Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 | 3:53 p.m.
Move over, Valley and Green Valley high schools. There’s another International Baccalaureate school in town.
Last week the Geneva-based organization certified Palo Verde as a World School, which will allow it to start offering IB classes next school year.
International Baccalaureate classes feature a rigorous curriculum built around engaging students with global issues. The programs are internationally recognized and a survey in 2011 found that IB students had an average college acceptance rate of 22 percent higher than other students.
While the programs are also offered at some elementary and middle schools, students can only earn an IB diploma by passing the high school program, which starts in their junior year.
At Valley, which has offered the program since 1979, 98 percent of IB students graduate high school and 100 percent of IB graduates who apply to college are accepted somewhere.
Just getting to the point where a school can offer IB classes is difficult. That’s because schools must undergo a grueling authorization process that involves meeting strict funding and facility requirements. IB officials fly out and spend days inspecting schools.
“I mean they even look at desk sizes,” said Palo Verde principal Darren Sweikert. “They are pretty detailed in the information that they want.”
The high school started the authorization process last year. In the meantime they’ve been training existing faculty to teach IB curriculum. In November, the organization conducted a final two-day visit at the school before announcing it had passed last Friday.
The district currently has five other schools certified as World Schools, including two elementary schools and one middle school.
Sweikert said that Palo Verde chose to participate in International Baccalaureate because the school wants to put a heavy focus on programs that prepare students for college.
“IB is going to be a big focus for us,” he said. “Palo Verde is very focused on getting kids into some of the best colleges in the world and with that idea in mind, it makes sense for us to be a part of the program.”
The school doesn’t know yet how many students it will have capacity for in the program, but is already advertising the program to students in its Advanced Placement courses.