Duval School Board Asks Why Students Are Passing Fewer IB Exams

Oct 19, 2016

Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT News

A Duval County School Board workshop focusing on student achievement turned into a heated personal tiff among a few school board members Tuesday.

IB Exams

At the time, board members were asking why more students aren’t passing high-school International Baccalaureate exams. The percentage of students passing the exams in Duval County is dropping.

Some high schools offer the IB program, which gives college credit and a special diploma to students who score well on a variety of subject tests.

Board members reviewed data from Stanton, Terry Parker, Paxon, Ed White and Wolfson high schools.

Last year Wolfson students passed about a quarter of the exams they took. The year before that they passed almost a third of tests.Stanton students passed 88 percent of exams taken last year, compared to 91 percent passed the prior year.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says the drop-off is tied to a high teacher turnover rate in some schools. He said it’s hard to train and keep IB-certified teachers.

Board member Scott Shine said he’d like to find out if the tests have changed or whether students’ grades are also declining.

“We need to know what the problem is before we solve it,” he said.

Board member Becki Couch said students need more support, and they should get tutoring in those programs to help them pass the exams.                                                                    

“Is it sincere in our efforts to draw kids in, or is it that we call it an IB program without really giving it the support that it needs?” she asked.

After the meeting Couch said she doesn’t feel like a plan was made to address her concerns, but she’ll probably have more questions about the data at next week’s meeting.

The Tiff

At one point during the board’s conversation about IB students, the talk veered personal.

Board members Paula Wright and Cheryl Grymes began arguing. Then Grymes accused Couch of making rude facial expressions while she was speaking. Couch said she’s constantly being attacked.

The argument got so heated, board members decided to take a recess.

Mediation

The board has be trying to find a mediator for a few weeks now, after the board chair asked Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to resign and he refused. She later retracted the request and agreed to move forward with him.

After the board received two bids for mediation services, members are looking to cast a wider net.

At Tuesday’s meeting, members agreed team building is also necessary though a Florida School Board Association training program.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.