When St. Laurence High School debuts its new International Baccalaureate program next year, it will mark a shift toward a global attitude at the Burbank school.
The IB program emphasizes inquiry-based learning and the ability to investigate and look at topics from multiple points of view. The IB program is used by schools around the world and is widely recognized for its academic rigor, and educators say it can give students an advantage in college admissions.
Peter Lotus, St. Laurence’s director of strategic development and IB coordinator, said the school has been working towards IB certification for the past couple of years.
“You sit there and question, ‘Why haven’t I always been educating this way?’” Lotus said. “There are so many values to it, especially the multiple perspectives.”
Spanish teacher Jennifer Biamonte, who will teach in the IB program, said she is enthusiastic about the emphasis on learning about different cultures.
“One of the big differences is that we focus so heavily on global-mindedness and international awareness, which really helps develop the whole child or the whole student,” Biamonte said. “It takes a more holistic approach to their development.”
St. Laurence will offer the IB Diploma Programme, which allows students in years 11 and 12 — or juniors and seniors in the U.S. educational system — to earn an IB diploma by taking courses from six subject areas; completing a Theory of Knowledge course; participating creativity, activity and service; and completing an extended essay.
St. Laurence expects to admit about 25 incoming juniors to start the Diploma Programme this fall, Lotus said. Another 30 or so juniors and seniors are expected to earn certificates for completing IB courses in one or more subject areas.
While only a fraction of St. Laurence’s 830 students will be enrolled in IB classes, Lotus said all students will benefit. In fact, they already are, because of the changes the school has made to its curriculum to prepare students.
“We know that our students will be prepared if they choose to take IB,” Lotus said. “Over the past year and a half, we’ve vertically aligned our curriculum. So even though, say, you’re a freshman and you can’t take IB for two years, your classes are really aligned with those standards for IB.”
St. Laurence will join DePaul Prep and Trinity High School in River Forest as Catholic high schools in the archdiocese offering the IB Diploma Programme. Josephinum Academy has offered it, but will end the program with the class of 2021. St. Matthias School offers the Primary Years Programme and Middle Years Programme, and Holy Family Catholic Academy in Inverness offers the Primary Years Programme.
Knowing that St. Laurence was working towards implementing the IB program helped the Coughlin family of Tinley Park decide the school was the right place for their son Henry, now a sophomore.
Henry’s two older siblings attended Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox, said Kerri Coughlin, Henry’s mother.
But an older cousin, now finishing college and applying to law schools, had done a high school IB program and enjoyed it, said Matt Coughlin, Henry’s father, which made it an attractive option for Henry.
Henry has applied to be part of the IB diploma program in the fall, and his parents are impressed with the direction the program has taken the whole school.
The family has all seen the changes that they’ve made, Matt Coughlin said, noting that with the school’s hybrid learning system, parents can get a better idea of what goes on in class.
“Teachers will ask them now that they understand the topic to explain it from different points of view,” Kerri Coughlin said. “They really focus on collaborating with the other students and debating and researching.”
Students who applied for the program were invited to a preview day recently, to get an idea of what it would be like, she said, and Henry came home eager to tell her about it.
“Usually to get a 16-year-old boy to tell you about school is like pulling teeth,” she said. “He was telling me how smart some of the kids in his group were. I really liked to see them appreciating one another, and figuring out how they could work together and problem solving.”
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