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IB English for all

This post is part of Excellence and Equity, a dialogue among IB educators and school leaders around empowering underrepresented students for success in life-long learning. Subscribe to E2 updates or write to us directly to share your access success story.

Our project’s E2 (Excellence and Equity) Framework aims to provide an image of what an equitable school where underrepresented students would have access to the highest levels of achievement would look like. Carol Burris and John Murphy’s important access story below provides a successful example of an E2 Framework component on access: “Instruction across the school is designed to support and engage all students in courses that are academically challenging and prepare them for college and university.”

By Carol Burris and John Murphy

Carol Burris, Ed.D. Principal,   South Side High School

Carol Burris, Ed.D. Principal,
South Side High School

Since 2000, South Side High School has methodically detracked classes at each grade level and in all subject areas. We were motivated by a desire to have as many students as possible participate in IB courses, therefore we allowed the IB curriculum, especially in English Language Arts, to inform our 9th and 10th grade courses so that all students are prepared for IB courses in grades 11 and 12.

As we did so, IB participation increased so that about 80% of our students took at least one IB course. As our numbers grew, achievement held steady. We began to wonder if we could make the IB curriculum the one curriculum for all.

Beginning in September 2011, all our 11th graders took IB English Language and Literature and completed the required IB assessments, including two formal oral presentations and two written tasks. The results on our state test were excellent and our students thrived. When we presented these results at PTA and Board of Education meetings, community members asked, “If IB English for all was so successful in Grade 11, why don’t we do the same thing in Grade 12?” No question could have pleased us more.

In the 2013-14 we decided to give all of our 12th graders IB English Language and Literature as 12th graders. In order to help students who struggle, we offered optional every other day to support classes for the course. Because we do not pay for all exams, we do not insist that students take the May assessments—however, to our delight nearly all of our students did. Even the few who did not benefited from the rich curriculum of the IB.

Last June, 86 % of our 12th grade students took the Language and Literature tests. Although one might expect scores to drop, they did not. The average score increased from 4.4 to 4.64 from 2013 to 2014.

We are in our fourth year of IB Language and Literature for all in Grade 11 and our second year in Grade 12. For the first time, all students are now in IB History of the Americas in Grade 11.

Success can be a bountiful harvest. Given the right support and thoughtful preparatory curriculum taught in detracked classes, IB can be the curriculum for all.


Carol Burris, Ed.D. is the principal of South Side High School. John Murphy is the school’s Assistant principal and IB coordinator. This discussion is part of the IB series on Excellence and Equity.

E2 Excellence and Equity

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