This fall, Noble Street’s Hansberry College Prep campus in Auburn Gresham will become the first charter school in Illinois to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma program. The school will offer the Diploma Program for juniors and seniors during the 2014-2015 school year.

Hansberry is the only school in the Noble Street network with current plans to offer the highly regarded IB program, but Director of External Affairs Angela Montagna said other Noble Street schools may follow suit in the future.

Principal Lauryn Fullerton began the application process to become an IB school before Hansberry opened two years ago. A graduate of Lincoln Park High School, she credits the IB program with making it easy for her to transition from high school to college and hopes to achieve these same results with her students.

“We’re excited about giving this opportunity to our students, because it will improve their transition to college and ensure their likelihood to persist and graduate,” says Fullerton. “The IB courses are great preparation for a challenging college curriculum.”

A 2012 study from the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that students from IB programs in Chicago (13 at the time) were more likely to attend a four-year college, as well as more likely to attend a selective college. Once enrolled, they were also more likely to stay in college for two years, an important predictor of eventual graduation.

The results prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to launch 10 new IB programs in neighborhood high schools. The centerpiece of the programs is the IB’s two-year-old career certificate program

“International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme’s are recognized across the world for their innovative approach to education,” saiys Drew Deutch, director of IB America. “The fact that Hansberry has now successfully completed the authorization process and can soon offer IB marks an exciting time for Noble’s educators, families and, more importantly, for the students who will benefit from an IB education.”

Open admissions

 Teachers must be IB-certified to teach courses in the program. The IB teachers at Hansberry have all been identified and will complete their training and curriculum requirements by the end of this academic year, according to Fullerton. Being a candidate school for the last two years provided time to adequately train staff. In fact, more teachers received the training than are expected to teach the IB courses.

Currently, about 55% of students are taking prerequisite courses. At the end of April, teachers will evaluate student performance and make recommendations based on how well they believe a student would do in the IB program. A lower evaluation, however, will not keep students out—students who want to take IB courses will be able to, regardless of academic history or recommendations.

Hansberry’s “open admissions” policy sets it apart from other IB schools in Chicago, which typically have a formal application process or academic requirements for admission. All CPS schools offering the Diploma Program require that students submit an application and meet minimum test score requirements. Several schools have additional selection criteria to ensure students can succeed in the rigorous program.

For example, students wishing to enter the Diploma Program at Lincoln Park High School, Fullerton’s alma mater, must reach specific 7th-grade ISAT scores, go through a student/parent interview process, and complete a supervised writing sample. Other CPS schools have minimum grade or course requirements.

Fullerton emphasized that she wants as many students as possible to have access, so as long as the student expresses a desire to be in the program. While not every student will earn an IB diploma, increasing access to these high-level courses is Fullerton’s primary goal.

“IB is a full curriculum of study, and we don’t expect every student to take every class at the higher level,” she says. “Our goal is to make sure all of our students get the chance to take these courses, because it will help transition them into a successful college career.”

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