Chicago schools pumping nearly half a million dollars into International Baccalaureate

To beef up its rigorous International Baccalaureate programs, the Chicago school district will spend $450,000 to train teachers and administrators in 56 schools.

Chicago Public Schools is dramatically increasing spending on the program — which offers the equivalent of Advanced Placement classes in high schools and challenging courses in elementary and middle schools — in part to enhance neighborhood schools by adding popular academics and to attract students and families who have migrated to competitive schools elsewhere.

Chicago already leads the nation in offering the IB curriculum — the shorthand often used to label the program. Outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel dramatically expanded the program and wants to add to it even more. In the past five years, the district nearly doubled the number of students in the elite part of the program, juniors and seniors seeking to earn the IB diploma, to 911 students. In the district, 22 high schools and 34 elementary schools have partial or full IB programs.

Ledgers listed on last week’s board agenda showed the district allocating from $1,000 to $17,000 to each IB school for professional development.

New data obtained by Chalkbeat details the recent ballooning rate of high school IB programs around the city.

But the district has located those programs unevenly. Four out of the five largest IB programs serve the primarily white and affluent parts of the city’s North Side. Among the smallest IB programs, four serve the South Side and one the West Side, in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Lincoln Park High School and Taft High School, both on Chicago’s North Side, enroll the most students in their IB programs, with 394 and 206 students, respectively. The city’s smallest programs operate inside Bogan Computer Technical High School, where 13 students are enrolled, and Bronzeville Scholastic Institute High School, with 19 students. Both schools are on the South Side.

The value of the International Baccalaureate varies with size.

“When we look at our metrics, we’ve already seen a dramatic improvement in schools that have a wall-to-wall IB program,” Chicago schools CEO Janice Jackson told Chalkbeat earlier in October, referring to schools where the entire campus follows the International Baccalaureate curriculum. She said the program has raised graduation rates at some neighborhood schools.

The district allocates IB professional development funds from the Magnet, Gifted and IB account in its general fund and will pay for seminars, subscriptions, and professional memberships.

The board approved the IB funding at its regular monthly meeting, held last week.

For its ambitious IB expansion, the district has invited schools to submit applications by Wednesday to begin the rigorous process of applying to host the program.