The International Baccalaureate is unlike any other high school program in the United States.
Since its founding in 1963, the International Baccalaureate program has become an international symbol of academic excellence and integrity, and its graduates are widely considered to have unusual intellectual promise. International in scope, the main offices of the International Baccalaureate (IB) are located in Geneva, Switzerland, and the grading of final examinations in IB schools is conducted under the auspices of the Exams Office, located in Cardiff, Wales.
Only 550 accredited IB schools exist around the globe. One of those schools is located in Pinellas County, Florida, at St. Petersburg Senior High School, which likes to describe the IB program as unlike any other high school program in the United States.
Pinellas County enrolls 98,000 students, making it the 22nd largest school system in the country. St. Petersburg High School offers an IB Magnet Program, which selects students competitively (only one out of three applicants is accepted). Since its first full graduating class in 1987, the St. Petersburg program has consistently placed in the top 10 of all IB schools in the world in terms of the number of diploma candidates.
Students in the program come from diverse ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. School officials describe students in the program as young people searching for educational challenges who display increased intellectual self-confidence as they work successfully with college-level material in all courses. They become better at managing their own time and develop into expert learners and researchers through participation in such requirements as producing a 4,000 word research paper and "learning to learn" in a Theory of Knowledge course.
The IB course of studies is rigorous. Many observers believe that students who have completed it have completed the equivalent of the first two years of college. In grades 9 and 10, students are required to take a sequence emphasizing grammar, composition, and literature; Algebra I, II, Geometry, and Trigonometry; biology, chemistry, and physics; economics, government, and world history; two years of Spanish, German, or French; inquiry skills development; and fine arts, physical education, health, and practical arts.
Then the real demands begin. Grades 11 and 12 take English and continue a foreign language; history and/or psychology; advanced biology, chemistry, and/or physics; theory of knowledge; probability and statistics, pre-calculus, calculus, and discrete mathematics; a sixth IB elective: a special project of 150 to 300 hours of creative or social service; and an extended 4,000 word essay or research-based thesis.
Achievement in all International Baccalaureate courses is verified by three- to five-hour examinations in each area. Language examinations include an individual assessment of the candidate's oral competence by an external examiner. IB students are generally qualified to take Advanced Placement examinations across a broad spectrum of AP offerings. The result: graduates from the St. Petersburg program and other IB programs around the world are routinely offered admission to many of the best universities in the United States and elsewhere, often with advanced standing.
For additional information:
International Baccalaurate Program of Pinellas County
St. Petersburg Senior High School
2501 Fifth Avenue North
St. Petersburg, FL 33713