Magnet Program /International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP)The most important program at Alice Birney Elementary, an International Studies Magnet, is the one that drives our very identity as an international studies school. We have been granted candidacy for the PYP, but we have been living by its ideals and beliefs for about four years now.
Originally designed to enable high school students living in different countries to earn a diploma recognizable by many universities around the world, the IB organization has become recognized as a high-quality program and curricular framework at all levels. The Middle Years (MYP) and Primary Years Program (PYP) were added in the 1990s to extend the benefit of the program. Abundant information can be found about the IBO at their website.
In San Diego, the IB Diploma Program began more than 30 years ago at San Diego High, and now San Diego High International Studies (IS) is one of the small schools in the SDHS complex. Since it became its own school, and therefore a school with published test scores, SDHSIS is one of two San Diego high schools that have consistently scored in the top 100 of U.S. high schools on the Newsweek list, published yearly. Roosevelt Middle School is also an authorized International Baccalaureate World School and offers the Middle Years Program (MYP) for ages 11-14. It was easy to trace a route north along Park Boulevard from San Diego High to Roosevelt and then to Birney to see the natural progression of the magnet theme.
Why is IB PYP the theme for our school?
Birney is a unique and original community! The school has always believed in teaching the "whole child" instead of focusing strictly on academic skills, especially in this No Child Left Behind era.
We place great value on science and social studies, art and music, physical education and theatre. What’s more, students at Birney are expected to develop independence, self-advocacy, empathy and creativity.
When we were reinventing the school after a long period of over-enrollment and decline in achievement, the staff at the time wanted students to leave Birney with characteristics that we soon realized were similar to the IB Learner Profile. At the time, we had sufficient space to accommodate a magnet program due to the loss of sixth grade, the Cherokee Point building and declining enrollment.
We discussed the prospect of becoming an IB school at several faculty meetings. Community input was favorable, and we decided to move in the IB direction. We were selected as a new magnet and included in the 2008-2010 Magnet Schools Assistance Program federal grant, which allowed us to send our teachers to IB training all over the country.
For three years, we wrote curriculum for our six IB units per grade level, internalized the Learner Profile and IB attitudes, and developed the language and assessment policies for the program. In December 2009, we were visited by the authorization team, and by April 2010, we were officially authorized by the IBO. We will be re-evaluated by the IBO in 2013.
Who qualifies for the program?
Every single student at Birney, including preschool and special needs students, participates in the school-wide magnet PYP theme. There are no exceptions.
Our teachers are trained in differentiation of instruction as well as varied assessments in order to measure student progress in IB work. Classrooms are fully integrated, and teachers are well-prepared to address the needs of the most advanced learner as well as the most challenged. More than half of our teachers are trained in GATE strategies, including all upper grade teachers.
All students benefit from the advantages of the Program of Inquiry as well as the enrichment activities provided through the magnet. However, students who are working towards proficiency in their academic grades may be required to take additional time during their specials for intervention to bring them to proficiency.