It’s hard to believe that an entire decade has elapsed since the Locust Valley school district In Long Island, N.Y. became an IB World School. Its first IB courses welcomed juniors in September, 2004. Of course, from the outside looking in, one would never know the high school is an IB World School. There’s no IB symbol decorating the MS/HS sign at the entrance, no UN flag waving on the flagpole. Searching the district’s quarterly bulletin, Soundwaves, one would be hard pressed to even find a mention of the 10 syllable, impressive sounding name; International Baccalaureate (IB). The results of the IB and Advanced Placement (AP) exams are never published or publicly discussed. Most parents seem to only care about sports. Those who do care about academics seem to care only about what their own child can celebrate, not what a costly program is doing to the school as a whole, or to the average student.
With the arrival of Common Core in 45 states and New York leading the charge with the EngageNY curriculum, simply rejecting IB is no longer enough. Administrators are now using IB training to “enhance” Common Core lessons. The College Board has revised and revamped its AP U.S. History course to basically denude the curriculum of American exceptionalism and broaden topics to the point of rewriting history via omission. The Progressive domination of American public schools is 99% complete. How ironic that tenure was initially created to protect free speech and methods of teaching. Today, tenure insures the solidarity of delivery of Progressive thought and rejection of ideas and facts that fail to buttress or dare to challenge the Progressive agenda. Even subjects like Biology are infused with lectures on “climate change” and students are warned of the “evil oil companies” and American greed. God has been banished from the halls of our public institutions but for some reason, students are taught that “others, with their differences, can be right”. Islam is taught as a culture, not a religion. Christianity, on the other hand, is considered purely a religion without culture. This gross dichotomy has created a globalist culture of relativism and confusion.
In 2009, after the economic bust and Obama’s election, the Locust Valley school district made the decision to start charging the taxpayers for all of the IB and AP exams administered. Although nowhere can this decision be found in Board of Education minutes, it has been in effect for five years. Prior to 2009, students paid the $89 AP fee or the $104 IB fee out of their own pockets. The taxpayers have always been stuck with the $151 IB student registration fee and other various and sordid IB fees throughout the years. In order to really grasp the severity of the decline in quality and increase in cost, let’s take a look at AP results from 1996. Up until 2002, students were required to have an 85+ average and a teacher’s recommendation in order to take an AP course. It’s what us old folks liked to call “pre-qualification” or what the Progressives scorned as “tracking”. Here are the stats from 1996:
# of AP Courses offered: 9
# of Exams administered: 125
U.S. History – 19 students, 78% pass rate (3 or higher)
European History – 16 students, 75%
U.S. Govt. & Politics – 17 students, 82%
English Language % Comp – 12 students, 100%
English Lit & Comp – 12 students, 100%
French – 7 students, 71%
Biology – 12 students, 100%
Physics – 9 students, 66%
Calculus AB – 17 students, 94%
To summarize the above 1996 data, 104 out of 125 exams earned passing grades, or 83%. Some additional data; throughout the 1990’s and up until the advent of IB in 2004, LVHS regularly graduated 35 AP Scholars every year. An AP Scholar is a student who has passed 3 or more AP exams.When IB was introduced, AP courses in the 11th & 12th Grades were eliminated. Though I fought to bring them back, AP had become the red-headed stepchild of the district. It wasn’t until the district foisted the burden of paying for AP exams upon the taxpayers, along with the realization that passing the exams didn’t matter when it came to Jay Mathews’ Best High Schools List, thus encouraging the district to go on a wild spending spree pushing these exams on ill-prepared students, in order to nudge its way up Mathews’ “national” list.
The following chart represents the last five (5) years of taxpayer funded AP exam results.
The above graph contains a more detailed breakout than the 1996 data which was only available with an overall pass rate. AP exams are graded on a scale from 1-5 with a 3 considered passing. Most U.S. universities will award college credit for 4’s and 5’s.
You may ask yourself why I am presenting the AP data first and foremost. First of all, the cost of these exams alone to the taxpayers equals $148,541. If LVHS was producing students who passed these exams at the 83% or higher level of 1996, I would have no cause to complain. However, condensing the charted scores above to overall pass rates, we should all cringe at the outcomes:
2010 – 43% Pass (3 or above)
2011 – 42%
2012 – 38%
2013 – 28%
2014 – 38%
And how many AP Scholars did we have out of these cohorts? Zero, nada, none. Here is where the comparison to IB comes in. The IB Diploma is considered the crème de la crème of high school diplomas, by some. Remember, we used to consistently have 35 AP Scholars with every graduating class. How many IB Diplomas have been issued to Locust Valley students over the nine (9) IB graduating classes?
Locust Valley high school is a small school with approximately 650 students. When LVHS was AP by recommendation, 22% of every graduating class were considered AP Scholars (or the most “rigorous” course takers). Now, on average, less than 14% of the students earn IB Diplomas. A PhD in Quantum Mechanics is not required to know that 14 < 22.
It is nearly impossible to put a price tag on IB for a couple of reasons. 1. Administrators will lie and obfuscate costs every which way to Sunday. 2. IB costs rise every year. Therefore, I will estimate on the low side and use the nice round figure of $300,000 per year. This figure does NOT include teacher salaries, other than the IB Coordinator who earns approx. $150K in LVHS. If LVHS would like to dispute that number, I will happily review every P.O. paid to IBO for the past 12 years. $3,600,000 spent so far and going strong. Combined with the AP exams in just the last five years and we approach $3.75M for two “advanced” educational programs which have reduced Locust Valley’s most advanced students by 8%. Something’s wrong, don’t you think? So what’s the solution?
Get government and foreign organizations out of our public schools. Get back to basics. Remove the social justice garbage and have more and longer science labs. Let high school be the foundation for university, not some kind of faux-university that is an academic joke! Establish an arrangement with a local college for dual enrollment. Allow the kids to take actual college courses if they are able. And cap public school teacher salaries at $100,000. The ever rising school taxes are crippling the real estate market. If something isn’t done to bring school taxes under control, the only ones left living on Long Island will be police and teachers.
Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. But for some reason, charging the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars every year so that hundreds of students can now fail more than succeed, doesn’t make any sense. I wrote to Jay Mathews of The Washington Post and asked him what possible reason there could be (other than its need to inch its way up his nefarious List) to produce such massive failure. He replied: “Because they think the students would benefit from the experience of taking a college level exam. ---jay”
Ten years. The first year, 2004, the former Principal of the high school boasted that at least 40 (25%) of each future graduating class would be an IB Diploma recipient. As you can see, not only were those expectations never met, they have fallen well below the original 24 diplomas when the "programme" was in its infancy. All of the empty platitudes such as "a rising tide lifts all boats", "less is more", "critical thinkers and lifelong learners" along with a superficial pursuit of higher ranking on a national list for glittery "prestige", has in reality produced a generation full of failures at tremendous cost to the taxpayers. It saddens me, but there is nothing more I can do other than share my findings and hope that parents of schoolage children tody will seek alternative private or home schools, where children can attain knowledge which will make them successful, not common.