IB Diploma Schools in Florida: Mean Scores
My daughter attended a middle school in Switzerland that provided dual tracts to the International Baccalaureate (“IB”) or the French Baccalaureate Diploma; alternatives to a typical high school diploma. When we decided to move back to the United States, I contacted the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) in Geneva, Switzerland to find out about IB Diploma schools since we preferred to continue with the program.
The IBO website (www.ibo.org) told me there were 743 IB Diploma schools in the US, of which 72 offered the IB Diploma program in Florida but they provided no performance information about each school.
- What courses are offered at the standard and high level;
- The IB Diploma has a higher threshold than a high school diploma;
- The percentage of candidates who earned the IB diploma; and
- The mean (or average) of the IB Diploma class.
The IB Diploma curriculum requires students to choose subject courses from groups that include math, science, literature, language, business, and the arts. Some schools don’t offer standard and high level courses in every subject so request a list to determine if courses in the area your child excels are offered at the high level because every IB Diploma candidate must take 3 subject tests at the higher level. Many colleges in fact give credit to any student that earns a 4 or higher on an IB test so many freshman enter college with credits.
The standard courses are typically yearlong while the higher level courses are two years in length.
The IB program has grown rapidly in the United States, especially in the public school system because the program is broad-based and academically sound. Any school that adopts the program needs to be commended as they are raising the academic standards of the school: a student that earns the IB diploma – no matter the score – has successfully studied 3 subject areas at a standard level and 3 subject areas at a high level (comparable to an AP level). By contrast, a high school diploma does not require any subject area to be studied at the AP level. Therefore, first and foremost the earning of an IB diploma is a great achievement.
Approximately 80% of the worldwide candidates earn the IB diploma but only 70% of the candidates in the US earn the IB diploma. There are two factors to consider in this rate: the student and the school. School success rates vary and although important, the rate needs to be interpreted with caution because the trend is also important: Is the school on an upward or downward trend or consistently producing the same pass rate?For example, if a school has a 60% pass rate year after year, then questions need to be asked regarding how candidates are chosen and being prepared. Those reporting pass rates of 90% or higher need to be commended.
Just as the SAT, ACT, and AP scores are important barometers for parents who send their children through a “normal” high school curriculum, the mean score of the IB Diploma class is an important barometer. Applicants with higher SAT, ACT, and AP scores get into better colleges as do applicants with higher IB scores. Although seniors take the final tests in May and scores are not reported until July (after college acceptances), admission officers are not taking a shot in the dark in estimating what the IB score will be based on the standard level tests already taken, the strength of curriculum (courses) and grades, SAT or ACT scores, AP exams (if taken), and SAT subject tests (if taken). It’s simply not true that an admission officer familiar with the IB can’t tell a student that will score in the 20’s from a student that will score in the low 30’s, high 30’s, or 40’s.
I contacted the IBO and asked for the mean scores of schools in Florida and was informed this information is not provided by the IBO to the public citing privacy concerns. When asked how a mean score of an IB diploma class at a public school in the US violates anyone’s privacy, I was advised to contact the schools directly. Somehow the Swiss always fall back on that privacy defense – Swiss banking comes to mind – when my intuition tells me the reason probably has more to do with profitability rather than privacy.
- The number of students that are registered (candidates) for the IB diploma;
- The number of candidates that passed the IB diploma exams;
- The score of each candidate;
- The mean score of those awarded the diploma;
- The average score obtained by the candidates that passed the IB diploma exams;
- The highest diploma points (score) awarded to a student;
- The mean of the test scores on the subject tests;
The stonewalling of the IBO was astounding and although I didn’t particularly relish contacting schools to get this information, I was determined to have the information that I had a right to know. Under the Freedom of Information Act, this information (at the public school level) has to be made available to anyone asking for it. Private schools do not have to release this information but because they rely on private tuition, they tend to release these figures when asked, especially if the school’s mean scores are high.
I e-mailed and/or called the IB coordinator at each of the 72 schools that offer the IB Diploma in Florida. A few readily provided the information. Several IB coordinators referred me to the Florida League of IB Schools, known as “FLIBS” (www.flibs.org) as a resource, but this website only includes basic information (i.e. location) and nearly half of the schools are not listed. Skip FLIBS and contact the IB coordinator at each school.
Most IB coordinators ignored my request or claimed they didn’t have this information until I reminded them the IBO provides the school with an annual statistical report with this information and that in order to issue an IB diploma, a score has to be known. Still many coordinators said they don’t release this information and only provided the mean when advised they were obligated to under the Freedom of Information Act. And surprisingly, a few coordinators tried to convince me the mean wasn’t relevant when in fact, the mean is very relevant just as the SAT, ACT, and AP scores and means are relevant. These scores don’t tell the whole story but they certainly tell part of it.
More often than not, I explained to the IB Coordinator that parents are readily provided SAT, ACT, and AP mean scores, and therefore, the mean score of the IB Diploma class should be provided without parents jumping through hoops. Not one Florida IB Diploma school reported the mean on their school website. The question begs: Why?
The IB is big business in the US primarily in the public school system where schools desperately needed to improve and consequently added the IB program to achieve better results. The US is the largest IB country in the world with 1,298 schools (in a very distant second place is Canada with just 310 schools), of which 296 offer the primary years program, 444 the middle years program, and 743 the IB diploma program And, the program is growing rapidly. The IBO may be secretive because the market is young, growing, and profitable for the IBO and because the US mean score (27.5) is below the world mean score (30.7).
Riverdale High School, Fort Myers: 30
James S Rickards High School, Tallahassee: 28
Southeast High School, Bradenton: 29
Vanguard High School, Ocala: 29
South Fork High School, Stuart: 31
Choctawhatchee High School, Ft Walton Beach: 28
Winter Park High School, Winter Park: 29
*Both schools are unclear if there were any successful IB Diploma candidates as the scores are either low or still pending.
Gateway High School, Kissimmee: 28
William T Dwyer High School, Palm Beach Gardens: First IB Diploma Class in 2013
* First class was in 2011 and there were 2 candidates, 1 of which earned the diploma.
Land O’ Lakes High School, Land O’ Lakes: 31
St. Petersburg High School, St. Petersburg: 30
IB School at Bartow High School, Bartow: 29
Riverview High School, Sarasota: 29
Seminole High School, Sanford: 31
Pedro Menendez High School, St. Augustine: First IB Diploma Class in 2011
Lincoln Park Academy, Fort Pierce: 28
Port St Lucie High School, Port St Lucie: 23
Spruce Creek High School, Port Orange: 31
Florida IB Diploma schools (not including Jones, Evans, or Carrollwood which would probably bring the average down) have an average IB Diploma score of 29 – above the US mean of 27.5 but below the world mean score of 30.7. In England, there are 210 IB diploma schools, of which 20 (nearly 10%) have a mean score of 34 or higher. If this statistic is applied to Florida IB Diploma schools, then there should be 7 schools that have a mean of 34 or higher. There aren’t. There are two (and one school had only one graduate) and a third school was very close with a mean score of 33.
Finally, a last word on interpretation of mean scores. The high mean score may not mean a school is the top performer because a variety of other factors have to be considered. The number of years the program has been operating, the number of candidates, the pass rate, and the mean score all have to be considered.
Boca Prep may seem like the top performer with a mean score of 37 but that mean score is the score of the one student who passed. The class of 2011 was also the first graduating IB Diploma class for Boca Prep. Two schools – one public (Palm Harbour University High School) and one private (Gulliver) – stand out. Palm Harbour University High School in Pinellas County has offered the IB diploma program since 1995 and had a 95% pass rate (more than 60 graduates annually) with a mean score of 33 in 2011. Gulliver has offered the IB diploma since 1996 and reported a mean score of 34 in 2011.