Harris Middle School in the San Antonio Independent School District has been certified as an International Baccalaureate school.
Offering the globally-recognized program at more schools is part of the district's five-year plan to increase student success.
Carol Velazquez, the principal of Harris Middle School, said all of her students take part in the rigorous program focused on critical thinking and interdisciplinary studies.
“I really believe that any student can do what they set their mind to, and so bringing that prospect, and bringing the clout of IB to students, and for them seeing themselves that, yes, they can do what’s within IB is just a marvelous thing,” Velazquez said.
The south side middle school is an in-district charter campus open to any Bexar County resident, but Velazquez said most students live in the neighborhood.
Harris started adopting the IB framework in the 2014-2015 school, and became a candidate for IB’s Middle Years Programme two years ago.
Velazquez said she noticed a real difference this year when her 8th graders researched problems in their community and presented ways to address those problems.
“That’s where I could see the big shift; that they saw things beyond what’s happening in the walls of their school,” Velazquez said. “That they can make a difference at an early age.”
Harris feeds into Burbank High School, which has had the IB diploma program since 1998. Unlike the Middle Years Programme, students have to apply and get accepted into the diploma program their junior year of high school.
Velazquez said the idea of introducing the challenging IB program earlier is to help more students be prepared for the IB diploma program or other college-prep courses, such as Advanced Placement.
“Harris has always been a school of tradition. A good school,” Velazquez said. “I’m excited to (be) taking it from a good to a great school.”
Harris is the district’s fourth IB-certified campus, joining Burbank, Jefferson High School and Woodlawn Academy. Five other SAISD schools are candidates to become IB schools. It takes two to three years for a school to become IB certified.
Judson High School, IDEA South Flores and KIPP University Prep also offer the IB high school diploma program.
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille