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Getting to Know IB

Episode 3: Getting to Know IB with Chelsea Drey

Internationally accredited, Coconino High School is wrapping up the first year of the International Baccalaureate program.  Join Chelsea Drey, Coconino High School’s Advanced Programs Coordinator for a discussion about the program and how inquiry based learning prepares students for success beyond high school through rigor and exploration.


Zachery Fountain:  Hello and welcome to the Flagstaff Unified School District Update. This is Zachery Fountain. I'm the director of the communications for the Flagstaff Unified School District, and I'm here today with one of my favorite people in the district, Chelsea Drey, who serves as the advanced program coordinator at Coconino High School. She's also a history teacher extraordinaire who teaches AP history.

Chelsea Drey:  IB history.  Previously, AP history.

Zachery Fountain:  Previously. I still get fearful every time I hear AP History after reading my EPSCO in high school.  Well, thank you for being here today.

Chelsea Drey:  Thank you for having me.

Zachery Fountain:  So today we want to talk a little bit about IB. What is the IB program?  What can students and families expect if they decide to go through this program? Can you just kind of give a a refresher on what the IB program is?

Chelsea Drey:  So IB stands for International Baccalaureate, and it is an internationally renowned program that has different levels in its program.  Coconino High School offers the diploma program.

There's also the Middle Years program, which now Sinagua Middle School is going through their candidacy phase and Puente de Hozho is going through the Primary Years program candidacy phase.

Zachery Fountain:  That's awesome.  So sounds like international program highly competitive, actually, in terms of getting the program, can you talk a little bit about the work that was taking place to get Coconino (High School) certified as an official IB program?

Chelsea Drey:  Yeah.  So Coconino (High School) started the process about five years ago and just exploring what is the program about?  What would it take to bring it to Coconino and Flagstaff Unified School District?

We submitted an initial application that basically said, Yes. We're interested.  We want to start going through candidacy and then through candidacy, it was about a two year process where we were training teachers.  Training is a big part of the preparation, making sure we have the systems in place creating policies and structures to make sure that the program can sustain itself long term.  And then we submitted our final application for authorization or approval or accreditation. We were approved to offer the diploma program beginning this (last) fall, 2020.

Zachery Fountain:  That's incredible.  A lot of work and a lot of credit to you and your team for pulling all this together.  So thank you for doing that. So a lot of work on the teacher side in terms of preparation ahead of students starting the program this year.

I mean, there what three quarters in what does it look like from the student experience?

Chelsea Drey:  So all of the classes are two year classes.  With the exception of one of our science classes.  We specifically made that a one year only class so that students in the CIT program could participate in the diploma if they wanted.

But the IB diploma program, all of the classes students take together, they're really cohorted unless they're taking, like, a different level of the class.  Some classes there's a higher level, meaning it's more rigorous, more in depth in some classes,

There's a standard level. So not as rigorous; not as fast paced. But the students are really kind of all together.  They are learning a lot through inquiry.  So it's not as much of the, you know, teacher telling you what you have to know.  It's students exploring different concepts and the teacher facilitating that the students are required to complete an independent research project within each class.

And then if they're going for the full diploma, they have to complete a much larger research project called the extended essay that they work on that for, like, a year and a half.

Zachery Fountain:  Wow. Okay.  That sounds a lot.  You know, we talk a lot in education and have some concepts that, you know, are highly specialized.  And so you talked about inquiry.  Can you kind of break down what that strategy is?

My understanding of it as some communications flack and trying to learn my best from all the highly qualified people we have in the district is we're really trying to pursue that depth of knowledge.

Chelsea Drey:  Right.  So inquiry really, it gets students to ask the questions is the base of it is we are really focused on giving students the resources that they need, and then they ask the questions and trying to get that student ownership of their learning so that they are really interested in what they're learning.

So, for example, if you are talking about the conquest of Mexico, improve, use that as an example.  Because I'm a history teacher, the students will be asking questions about the resources that they are looking at and really diving deep into that concept.

Zachery Fountain:  It really sounds like you're kind of flipping it, right.  We all want our students to be passionate about what they're learning.

Chelsea Drey:  Absolutely.

Zachery Fountain:  And being active in their learning.  And I think that's the art of teaching is trying to get people to become passionate about what they're learning.  And it sounds like this whole model kind of flips everything on its head.

You know, we brought up AP before where it was a lot of memorization you're cramming for a test. Is it true that kids are going to get two standards and they're going to have high achievement, but we're really using it to prompt them to explore these topics on their own with our support.

Chelsea Drey:  Right.  And the IB assessment because students have to take an exam at the end of the two year program, just like other kids.

If they opt to take an AP exam, they would at the end of the class.  But the IB assessment is really it's driven by what the student brings to the table.  So they will ask a question, and it will be a very broad question. And then students bring their own examples for that assessment.

Zachery Fountain:  That's awesome.  It really opens up the world.

Chelsea Drey:  Yeah, it does.

Zachery Fountain:  That's great.

Chelsea Drey:  And then I want to talk about one of the students favorite classes, if you don't mind, of course. And this is really the heart of the program is theory of knowledge.  And that is a class the only students going for the full diploma can take.

But it really asks students to think about how what we know about the world around us.  And so they're exploring Indigenous knowledge and what it means to know something in Indigenous knowledge.  They're exploring what it means to know something through technology and having all sorts of really deep conversations that students have never really experienced in their educational career.

Zachery Fountain:  That's incredible.  It really sounds like you're trying to generate those skills for independent thinking.

Chelsea Drey: Yeah, absolutely.

Zachery Fountain:  I mean, that's been one of the challenges for higher education, right?  You have a bunch of students that have been memorizing things for years, and maybe 4.0 students, right?

What do those skills look like when you have to start adapting and doing your own independent research?

Chelsea Drey:  Yep.

Zachery Fountain:  Absolutely.

Chelsea Drey: Awesome.

Zachery Fountain:  Well, thank you very much for being here.  Taking time on spring break to come in and have this conversation. Chelsea, Drey, advanced programs coordinator and teacher extraordinaire at Coconino High School.  Thank you for being here.


Chelsea Drey:  Thanks Zach.