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Guest Blog: Uplift makes strides toward district-wide International Baccalaureate initiative

July 13, 2016

This coming school year, Uplift Education will educate nearly 16,000 scholars in North Texas and close out a five-year strategic plan that brought the opening of 23 schools and one unique partnership school with Grand Prairie ISD, Uplift Lee. Twenty years ago, Uplift was granted one of the first public charters in Texas, and with the opening of Uplift North Hills in 1997, made its first mark on education in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. In the next 20 years, Uplift would expand college preparatory education to 36 schools and align its mission to provide a high quality education for children in predominately underserved areas with the goal of 100 percent of graduates earning college acceptance. For the past eight years, that goal has been a reality for Uplift alumni, a majority of whom are the first in their families to attend college.

Setting our sights on the bigger vision of 70 percent of alumni earning a college degree within six years, Uplift saw the International Baccalaureate (IB) program as the curricular framework that would best prepare our scholar populations for success in college and the global community. The rigorous IB program focuses on developing “the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.” During the past few years, we began leveraging and honing existing internal systems and processes to move our schools through the IB authorization process. Uplift currently has nine authorized IB programs across the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), and Diploma Programme (DP) as well as six schools awaiting verification this summer. While the DP is offered at various high schools in North Texas, most public schools offer the program to a small percentage of high-achieving students. Both Uplift and IB believe that all students can benefit from the rigorous program. By 2021, Uplift will be educating nearly 23,000 scholars across North Texas.

According to national statistics from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, only nine percent of students from the lowest-income backgrounds graduate college within six years compared to 60 percent of higher income students earning a college degree. With 72 percent of Uplift scholars qualifying for free and reduced lunch, we know that 100 percent college acceptance is not enough. Considering the rigor of the DP and the strong historical presence of DP graduates in college, Uplift has begun the process of implementing the DP in all high schools in partnership with its robust Road To College program to reach our big 70 percent college graduation goal. Research shows that students who participate in the DP are more academically prepared for the rigors of a heavy college course load and the corresponding work, have the ability to manage their time better and are prepared for exam-based grading systems—all of which impact a student’s college persistence. College retention rates for low-income DP candidates have shown to be consistent with the national average for all students and significantly higher than that of their low income peers. Based on this research and Uplift’s current projections, by implementing the DP, Uplift will be able to effectively close the opportunity gap for African American (19 percent), Hispanic (67 percent) and low-income (72 percent) students within the Uplift district.

Uplift North Hills was one of the first schools in North Texas to earn IB authorization and is one of only nine public IB World Schools in North America to offer the continuum of IB programs, kindergarten through 12th grade. Within the next several years, Uplift will grow our number of IB World continuum schools to 10 with separate feeder primary school campuses offering the PYP, making it the largest public charter district of IB schools. In July, Uplift’s Senior Director of Curriculum, Mya Baker, and Network IB Coordinator, Sophia Kwong will be presenting strategies to inform a systematic approach to district-wide IB implementation at the IB Conference of the Americas in Toronto, Canada. The team will lead a presentation for other districts interested in scaling the IB program with fidelity across multiple schools by using Uplift as a case study of a network that leveraged existing systems and structures to bring the IB program to thousands of scholars in North Texas.

We are incredibly excited to embark on this next phase at Uplift Education and what it will mean for children in North Texas. We believe that the IB program, coupled with Uplift’s strengths as a network, will expand our impact and close the opportunity gap for more and more scholars.

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