about our kickoff this year.”

Teachers must be trained in IB to be able to teach the courses. So far about 25 teachers and administrators have been through IB training.

Ensign middle school feeds into Newport Harbor, and so is also affected by the IB program, with officials there often hit with questions about it. Ensign Principal Steve McLaughlin is on board and happy to provide information to middle school students and their families about what lies ahead in high school.

“What I am excited about are the options and pathways for students.  Our job as a middle school is to provide awareness about what high school has to offer.”

Ensign helps students prepare for the program by adjusting electives that coordinate with IB.

“We are always willing to help with any questions parents and students may have,”  McLaughlin said.

Ensign hosts an IB night in the Spring, which gives an explanation of the IB program for all parents and students who might be interested.


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