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International Baccalaureate Programme at YVHS offers MDUSD students a unique college prep experience
Posted 11/4/22

IB learner profile

The International Baccalaureate Programme at Ygnacio Valley High in Concord – also called “IB” – gives Mt. Diablo Unified School District students a unique opportunity to experience a wide range of college level courses based on international standards in a close-knit school community. 


Known as “a world-class education at the local level," the academic program prepares high school juniors and seniors for college with advanced courses that are recognized by universities for their rigor and focus on critical thinking.


The program at Ygnacio Valley High School officially launched in 2017-18, with the first class graduating in 2019. After the pandemic hit in late 2020, thrusting students into distance learning in 2020-21, the program is now picking up steam as word spreads about its benefits.


Last year, about 300 11th and 12th-graders were enrolled in IB courses, including about 40 who are participating in the “Diploma Programme,” which includes a required series of courses that develop “core” skills in six subject groups. Students earn college credit for the courses by taking “IB Exams” that are similar to Advanced Placement exams – and they also get the same bump in their Grade Point Average as they would with AP courses.


IB Diploma Programme Specialist Carissa Weintraub, who helped launch the program at the school, said it not only helps students get into college, but it also prepares them to excel in their postsecondary education by giving them a taste of college-level work while they’re still in high school.


Anyone who applies to the program is accepted and those who live outside the Ygnacio Valley High boundary area can transfer to the school via an Intradistrict Transfer request. The deadline is Nov. 15, 2021 to apply for an Intradistrict transfer for the 2023-24 school year. Although the courses don’t begin until the 11th grade, Weintraub recommends that students transfer into the school in 9th grade to fill out an interest form and make sure they are on track to join in 11th grade.


Prerequisites include geometry by the sophomore year and AP World History in 10th grade. The District has also cultivated an IB programme at Sequoia Elementary and is working on developing programmes at Oak Grove Middle School and and Monte Gardens Elementary, which have not yet been fully authorized by the IB Programme. Like the high school programme, the elementary and middle school programmes focus on helping students develop into learners who strive to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective.


Students in the programme said they appreciate the challenging curriculum that helps them to think critically, as well as the leg up it could give them when applying to colleges and universities around the world.

IB Class


Emily Mutchie, a 16-year-old Concord junior in the Diploma Programme last year, said the courses help students to understand how what they’re learning applies to the real world and require them to dive more deeply into subjects than she has in regular high school classes. “My essay-writing skills are improving so much,” she said. Although some students may think the classes are too hard, Emily said the teachers’ support is “huge.”  “You can go to any teacher and they’ll help you,” she said, adding that she also likes being in classes with other like-minded students who take school seriously and want to go to college. “You are surrounded by people who want to be here.”




Seth Salin, a 17-year-old Bay Point senior last year who graduated in June, said he opted to take several IB courses without enrolling in the full Diploma Programme because he wanted to take Orchestra and also has an after-school job that would make it difficult to complete all the homework required to earn the Diploma – which includes finishing a fourth year of Spanish or French and writing a 4,000-word research essay. But Seth said he wanted the GPA boost and rigorous coursework, in part because it would help make his college applications stand out. One IB course he finds particularly interesting, he said, is The Theory of Knowledge, which teaches students how people learn and helps them to understand why some concepts are considered to be true, while others cannot be definitively proven or disproven. Seth recommended that students ask themselves if they can successfully take on the full courseload or if they might want to pick and choose IB courses to fit their schedules and interests. I’d ask: “What does your life look like right now? Can you make it work? Do what you’re able to do - and if you feel you can - do more. But don’t overload yourself.”




William Roloson, a 16-year-old Concord junior in the Diploma programme last year, said he gravitated toward the internationally renowned programme because it can help him get into a college or university anywhere in the world. He also likes to challenge himself and said his classes outside of IB were too easy. His favorite class is biology, where he is learning about the evolution of STEM-cell research, which is helping to cure diseases that were previously incurable. “I thought that was really cool because you could see when it started, where it’s going, and how it could progress in the future.”




Another advantage of enrolling in the programme and of attending Ygnacio Valley High is the full-time librarian IB requires. Ygnacio Valley is the only District high school with a full-time librarian and a library that is open every day. Librarian and IB Extended Essay Coordinator Amy Kumar said she teaches IB students how to do original research using computer databases, preparing them for college level work by honing their research, analysis and writing skills. She teaches students to go beyond Wikipedia and Google to mine data and evaluate what’s reliable and what’s “fake news.” Students choose their own topics and must come up with a question to research and present evidence of their findings. “It’s tough,” she said, adding that she loves being able to have adult conversations with students about their research. Often, after hearing their thoughts and theories, she finds herself telling them: “That’s brilliant!”




Weintraub, who taught for 21 years, said she became a better teacher through the IB Programme which requires educators to collaborate with each other on lesson plans and reflect on how what they are teaching relates to other concepts students are learning, as well as the real world context.


Weintraub said IB students show a tremendous amount of intellectual growth and maturity between 11th and 12th grades, which she attributes to the programme’s focus on deep learning and thinking. She has been so impressed by the programme's impact on students that she said she would like to see every student at Ygnacio Valley High take at least one IB course to see if it sparks an interest in taking a deeper dive into the programme.


“I’m really hoping that every student who takes an IB class will see the possibilities,” Weintraub said. 


Note: This is an update of an article originally posted Oct. 22, 2021.