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City College Sets New Highs in International Baccalaureate Diplomas

IB Leadership in Switzerland Points to City’s Success

In 2021, 83% of Baltimore City Colleges’ candidates earned the official International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma — a new City College record! Despite the challenges of distance learning, the overall exam pass rate exceeded the May 2020 rate in all six subject group tests. 

Around the globe, the IB Diploma Program offers a rigorous course of study across all academic areas — encouraging high school students to become active, compassionate, and lifelong learners.Since 1998, when Baltimore City College became a Diploma Program school, the number of City College students earning an IB diploma has been steadily increasing, as has City College’s reputation for IB excellence.  Leaders at the IB program offices in Geneva, Switzerland, routinely refer schools around the U.S. to consult with staff at City College to learn the techniques and approach that have sent the IB passing rates soaring — from 30% in the late 90s, to 83% in 2021. 

The latest IB diploma pass rate for African American students at City College is 78%, an increase over both 2020 and 2019 — the result of not just academic mentoring support, but efforts by all faculty to instill in students a belief in themselves and the mindset that fosters success in the IB program. 

“In most schools, only a small fraction of the students are challenged with the IB curriculum, but we’ve made it a point to ensure everyone at City takes IB classes,” says Principal Cindy Harcum. “It’s an incredible opportunity for students to earn college credit, save on college tuition, and compete for scholarships at top-tier universities around the country — it offers marginalized students a real leg up in the college process.”

What accounts for the success of City College’s IB program? From the moment students arrive at City College, they’re exposed to IB-style academics — years before they enter the upperclassman IB diploma curriculum. Rather than emphasizing rote fact-finding, the approach at City favors critical thinking and conceptual understanding. “By the time students get to their senior year to tackle the 4000-word IB extended essay, it feels like the work they’ve been doing all along,” says Principal Harcum. 

City College faculty’s commitment to the IB program goes beyond the rigorous training and curriculum revisions mandated by the IB offices in Geneva. Staff is always gauging the interests and needs of students in the program. The 20-21 school year was the first time City College offered the IB’s History of Africa course, and the school has changed its class sequencing to allow all students to access IB’s higher levels of math — even if students arrive at City without taking algebra. 

“Students and faculty know what the IB best practices are and how the pieces work together,” says Principal Harcum. “We’ve successfully implemented a culturally responsive approach to IB that ensures black and brown kids and kids of all backgrounds can be successful in the program — we make sure every student feels like they belong.” 

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