An educational curriculum that originally catered to the children of globe-trotting diplomats is making rapid inroads in K-12 public schools across the U.S., boosting test results and academic readiness even at inner-city schools.
Houston, Chicago, Tampa, Fla., and other cities are embracing the International Baccalaureate program as a way to overhaul low-performing schools, attract middle-income families who might otherwise favor private schools, or offer more choice.
"It's not a program for the elite," said Samuel Sarabia, who runs the IB program for Houston Independent School District, where 10 schools have IB programs, including two where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Five more low-income schools are in the midst of an IB conversion process run by the nonprofit International Baccalaureate group.
The program began in Geneva in the 1960s as a two-year high-school diploma offering for the children of diplomats and itinerant business executives. It later expanded into elementary- and middle-school programs.