Education budget negotiations were already well underway when Sen. Pramila Jayapal read about results from the International Baccalaureate program at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School. But she was impressed enough to go out on a limb and request a last-minute addition of $250,000 to cover two more years of IB at the storied but struggling high school.
As described in a recent Education Lab story, the rigorous IB program, which emphasizes research, writing and inquiry into open-ended questions, appears to be linked with a marked increase in enrollment and a 25-point spike in graduation rates at the high-poverty school. But it is funded only through 2017.
“The reason I got excited is that often, these kinds of programs are not even explained to the kids of my district,” said Jayapal, D-Seattle, in an interview.
She was not the only community member galvanized by early results from Rainier Beach’s IB experience.
In the past two weeks, more than $10,000 in private donations have rolled in to help more students attend the IB World Conference in Barcelona this summer. Meanwhile, alumni are talking about the creation of a foundation that would further support programs at the South Seattle school.
Jayapal nevertheless urges parents and teachers to keep their hopes in check, considering the lateness of her request.
“When we’re talking about one of the highest-poverty schools in our state and we’ve seen this kind of success, we need to do everything we can to continue to fund those programs,” said the senator, who next plans to examine IB programs around the state. Her central question: Has IB managed to chip away at Washington’s persistent — and growing — achievement gap between black and white students?
Data from other regions suggest yes. A study published by the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute reports that teens who completed the rigorous program were 40 percent more likely to attend a four-year college.