Tensions ran high at the Board of Education meeting last Thursday, as trustees set parameters for a discussion regarding Advanced Placement courses and the high school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. A follow-up presentation is scheduled for Jan. 25.
According to the school’s website, the IB Diploma Program is designed to engage students in a cohesive experience that hones their skills as learners, fosters interdisciplinary learning, and prepares them for global citizenship in the 21st century. The program was implemented in September 2015.
“We run multiple courses; some are only IB, some are only AP, and some are co-seated,” said Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo. “The purpose of the meeting was to elicit questions from the board that we will now seek to answer.”
The board addressed how co-seating AP and IB courses would be situated within the high school, and how the students would be taught and assessed in the respective programs if they ran concurrently.
Trustees were able to discuss concerns and share questions they had in order to develop more informed opinions about which path the school should take.
Trustee Marianne Russo said she had a “basis of comparison” between the two curriculums since one of her children took AP courses at North Shore while the other was enrolled in the IB Diploma Program.
“There were disparities between student GPAs versus their AP scores, and parents were shocked,” she said. “It’s important that the kids are confident that they did well in their classes and mastered their material.”
Russo pointed out that since every student learns differently, the school should provide opportunities for students who want to take on less coursework so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by AP and IB courses.
“There have been students enrolled in the IB program that dropped out, and then the school had difficulty accommodating them,” she said. “I don’t think the co-seating really works well in the sciences, or language and literature courses. Students are intimated by the IB curriculum.”
Trustee David Ludmar addressed a number of points about co-seating. “It’s important to set an agenda and get the information we need to understand what’s happening to then work on implementation to help our students succeed,” he said.
Ludmar said he’d like to know what the cost of co-seating would be, as well as conduct an analysis on how co-seating would affect student stress. He also suggested North Shore conduct a comparative analysis of other schools in surrounding districts that have implemented both AP and IB.
“There are classes where the content would be more conducive to the co-seating,” Ludmar added. “We need to evaluate the courses where that’s working and where it’s not.”
Trustee Richard Galati said the board should look into running AP and IB concurrently, but understands that people are “very emotional” over the issue. “We pride ourselves on our students being able to make informed selections, and in the IB program, it’s interesting to see how those students stack up,” he said. “There’s a place for both here, but certain subjects are going to be stronger than others.”
Like Ludmar, Galati was also curious about the economics of the co-seating, and the feasibility of running AP and IB concurrently without any additional expenditure.
Galati assured parents that if the programs were to run concurrently, the information would be made available and disseminated accordingly; however, parents were frustrated by the board’s consideration to co-seat AP and IB.
Jim Antares, of Glen Head, said the board made the wrong choice in implementing IB, and that the board should gauge parental opinion on policy that affects their students. “Talk to the parents,” he said. “It’s easy to make a decision when you’re not the one experiencing it.”
Jerry Romano, of Sea Cliff, believes that although the board’s job is to educate students, they’re spending too much money doing it. “[North Shore] is spending 30 percent more than Manhasset School District,” he said. “We’re forced to pay for the things that you don’t even know what you’re spending on — there’s no processes in place to evaluate that.”
Glen Head parent Allison Loring said the board should consider the social-emotional piece of the puzzle — that is the expectations placed on students taking high-level courses. “This should be at the forefront of the conversation,” she said.
Glen Head parent Lisa Vizza told the board that it was unfair to hold the discussion before Principal Albert Cousins was able to give a presentation of the results from the first student cohort enrolled in the IB Diploma Program.
When asked if the high school would benefit from a co-seating of AP and IB, Giarrizzo said it was too soon to offer an opinion on what the outcome should be. “We are all committed to offering the most robust program that we can provide to our students that enables them to customize their learning through a strong program of offerings,” he added.