High school advanced courses arrive

New classes for middle school planned
By Matthew Bernat | Oct 11, 2017

This year, Wareham High School has joined the ranks of a select group of schools in the state that challenges students to think critically about a rapidily changing world.

After an exhaustive, three-year application process, administrators are celebrating the arrival of International Baccalaureate courses. Wareham High School is one of three public, non-charter schools and the 10th overall to offer International Baccalaureate classes in Massachusetts.

The new curriculum has students exploring issues in a different way, one that better prepares them for life after high school, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Andrea Schwamb.

“It offers a conversation on big ideas, on looking at different perspectives than what American students typically look at,” said Schwamb. “We’re preparing our students to become active participants in their education.”

Right now, 26 students have signed up for International Baccalaureate classes. Candidates must be juniors and those who successfully complete the course earn an International Baccalaureate certificate, allowing students to forgo certain entry level college courses. The International Baccalaureate is a nonprofit educational foundation that offers four programs of international education that aim to develop the “intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world,” according to the organization’s website. Part of Wareham’s certification process included training teachers to become International Baccalaureate certified.

Getting students to think critically and globally is the program’s hallmark, said Schwamb.

“In a typical classroom, students are passively listening to a teacher,” she said. “Under this course, there’s still some knowledge given by a teacher, but students are working in groups, having conversations and solving problems.”

That translates into tests that differ from ones required in standard classes. Instead of rote memorization, exams test how students address a problem using critical thinking skills learned in the classroom.

“It’s not just about solving a math problem, but understanding how they came to solve it and why it’s important,” said Schwamb.

The curriculum is geared toward changing how students view the world.

“That process of thinking transfers to all areas of life,” said Schwamb. “It’s about how you solve problems.”

Administrators also have their sights set on expanding the program.

Currently, Wareham Middle School is a candidate for the International Baccalaureate’s middle years program. If approved, some of those advanced courses would be required for all students in grades six through 10. The approval process takes a couple years.

“That’s an all or nothing proposition,” said Schwamb. She noted that expanding the program is part of a shift aimed at changing the culture of education in Wareham schools that helps students compete in the workforce.

“We must prepare our students to be prepared for any opportunity they come across,” she said.

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