“For parents who have gone to private schools, this is what we’re using to get them back.”
The international flair this year at Preston Hollow Elementary School extends beyond the flags and murals from different countries that adorn the hallways.
Tom Brandt already has noticed the difference in his students and teachers as they transition toward becoming the first Dallas ISD campus to offer a complete International Baccalaureate curriculum.
For the school’s 450 students, that means learning from a more college preparatory framework based on global awareness and a more interactive environment.
“We’re not looking at students as test scores,” said Brandt, the school principal. “We’re trying to develop them as human beings.”
The switch was prompted in part by a group of neighbors who went to Dallas ISD administrators a couple of years ago asking for a more balanced literacy program.
“The district embraced it,” said Raquel Patel, the mother of a kindergartner this year at PHES. “They were ready to speak with us, hear us out, and work with us. We have a lot of exciting new changes.”
Patel said that since few private schools in the area have an IB program below the middle-school level, she chose PHES over a Montessori education. So far, she’s pleased with the results.
“We’ve been taking it out to the community,” Patel said. “For parents who have gone to private schools, this is what we’re using to get them back.”
School officials said they are trying to educate parents in a neighborhood filled with private-school options about the benefits of IB public education.
What is IB?
- International Baccalaureate was started in 1968 by a Swiss nonprofit wanting a collaborative learning environment and skill development for a global world.
- The curriculum for primary grades focuses on six subject areas — language; social studies; mathematics; arts; science; and personal, social, and physical education.
- IB schools must be accredited in order to call themselves IB World Schools. The process can take more than a year of evaluation.
Source: International Baccalaureate
“They want to give their child a chance to learn in a diverse environment,” said Nichole Brooks, the school’s IB coordinator. “Academic rigor is a big part of it.”
The school introduced the IB Primary Years Programme last fall, and after a one-year evaluation period, hopes to become the district’s first certified school. Neighboring schools such as Kramer Elementary, Franklin Middle School, and Hillcrest High School aim to follow suit.
“For us, it’s a change in the traditional way of teaching,” Brooks said. “It’s good to see the kids understanding it. When the kids are enthusiastic about something, that spills over to the teachers.”
Debbie Sherrington, a mother of two students at Hillcrest and two more who graduated from there, said the changes at PHES are indicative of a positive trend that’s been ongoing for DISD. Enrollment numbers among middle-class families are starting to reflect that.
“All of our schools are doing so many awesome things,” Sherrington said. “The fact that people are jumping on the bandwagon is great, but we think that so many great things have been going on forever.”
DISD trustee Mike Morath has been trying to sell the IB program as part of his picture of a changing school district. He said DISD has been steadily improving in the past decade despite some lingering negative stereotypes.
“It’s happening at several different places for several different reasons,” said Morath, whose district includes the Hillcrest feeder pattern. “There’s so many little hidden gems in Dallas ISD.”