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COST OF INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE

Brown Academy has spent about $50,000 since 2007 training staff how to teach the IB curriculum. Principal Lea Ann Burk said she expects to spend another $50,000 next year. She said the training all has been paid by federal Title I money or support from the Benwood Foundation.

The authorization of Brown Academy as Tennessee's first elementary International Baccalaureate school reopens the debate over where its students will go to middle school.

Since Brown began the IB certification process three years ago, parents and school officials have asked whether Brown students will be bused to Signal Mountain Middle-High School - Hamilton County's only other IB campus.

When officials announced Brown's new status at the June meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Education, member George Ricks urged the board to talk again about the students' futures.

Brown principal Lea Ann Burk said the school's graduates should have the choice to go to another IB school.

"It may not be that anyone would want that option, but I think it's important at the end of their fifth-grade year that they have the choice (of going to an IB school)," she said.

Superintendent Jim Scales has said the decision would be made after Brown officially was authorized.

The middle school on Signal Mountain became an authorized IB school earlier this year, and the high school is expected to follow by sometime next school year.

An International Baccalaureate program is a rigorous, internationally recognized curriculum that encourages student-led learning. Signal Mountain and Brown are Hamilton County's only IB schools.

Ms. Burk said it is particularly difficult to establish an IB program at an elementary school.

"It really did mess with everyone's paradigm of what an elementary school should look like," she said. "(Teachers) have to release some of that authority and let the children's questions drive the unit. It allows you to get much deeper into what you're learning."

First-grade teacher Ashley Latham gave an example. She said if she were going to teach about the solar system, she might show her students many pictures and videos about solar systems, and then prompt them to ask questions about what they wanted to know.

"And sometimes their questions don't always relate to our standards, so we don't spend as much time on that," she said.

It took time to teach the students how to ask good questions, she said, but she's been encouraged by the progress over the three years since teachers began the new type of instruction.

"Everyone is very confident in what we're doing at the school. The possibilities are endless," she said.

Officials have said part of the appeal of the IB curriculum is the German students already at Brown. This fall Ms. Burk anticipates her school will enroll about 75 German children whose parents work at Volkswagen, and many of them are familiar with International Baccalaureate.

"We just had the idea of the international approach," said Steffen Engel, whose daughter, Lea, will be going into first grade in the fall. "Our feeling was very good that a school with students from different countries has good experience in handling students who have no experience with English."

Continue reading by following these links to related stories:

Article: Parents want Brown students bused to Signal for IB program

Article: Hamilton County Board of Education to look at new name for Brown Academy

Article: Parents want better middle schools

Follow Kelli Gauthier on Twitter at twitter.com/gauthierkelli.

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