Graduation 2011 Students given a worldly perspective

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Rio Mesa High School students have a rare opportunity. RMHS is one of only two high schools in Ventura County to offer students a diploma in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Considered a school within a school, the IB program offers academically challenging core and elective classes with an international perspective.

“Students learn there’s more to the world than Oxnard, California and the United States,” said Lori Wrout, Rio Mesa High English teacher and IB coordinator. “There are only 2 percent of high schools in the United States that offer this program.

“It’s basically getting them ready to go to the university.”

Newbury Park High School also offers the program.

Students who complete the two-year course can be eligible to receive an IB diploma in addition to their high school diploma.

Two years in planning, the International Baccalaureate program started at Rio Mesa in the fall of 2008. International Baccalaureate, founded in 1968, consists of three programs—primary years, for students ages 3 to 12; middle years, for students 11 to 16; and diploma for students 16 to 19.

According to the IB website, more than 775,000 students in 2,800 schools in 138 countries participate in one or more of the IB programs. International Baccalaureate’s mission is to encourage students to become world citizens who embrace universal human values.

Last year was the first opportunity Rio Mesa students had to receive an IB diploma in the twoyear program. Four Rio Mesa seniors pursued an IB diploma but only one received it, Wrout said.

She said the student, Roxanna Garcia, attends a private college in Santa Barbara and is doing very well.

Students can work toward an IB diploma or just take one or more of the classes, which provide more high school credit than traditional classes and can be a way for a student to boost their grade-point average.

Wrout said 300 Rio Mesa students took at least one IB course this past semester, a 19 percent increase since the program debuted in the fall of 2008.

IB diploma students choose one class in each of five subjects— English, science, math, social science and a language— and take a sixth elective class. They also must complete a 4,000-word essay, 150 hours of community service and a course called Theory of Knowledge.

Baccalaureate diplomas carry weight with colleges around the world, Wrout said. In addition to the academically challenging courses, the multiple exams students take for each course—including an impromptu interview using the language they studied— are usually graded by a teacher in another country.

Coordinators like Wrout receive instructions from IB headquarters in the United Kingdom. on where to mail the exams. By having teachers around the world grade the tests, officials ensure the consistency of the curriculum and exam scores, the English teacher said.

Many colleges welcome IB diploma holders with open arms, she said. East Coast universities tend to offer more perks to IB diploma holders because they’re more familiar with the program, which has been taught there longer than on the West Coast, Wrout said.

One of the advantages colleges offer baccalaureate diploma holders is the opportunity to skip their freshman year and enter as sophomores. Those colleges include the University of San Francisco, California State University, Stanislaus and Oregon State. Many universities allow students who didn’t receive a baccalaureate diploma but scored high on certain exams to receive college credit.

Wrout said Oxnard Union High school administrators want to add more baccalaureate classes at Rio Mesa but will have to wait until the district’s finances allow it.

This year, four Rio Mesa seniors completed the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. They should be able to view their results on the IB website on July 7.

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