District discusses I.B. in middle school

Middle Years Program would update SSMS curriculum


At its meeting on April 2, the Rockville Centre Board of Education discussed adding the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Program back into the budget and the South Side Middle School curriculum, potentially changing the way students are taught, before curriculum changes are made at the state level starting next year.

The Board of Education removed thousands of dollars from the budget last month that was earmarked for the MYP program. But after an outcry from some parents, the board is reconsidering its decision.

The Middle Years Program, or MYP, is part of the I.B. curriculum targeted for younger students, generally 11 to 16. It’s complementary to the program that currently exists in the high school.

“We felt that this was a really good year [to implement the program],” said South Side Middle School Principal Shelagh McGinn. “If we’re coming into the Common Core and we’re changing what we’re doing, a lot of it we can marry with the I.B. — make one change.”

The new Common Core curriculum focuses on more in-depth analysis of materials by students, something that is already part of the MYP program.

Working with the I.B., the district has developed a special part of the MYP program that is for grades six through eight. “When it’s done as a middle school grouping — and I want to say this loud and clear, because I think this is the worry that I’ve been hearing — there are no outside assessments,” McGinn said. “It’s our assessments. It’s our curriculum, and being part of the MYP, the I.B. will give us tons of support in curriculum that we currently don’t have through Common Core and the new things New York state is doing.”

There would be a cost of approximately $10,000 in the first year for staff training, as well a stipend of about $8,250 to compensate a faculty member to act as coordinator — a liaison between the school and the I.B. organization.

Dr. William Johnson, the district’s superintendent, lauded the program for the help with planning and curriculum it would give the district. “They have collected data from all the districts that are participating, what works and what does not,” Johnson said of the I.B. “So what they can do is give us advice on the better way to pursue our goals and frame our curriculum and/or develop our curriculum.”

As Johnson explained it, the move from the current curriculum to Common Core would change students’ learning experience from one that is an inch deep and a mile wide to one that is a mile deep and an inch wide. The change would be included in the MYP curriculum and, with the I.B. support system, would be easy to implement.

“It’s a change in orientation, and it’s going to change the way in which kids view what they do in school,” Johnson said. “It’s just not going to rush through a whole bunch of topics.”

The district also must apply to be accepted into the MYP program. Once it is, there is a yearly fee of $8,700 for the three- to five-year “candidate” phase. Once the candidate phase is completed, the fee would be cut in half.

Christopher Pellettieri, the district’s assistant superintendent for curriculum, estimated that the first-year cost of the program would be about $26,000. School district officials, and many PTA parents who attended the meeting, made it clear that the benefits of MYP would justify the cost.

“We want the kids to make connections so that what they’re learning in math makes sense when they’re doing an Excel spreadsheet in technology,” McGinn said. “[The MYP program] helps us with different ways to make more of those connections.”

The Board of Education did not make a decision about the program at last week’s meeting. The next budget session is scheduled for April 17, at 7:30 p.m., in Room 112 of South Side High School.