Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Many years in the making, Gordon Parks Academy achieves IB Status

Gordon Parks Academy is officially an International Baccalaureate World School — the only public IB middle school in Kansas — and officials say the achievement could increase its appeal to families across the district. ~Wichita Eagle, Sat 10/30/10
In June of 2006 when it was announced that USD259 would be looking at building a new K-8 Magnet school in Northeast Wichita, within the predominantly African American Community, the Wichita NAACP Education Committee and Branch President Kevin Myles attended a meeting with then Superintendent Brooks to discuss the planned school's program and curriculum.

The school at that time had been envisioned by District officials as a 'Performing Arts' Magnet. The Branch proposed and advanced the argument that the new Magnet school should be opened as an IB school. We argued that 'IF' we really have high expectations for all children, and believe that all children are capable of achieving great things... If we believe in all of our children's potential for academic success, then we should invest in that idea. We should meet the achievement gap and scholastic shortcomings with high standards, academic rigor, and high quality teachers. We should raise the bar and give our children the needed support to help them reach it. - An IB School would provide that. And the program itself would require additional teacher training and certifications that would also serve to ensure that the students of the new school would always be taught by high quality and highly experienced teachers.

We also advanced the argument that as the district looked for ways to maintain diversity without a formal busing for desegregation program, a challenging and attractive curriculum was perhaps the lowest hanging fruit. This high quality, high rigor, academic program (the first of it's kind in Kansas) could attract students from all races, all ethnicities, and all socio-economic backgrounds to a school in the heart of the African American community.

Thankfully the District responded, and in 2008, Gordon Parks Academy opened as an "IB Candidate" school.

Even after the school opened, there was still a healthy dose of skepticism in the community as to whether or not the school would ever truly be awarded its IB status. To become a part of the IB program, schools and teachers must undergo a series of trainings and certifications which can be costly and take years to complete. But the Wichita Eagle reported on Saturday that the middle school component of the Gordon Parks Academy has now officially received its IB designation and the district is hopeful that the Elementary program will receive its designation soon as well - just two years since it's opening.

On behalf of the Wichita Branch of the NAACP, I'd like say thank you to the district, both staff and administrators, for really 'putting our money where our mouths are' and taking this incredible leap for children; particularly those in the high minority/low SES areas of the city. This is an investment in the potential of children that will pay great dividends, and we are happy to partner with you to ensure its success.

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