Preston Hollow Elementary third-grade teacher Courtney Zimmerman says “exciting new changes” are taking place thanks to the IB curriculum. Photo by Kim Leeson

Preston Hollow Elementary third-grade teacher Courtney Zimmerman says “exciting new changes” are taking place thanks to the IB curriculum. Photo by Kim Leeson

Preston Hollow Elementary nearing the finish, with Franklin Middle School, Hillcrest High School and Kramer Elementary soon to follow

This coming spring, Preston Hollow Elementary expects to be named an official International Baccalaureate school after three years of demonstrating its success with the “global thinking, global learning,” curriculum.

Hillcrest High School and Franklin Middle School, where Preston Hollow students will attend, also are embarking on the process and won’t be far behind. Neighborhood school Arthur Kramer Elementary is making efforts toward International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, too.

The change should reorient these schools in terms of how their students think and how they synergize. East Dallas has seen great success with this model; Woodrow Wilson High School and J.L. Long Middle School both are official IB schools, with two of their elementary schools implementing the program this year.

“Instead of, ‘Here’s worksheets, here’s what we’re covering today, guys,’ we would have one of our scholars get up and do a lecture or presentation, just like you would see in a college class. It’s not a quiet setting, not a sit-at-your-desk-and-take-notes kind of environment.”
IB doesn’t change what students are taught; it changes how they learn. As the Woodrow IB coordinator puts it, “We’re teaching to think versus just filling students up with rogue knowledge.”

The concept is appealing, especially to educated, middle- and upper-class Dallas families. But the overall idea of creating “global thinkers, global learners” is a bit esoteric. At the high school level, it translates to a rigorous, opt-in diploma track, which isn’t for everyone, IB experts say. In middle and elementary school, however, IB is a sweeping change across the campus, infusing all classrooms and studies.

“IB moves from a traditional classroom, which is teacher-based, to student–based, student-centered and student-led.” says K.C. Cox, Preston Hollow Elementary’s IB coordinator. “Instead of, ‘Here’s worksheets, here’s what we’re covering today, guys — turn to chapter 7,’ we would have one of our scholars get up and do a lecture or presentation, just like you would see in a college class. It’s not a quiet setting, not a sit-at-your-desk-and-take-notes kind of environment.”

“Scholars” is a term Cox latched onto during his time at two Uplift schools that went through the IB process. The language of IB is intentional and used daily, he says, by everyone from service and personnel staff to parents to students to classroom instructors. “It’s 100 percent buy-in,” Cox says.

It’s also a questioning environment, Cox says. Instructors continue to probe, not letting students off the hook with “I don’t knows.” They want to students to begin asking — and answering — the questions for themselves.

The ultimate goal is to create lifelong learners who continue their education, Cox says, citing a study that children with an IB education are 40 percent more likely to attend a college or university.

“Our zip code over here in DISD is about 3 to 7 percent. It’s not that high,” Cox says. “Anything to offset that and get kids into college would help break the poverty gap.”

The hope is that starting IB early, at the elementary and middle school levels, will give students a better shot at success once they enter IB courses at the high school level. The stakes are high — Hillcrest’s Dallas ISD Trustee, Mike Morath, graduated with an IB diploma from Garland High School that translated to 36 hours of college credit.

Hillcrest mother Debbie Sherrington says the IB momentum provides another strong reason for Preston Hollow and North Dallas families to choose Dallas ISD.

“I hope people will look at it as an opportunity to be able to use their neighborhood school,” Sherrington says. “This is a way to get them in the door to see what we have.”

See all 5 reasons to maintain hope in Dallas ISD


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