Advanced Academics part of educational planning

Seventeen-year-old Odessa High School junior Isabela Velasquez joined the International Baccalaureate program because of her two older sisters who were both in it before her.
Both are in college.
“They’re really smart and great, plus really hard working so I was like the IB program would help me become that, too,” Velasquez said.
She has one younger sister who is a freshman at OHS. Velasquez is in color guard and academic decathlon.
“It’s pretty hard,” Velasquez said. “There’s a lot of writing, but so far it’s fun. I mean CAS, that’s really fun.”
CAS stands for creativity, activity and service.
Velasquez said IB keeps her busy and there is a lot of writing. Time management is an issue, but the program is helping with that and she said it will help her when she goes to college.
Advanced Placement/IB Coordinator Melissa Roth said they are trying to raise awareness of the opportunities available to students in advanced academics.
“In a normal year, I would be setting up parent meetings,” Roth said. “This has not been a normal year at all and so we’ve been adding to the IB website, which can be found on the OHS web page. There’s a banner that goes across the page with a lot of things in it. There is an IB link. Then it’s also on the bottom left hand side of the links.”
They also visit private and charter schools to see if students may be interested in IB.
There are about 80 freshmen through senior students in IB this year, which Roth said is relatively small.
“The pandemic had quite an effect on students’ confidence in their abilities. … We lost a lot of students as parents reevaluated their own situations. …. We want to reach out and remind students about the program. And pandemic or not, IB has made many adjustments around the world in response to the pandemic. They’ve made curricular adjustments in the assessments and certainly have created quite a plethora of resources for virtual learning for faculty,” Roth said.
She added that what sets IB apart is the mission statement which is about understanding differences, making the world a better place and recognizing that everyone is part of a global community.
With Advanced Placement, Roth said there is an assessment at the end of the year that is one day and a few hours long.
IB also has exams, but there is one for every course.
“There are also components of the assessment process that are application-based, so for example in English students actually do oral recordings of literary analysis and those are submitted to IB,” Roth said.
“For math, there’s a mathematics investigation. Students have to apply some of the principles they’ve learned in math, create a study, follow through, gather the data (and) analyze it,” she said.
“Science is usually a student designed experiment. However, because of COVID one of the things that’s changed is that they can do a literature review instead, or virtual experiments. Our school just purchased Labster so all students have more access to online experimentation,” Roth said.
Roth said the program is trying to focus educators on teaching students how to learn. The measurements often include analytical thinking, reflection and application.
“We would love to grow this program,” Roth said. “We really had plans for starting to grow it this year. We talked about it and then COVID came.”
IB also opens the door to the vast variety of universities.
Advanced Placement has a whole gamut of courses and students get to choose their strength.
“If I’m a wonderful student and math comes easy, that’s something I’m very comfortable with I can take an AP math course,” Director of Advanced Academic Services Omega Loera said.
She added that there are many options for students such as dual credit, AP and career and technical education.
“… We have great programs in our district to offer to students to meet their individual needs,” Loera said.
Roth said the deadline for signing up for IB is Feb. 15.
“That way they can get their educational planning set and get their transfers if they’re coming from another school. …,” Roth said.