When Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, decided to add the International Baccalaureateâ€™s new Career-related Programme (CP) to its offerings in 2012, it already had five career academies in place. They offered courses in engineering (affiliated with Project Lead the Way), finance (affiliated with NAF), early child development (affiliated with the Maryland Department of Education and Montgomery College), hospitality management (completion and graduation certified by the National Restaurant Association) and medical careers (after successfully completing the first year of the program, students are eligible for certification as a nursing assistant by the Maryland Board of Nursing). Since then, students and academies have benefited in many ways, says CP coordinator Lisa Ingram.
The Career-related Programme has enriched everything about the CP studentsâ€™ experience and learning, Ingram says. â€œThe CP prepares students to be amazing learners for whatever future they anticipate. Theyâ€™ve had strategic lessons. Thatâ€™s huge when they transition to the real world.â€ Meanwhile, the academies have grown and retained students, and Watkins Mill even added a computer science pathway. The medical academy actually doubled in size.
The CP is an excellent choice for students who have already decided on their area of career specialization, seek academic challenge and want hands-on learning and experience in their chosen field. The program provides students with an impressive portfolio of accomplishments for college study and employment. It allows students to create an individualized path that leads to higher education or to employment after graduation.
Hereâ€™s how the CP works: It combines courses from the International Baccalaureateâ€™s highly regarded Diploma Programme with an approved career-related study and a unique CP core. The core consists of four componentsâ€” a personal and professional skills course, service learning, language development and a reflective project–blended together to enhance both critical and ethical thinking and intercultural understanding. Combined, these elements help students develop the communication and personal skills necessary for success in a rapidly changing world.
A key feature of the CP is that it offers flexibility to allow for local differences. Each school creates its own distinctive version of the program to meet the needs and backgrounds of its students. The school selects both the DP courses it offers as part of the CP and the career-related study best suited to local conditions and studentsâ€™ interests. The career-related study must meet International Baccalaureate criteria.
At Watkins Mill, Ingram talks about one student who chose the Child Care Academy. â€œShe was born to be a teacher,â€ Ingram says. â€œShe thrives in the child care environment, and since we have an onsite child care center, sheâ€™s in the thick of it here.â€ She has been deeply involved in a CP service learning project that provides child care for Watkins Mill feeder middle schools during evening parent meetings and on Saturdays.
Ingram also remembers the day that educators from Colorado visited her school to learn about how the CP worked there. Watching students answer questions from these adults, she couldnâ€™t help but think about how the kids â€œwould have been blushing purple as sophomores. But they were completely poised this year talking about their research projects and the program. I think thereâ€™s a lot of risk taking and stretching your learning in IB classes. It kind of forces those kids out of their comfort zone.â€
Not everyone can tour another school to learn about the CP. However, Ingram strongly recommends getting into details and seeing how it really works. â€œPresuppositions will sell it short,â€ she says. â€œThe program gives all these worthy tools to the kids and really respects the way they learn.â€
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