Connecting Educators Committed to

Excellence and Equity in IB Education

Asheesh Misra
Asheesh Misra

Join us in celebrating IB educator and IBSchoolImprovement.com consultant, Colin Pierce?s equity and excellence legacy. After eight years as DP Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School, Colin is entering a new role as Middle and High School Advisor for Seattle's Department of Education and Early Learning. Colin and the Rainier Beach team improved the school?s on-time graduation rate from 54% in 2010 to 89% in 2018 - utilizing an IB DP for all model as a primary tool for engaging all students for success.

In 2010 Rainier Beach High School was slated for closure due to low enrollment, low test scores, and a dismal 54% graduation rate. This is an unsettlingly familiar story for a US urban public school with high numbers of poor students, students of color, and English Language learners. But what happened next is far from typical.

The community surrounding Rainier Beach High School?one of the most diverse communities in the nation?rallied together and pushed the school district to reinvest in the school. They formed a design team to reimagine what education could look like at the school, and after much discussion and research what they decided on was implementing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. But they were adamant that this program not become another school-within-a-school model creating segregated racially identifiable classrooms. They wanted the program to serve all students in the school, including?and especially?those who had been poorly served in their prior education experiences, many of whom had been written off as lost causes.

The school went to work designing a program where all students would take multiple IB classes, so there were no distinctions between the ?IB kids? and the ?regular? ones. The Rainier Beach leadership team worked with English and History departments, asking them to consider the question ?what about this curriculum would not benefit all students.? They answered ?we want all of this for all our students? and as a result, the school replaced the standard English and history curriculum with IB DP courses. The team placed particular emphasis on using the English Language and Literature curriculum to build engagement for students who may not have previously found success in English. The course provided students with structure, but also with autonomy and variety in ways that allowed them to grow their literacy skills from a broad diversity of starting points. Where the school had particularly high numbers of special education students in a class, they employed a co-teaching model with a special education teacher who was trained in the IB curriculum.

Though the school?s implementation of the program is still very much a work in progress, the results nearly a decade later are encouraging. The student population has more than doubled, there is growth in participation and exam scores across the subjects, the graduation rate has leapt to nearly 89% (2018), and African American students are passing the state English exam (SBA) at a rate 10 points higher than the district average for this demographic. There is still lots of work to do to ensure that Rainier Beach students furthest from educational justice are served as well as they deserve, but the implementation of an ?IB for All? model has provided an excellent starting point, and it demonstrates that when a learning community places a concerted focus on raising expectations for all students, we can move mountains.

Colin Pierce served as the IB Diploma Program Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School for 8 years and is now the Middle and High School Advisor for Seattle's Department of Education and Early Learning. In addition he is a member of the board of directors for the Association of Washington Generals, a state service recognition organization, serves on the Advisory Board for Seattle Education Association?s Center for Race and Equity, is a member of the Partnership Committee overseeing the development of equity teams in Seattle Public Schools, and is currently part of Seattle's Advanced Learning Taskforce, working to reform the district's highly segregated Advanced Learning programs. Colin has extensive experience consulting with schools and school leaders to increase access to advanced programs for low-income and minority students. Colin has partnered with IBSchoolImprovement.com and is available for on-site and remote direct school consulting (areas include keynote speaking, equity and access, IB English for All etc.).

If you found this article interesting and would like to receive more articles like this, sign up for our newsletter here.