Eastside High celebrates 35 years of IB

Virginia

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In the central courtyard of Gainesville’s Eastside High School, about 60 national flags hang, representing students' nationalities and backgrounds.

Underneath that canopy, parents, as well as teachers and students both former and current, celebrated the senior class of 2018 at the annual International Baccalaureate pinning ceremony Friday.

IB, a rigorous global college preparedness program, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Eastside, one of the first three Florida schools to have the program, is celebrating its 35th anniversary of IB.

Giving a greater variety of students to attend high school on the east side of Gainesville was a big reason behind setting the IB program at Eastside, said Dwight Schmidt, the school’s IB coordinator.

“Here you can come to a school where you get a top-notch education and be with people from different backgrounds,” he said. “We have a program that is diverse in ethnicity, socioeconomic class and religion, and we have a diverse faculty as well.”

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Ann Nichols, who taught IB senior biology for 18 years before retiring in 2016, attended the pinning ceremony because she said she values what the program teaches students. She said she keeps in touch with many of her former students.

“Eastside is kind of dear to my heart,” she said. “[IB] gives the students the world view and it makes [the students] world citizens, and not just citizens of Gainesville.”

Senior Isabel Brazzel, 18, said she knows her IB exams in May will be challenging, but she feels prepared. Because of the program, she believes she is more open-minded and has met a wider variety of people.

“Learning with other cultures has helped me broaden my horizons,” Brazzel said.

On average, about 85 percent of IB students at Eastside have earned the IB diploma over the past 35 years, higher than the global average of 78 percent in 2017.

Despite its success with IB, Eastside has faced competition from magnet programs at other Gainesville high schools. The school has not met its maximum capacity of 150 students for the past two years, Schmidt said. The graduating class of 2018 has 114 students.

“Gainesville has good programs in its high schools,” he said. “It’s diminished our numbers.”

Schmidt, who is retiring at the end of the school year, said the school has several goals to help grow and improve the IB program at Eastside. At the January school choice open house, teachers and students will talk with 8th graders and their parents about how IB students can balance their academics with social activities.

“I think there’s this misconception that if you’re an IB student, you don’t have a life,” Schmidt said. “We try to emphasize that you can have a varied life. Many of our IB students are leaders in clubs and involved in sports.”

A new course, Advanced Placement Seminar, will also be available for incoming freshmen beginning in the fall. The class will teach research and investigative techniques — two skills that students would use if they stick with the IB program their junior year.

“We’re constantly updating the courses we offer,” Schmidt said. “I’m hoping with the changes we make that the pass rate can go up, but always what we want is that our students are successful.”

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