International Baccalaureate

International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

Oscar F. Smith High School was authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) of Geneva, Switzerland in February 2003 to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB) for rising juniors beginning in September 2004.

Interested eighth graders who reside in Chesapeake apply for the Diploma Program by applying for the Pre-IB Academy at Oscar F. Smith High School. The application deadline is January 15. Fifty applicants are accepted each year for the four-year program. Pre-IB Academy instruction consists of intensified courses in Grades 9 and 10 in English, Spanish or French, social studies, science, and mathematics in preparation for the rigorous college-level curriculum of the Grade 11-12 Diploma Program. IB students have the opportunity to earn the International Baccalaureate diploma in addition to the Virginia Advanced Studies Diploma.

Students accepted for the IB Program receive all instruction for the four years of the program at Oscar F. Smith High School and are eligible for all Virginia High School League sports and other extra-curricular activities only at Oscar F. Smith High School. For IB students, daily busing is provided to the school from all areas of the city.

IBO Mission Statement

The International Baccalaureate Organization aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the IBO works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.                                                                               return to top

The IBO Curriculum Model

The IB curriculum, shaped over the years by educators committed to excellence in international education, involves the student's final two years of the secondary education sequence. Students study a broad range of subjects concurrently in both the humanities and the sciences. Diploma candidates are required to select one subject from each of six subject groups. At least three and not more than four are taken at the higher level (HL); the remainder are taken at the standard level (SL). By arranging work in this fashion, students are able to explore some subjects in depth and some more broadly over the two-year period: this is similar to having majors and minors. In each IB course, students demonstrate their thinking skills and level of knowledge in a wide variety of required IBO internal assessments and at the end of each course, students sit for an external examination prepared by an International Board of Examiners, which has the final authority on the setting of examinations and the assessment of all candidates for the awarding of the International Baccalaureate diploma.

Generally speaking, the examinations in courses taken at the higher level test more knowledge and are more difficult than examinations in standard level courses. Students are well advised to take their HL exams in areas of their greatest strengths. International examiners use a scale of 1-7 to score exams. Students must earn a minimum of 24 points and satisfactorily complete the Theory of Knowledge course, the CAS activities, and the Extended Essay to be eligible for the IB diploma.

International curriculum planners seek to ensure that the International Baccalaureate Organization's educational aims are embodied in the structure and content of the program itself. The program has the strengths of a traditional and broad curriculum, but with three important additional features, shown at the center of the IBO hexagonal curriculum model.                                                        return to top

Core Elements of the Diploma Program

The Extended Essay is a 4,000-word independent research paper due in the second year of the program. Written in one of the subjects of the IB curriculum under the direct supervision of a qualified teacher at the school, the essay offers students an opportunity to investigate a topic of special interest and acquaints them with the kind of independent research and writing skills expected at the university level. The essay is externally assessed according to specific criteria.

Theory of Knowledge (ToK) is a required interdisciplinary seminar intended to stimulate critical reflection upon the knowledge and experience gained inside and outside the classroom. TOK challenges students to question the bases of knowledge, to be aware of subjective and ideological biases, and to develop a personal mode of thought based on analysis of evidence expressed in rational argument. The key element in the International Baccalaureate Organization's educational philosophy, Theory of Knowledge seeks to develop a coherent approach to learning that transcends and unifies the academic subjects and encourages appreciation of other cultural perspectives.

Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS) is a fundamental part of the diploma curriculum. The CAS requirement takes seriously the importance of life outside the world of scholarship, providing a refreshing counterbalance to the academic self-absorption some may feel within a demanding educational program. Participation in activities such as theatre productions, sports, musical performances, and community service encourages young people to share their energies and special talents while developing awareness of, concern for, and the ability to work cooperatively with others. The goal of educating the whole person and fostering a more compassionate citizenry comes alive in an immediate way when students reach beyond themselves and their books.                                            return to top

IB Course Offerings at Oscar F. Smith

The Grade 11-12 Diploma Program at Oscar F. Smith High School consists of the following two-year courses in each of the IBO subject groups. The student must take at least one course from each of the six diploma groups and each course has required summer assignments.

Group 1: Language A1

IB English HL: a language and literature course in the student's native or best language. It focuses on in-depth study of American, British, and world literature in all four genres: fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry. Critical and reflective reading and written analysis of literature are emphasized. In addition, 30 percent of the final mark is derived from oral work-presentations, group discussions, and formal oral testing.

Group 2: Language B

IB French SL or IB Spanish SL: a foreign language course for students with at least three years' previous experience in learning the target language. The courses emphasize both written and spoken communication with fluency as a goal. They also foster an awareness and appreciation for the culture(s) of the countries in which the target language is spoken.

Group 3: Individuals and Societies

IB World History, Americas HL: an in-depth study of twentieth century world history with emphasis on the history of the Americas from 1840 to 1995. The course fosters a lasting interest in history and assists the student in developing the ability to use and communicate historical knowledge and understandings.

Group 4: Experimental Sciences

IB Biology HL: a course designed to give students a secure knowledge of selected topics and at the same time a broad understanding of the field of biology.

IB Chemistry SL: a course designed to meet the needs of students who will continue the study of science at the university.

Both courses develop the student's experimental and investigative scientific skills through extensive laboratory and field work. An interdisciplinary group project requires students to see the relationships among the various scientific fields of study and their applications in the real world.

Group 5: Mathematics

IB Mathematical Studies SL: a realistic mathematics course designed for IB students with varied backgrounds and abilities and whose future careers will not include a focus on mathematics. The course develops the skills needed to cope with the mathematical demands of a technological society.

IB Mathematics SL: a rigorous course designed to provide a foundation for students who will continue to study mathematics in college requiring a background of mathematical thought and a reasonable level of technical ability.

IB Mathematics HL: a rigorous course designed for those students who will focus on mathematics or engineering in college. It meets the needs of students who have a genuine interest in mathematics and who enjoy meeting its challenges and problems.

An integral part of each of the math courses is an individual project that accounts for 20 percent of the final mark.

Group 6: Arts and Electives

Computer Science SL: a course that focuses on software development, fundamentals of computer systems, and the relationship between computing systems and society. The student must develop a full understanding of logical problem solving, detailed knowledge of how computers operate, and mastery of specified aspects of Java.

IB Psychology SL: a course that gives students a broad understanding of psychology and its different theoretical approaches. The student is guided through the study of human behavior by examining key topics from different psychological perspectives and is introduced to diverse methods of psychological inquiry.

IB Psychology HL: an extension of IB Psychology SL, which introduces students to the psychology of dysfunctional behavior and psychodynamic psychology. In IB Psychology HL, students undertake an experimental study requiring them to research, design, implement, and analyze the resulting data.

IB Visual Arts SL: a course that promotes, through the study of the art of various cultures, the student's aesthetic, imaginative, and creative faculties. It encourages a lively, inquiring and informed attitude towards art and design in all of its forms and requires the student to research and develop personal responses to artistic expression.

IB Visual Arts HL: an extension of IB Visual Arts SL, this course by provides additional depth in the student's study of artistic expression and fosters the acquisition of sufficient technical skill for the student to produce some artistic works of quality.

In IB Visual Arts at both levels, a visiting examiner assesses student work.

Nota Bene: A second IB science may be taken as an IB elective to fulfill the Group 6 requirement.                                                                             return to top  

Pre-IB Academy

Students can find that they are not prepared for the rigors of an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program; therefore, Oscar F. Smith High School offers pre-IB courses for accepted ninth and tenth graders in preparation for the Diploma Program.

Accepted candidates in Grade 9 take intensified courses in English, world history, geometry or algebra II/trigonometry, biology, and Spanish II or French II. Note:

  1. Accepted candidates who have not already earned one credit in one of these languages may take Spanish I or French I during the first term of ninth grade, but it is strongly recommended that students begin study of the language prior to ninth grade.
  2. Accepted candidates who have not taken Algebra I prior to ninth grade will be required to take Algebra I in summer school before the tenth grade.

Pre-IB tenth graders take intensified courses in English, Spanish III or French III, U.S. Government (AP), chemistry, and algebra II/trigonometry or math analysis. All pre-IB courses have required summer assignments.                                return to top

IB Application Process

Applications for the IB Program at Oscar Smith High School are available in all middle school guidance offices or from the IB coordinator beginning in November each year. Each interested eighth grader should submit an application to his/her middle school counselor by January 15. The counselor will attach transcripts, teacher recommendations, etc. and forward the packet to the IB coordinator. All applicants must participate in a writing session at Oscar F. Smith High School following the submission of the application. Writing session dates and times will be provided in the application packet.

Selection Process

To be eligible for IB, students should meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or above
  • Grade of A or B in each core subject
  • Favorable recommendations from four current teachers as follows:
    1. English,
    2. mathematics,
    3. social studies, and
    4. science
  • Evidence of desire to be challenged through enrollment in honors and high-school-equivalent mathematics and foreign language courses while in middle school
  • Proficiency in written communication (demonstrated in the writing sample)
  • Scores at or above the 85th percentile on nationally standardized tests
  • Passing scores on all Virginia Standards of Learning tests

The IB Application Screening Committee scores each student's application using a rubric, which incorporates the previously listed requirements. A personal interview with the applicant at the student's middle school will be scheduled if there is inadequate information on which to base a decision.

The top fifty (50) applicants on the committee's ranked list will be offered admission into the Pre-IB Academy. The remaining students will be placed on a waiting list and will be considered for admission in the event that a student who is offered a position in the program chooses not to accept. The application and screening process are modeled after ones used to select students in IB world schools throughout the United States. The process has proven effective in identifying students who can succeed in the rigorous Diploma Program.

Admissions Policy

Every student is expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0. Counseling will be available to assist each student not fulfilling his/her potential. Any student with a GPA below a 3.0 should schedule parent/teacher conferences to assist in attaining the minimum GPA and will be encouraged to seek tutoring. At the end of ninth grade, any student with a GPA below a 2.6 will be placed on Academic Probation. Any student with a GPA between 2.6 and 2.9 will be notified that he/she has until the end of the first term of the sophomore year to meet the minimum requirement or be placed on Academic Probation.

Any student who has not met the minimum GPA requirement after one term of Academic Probation will be scheduled for Academic Review. Unless there are highly valid extenuating circumstances, the Academic Review Committee will recommend transfer from the program. The minimum GPA requirement of maintaining a 3.0 will also applies to the Grade 11-12 Diploma Program.

Note: To maintain the integrity of the IB Program, repeated violations of the Admissions Agreement signed by the student and his/her parents/guardians in the application process can warrant removal from the program during or at the end of the ninth grade year or any year thereafter.                                return to top

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program is a demanding, two-year    program of curriculum and service that meets the needs of highly motivated secondary students. The Diploma Program offers a comprehensive and integrated approach to learning that prepares students for rigorous assessments in six subject areas. Students must also complete a minimum of 150 hours in Creativity, Action, and Service activities; a 4,000 word essay of original research; and the Theory of Knowledge seminar. The International Baccalaureate Organization awards its diploma to students who perform successfully on the six external examinations and fulfill all other requirements of the program at an authorized IB world school. The diploma is recognized as the highest secondary school diploma offered anywhere in the world. 

International Baccalaureate allows its graduates to fulfill requirements of various national systems of education and is based on the pattern of no single country. The primary objective of an IB program is to provide a world-class education that prepares students of different linguistic, cultural, and educational backgrounds with the intellectual, social, and critical perspectives necessary for college and the rest of their lives. The rigorous curriculum, together with the required Theory of Knowledge course, extended essay, and Creativity, Action, and Service activities are designed to produce well-rounded and well-educated citizens who can think critically, write well, speak articulately, and manage extremely demanding schedules. For three decades, thousands of young adults from all continents have earned the IB diploma and have gained admission to leading institutions of higher education.

How will the International Baccalaureate Program benefit my student?
The IB Program provides a strong writing emphasis, develops critical thinking skills, promotes sound ethical thought, seeks international understanding, and instills commitment to community service.
It also provides greater certainty of college admission, higher SAT scores, a more integrated curriculum, and a higher GPA in the freshman year of college than other students earn, including those who have taken AP courses.


Can my child earn college credit with IB exams?
Absolutely. Go to www.ibo.org for IB recognition policies by North American colleges and universities.


Do IB students also earn an Advanced Studies Diploma?
Yes. In the Diploma Program, students earn sufficient credits for the Virginia Advanced Studies Diploma awarded by Oscar F. Smith High School.


How does the IB diploma differ from the Virginia Advanced Studies Diploma?
The IB diploma is awarded by an external agency, is more global in scope, and signifies a more integrated curriculum than the traditional diploma.


How does the IB Program differ from Advanced Placement (AP)?
Both offer college-level courses: AP provides students with the opportunity to select individual courses while IB provides a comprehensive curriculum of college-level work. AP courses represent a national standard of excellence; IB represents an international standard.
Both programs rely on externally generated and assessed exams; however, the AP exams are based on in-depth knowledge of specific concepts within a given subject area, while the IB exams are based on a broad, general understanding of concepts and fundamental themes.
AP exams place particular emphasis on multiple-choice questions. By comparison, IB courses place more emphasis on critical thinking and analysis: IB assessments involve more writing, investigation, oral work, projects, and labs. Also, final marks in IB reflect combined assessment by the classroom teacher and international examiners.


How much work does a student have to do in the IB Program?
The program is designed to provide a rigorous, broad-based liberal arts curriculum; therefore, the workload will be significant (approximately three hours of homework per evening). During the junior and senior years, each IB student must complete 150 hours of community service projects and extra-curricular activities. Also required in the IB program is the completion of a 4,000-word extended essay of original thought and research.


What type of student should consider the IB Program?
Highly motivated, college bound students who are serious about acquiring the skills for success in higher education are the best candidates for this rigorous program.


Does my child have to be gifted to succeed in the IB Program?
No, but he or she must be highly motivated and have a pronounced desire to be in the program.


What if my child finishes the program but fails to score the 24-point minimum for earning the IB diploma?
The student will receive an IB certificate for each examination completed, but will not receive the IB diploma; however, an unsuccessful candidate has a maximum of three examination sessions in which to satisfy the requirements for the award of the IB diploma. Hence, a student may retake examinations (at his/her own expense) after graduation from high school in an attempt to earn the diploma.


Can IB students participate in music programs and extra-curricular activities?
Yes. IB students are full-time students in the school and are encouraged to take music electives and to participate in any extra-curricular activities offered, including all Virginia High School League (VHSL) sports and activities. Out-of-zone students in the program are eligible for all VHSL activities only at Oscar Smith High; they will not be eligible to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities at the high school they normally would have attended.


Is IB a four-year program?
Yes, in essence it is. The Pre-IB Academy is a two-year program, and the IB, itself, is a two-year program.


Can my child transfer into the IB Program?
Yes, up to the eleventh grade and on a space-available basis; however, no transfers may be made during the 11th and 12th grades unless the student is transferring from another IB program elsewhere and space is available.


How does my child apply for the program?
Students in eighth grade may obtain an application from any Chesapeake middle school guidance office or from the IB coordinator at Oscar Smith High School. Applications will be available by mid-November. The deadline for submitting the application for the Pre-IB Academy is January 15. Applicants who submit applications after January 15 will be placed on the official waiting list. Interested students in ninth or tenth grade should submit an application before the end of each school year for any vacancies that may arise for the next year.


What middle school courses provide preparation for the IB Program?
Honors courses in English, social studies, and science are strongly recommended.


If my child hasn't taken French or Spanish and algebra before ninth grade, can he or she still apply for the program?
Yes. However, students without Spanish or French credit will have to double up in foreign language during the freshman year and students who haven't taken Algebra I will have to take it in summer school before the freshman year.


Is there a minimum grade point average (GPA) required in the IB Program?
Yes. The minimum GPA is 3.0 or a B average. Beginning with the sophomore year, after a student spends one term on academic probation, the student will be transferred from the program unless there are highly valid extenuating circumstances. If the student does not reside within the Oscar Smith High School attendance area, he or she will be return to the appropriate Chesapeake high school.


Do IB courses carry additional weighting?
Yes. Most pre-IB courses receive honors weighting (additional 0.025). Most IB courses receive the same weighting as Advanced Placement (AP) courses (additional 0.05). Exceptions:
  1. Pre-IB World History and Pre-IB U.S. Government are weighted as AP courses because they follow the AP format, and
  2. IB Theory of Knowledge is weighted with an additional 0.025 only.
Will transportation be provided for students in the IB Program if they live outside Oscar Smith High School's attendance area?
Yes. Students are bused directly from their neighborhoods to Oscar Smith High School. Late-day activity busing will also be provided for students who stay after school for study hall (or teacher help), sports, and extra-curricular activities.

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Further Information

For further information about the IB Program, visit the Chesapeake Public Schools' Department of Curriculum and Instruction International Baccalaureate Diploma Program page and click on the "Parents," "Students," and "Teachers" links.

Also, the IBO web site may be accessed at www.ibo.org.

Contacts at Oscar F. Smith High School

Mrs. Kerri Lancaster, IB Coordinator
Tel. (757) 548-3286
Fax (757) 548-0531
e-mail: kerri.lancaster@cpschools.com


Mr. Paul Joseph, Principal
Tel. (757) 548-0696
Fax (757) 548-0531
e-mail: paul.joseph@cpschools.com                                    return to top