WRITTEN BY JAYNIE ELLIS

Over the past decades, Saratoga County has been transforming from an area of agriculture and vacation homes to a suburban region full of economic growth and technological innovation.  

With local divisions of companies, such GLOBALFOUNDRIES, General Electric, SunPower Inc. and Solar City, comes plenty of job opportunities. Saratoga County’s schools have been at the forefront of industry-academic partnerships. For example, Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) offers hands-on training for the workforce in their state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories at the TECH-SMART Campus in Malta. 

To further prepare students for college and the workforce at an early age, Ballston Spa High School students have the opportunity to participate in the International Baccalaureate® Programme. The International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) at the high school level is a rigorous two-year, internationally recognized program for juniors and seniors. Soon the Ballston Spa Central School District will have fully transitioned their 6-8th graders into the International Baccalaureate® Middle Years Programme. 

“The program is really preparing [high school] students and giving them the skills to be to be good college students,” said Mrs. Nicole Stehle, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Coordinator. “They work really closely with their teachers to develop the skills that are needed to be successful in college classes.” 

Juniors and seniors are given the option to pick and choose courses or enroll fully for an IB Diploma, in addition to the NYS Regents Diploma. IB has their own graduation requirements, and students who are fully enrolled have committed to continuing studies in a second language and upper-level coursework in all subject areas. 

“Classes are inquiry and discussion based. Students in these classes are explaining, through speaking or writing, what they know and how they know it,” said Mrs. Stehle. “These skills take them far, whether going into the workforce or college-level classes.” 

Mrs. Stehle sits down individually with each student interested in the program to learn about their goals and counsel them in the right direction, whether that is to pick and choose courses based on their interests or to work towards the IB Diploma. Each student in the IB Programme at Ballston Spa High School has their own personalized 2-year plan.

IB is a great opportunity for any high schooler, as 95% of students who participate in this open-enrollment program go on to a four-year institution. Students from Ballston Spa High School who have gone through the program to pursue a higher education attended well-known, top-ranked colleges and universities such as Cornell University, Brown University, The University of Chicago, The University of Florida, SUNY schools across the state, and many more. 

Introducing the Middle Years Programme

Ballston Spa applied for and was accepted into the Middle Years Programme (MYP) in June, which is school-wide for 6-8th graders. It could take up to three years for the school to transition fully, and the process is already underway. Teachers will be trained in IB classroom practices and unit plans, while the students will learn about the profile traits of an IB learner. 

Helping to bridge the gap into high school is the 8th grade service project, in which students work to identify community or international problems and come together to research a solution. Among other things, the problems can be related to charities or organizations in Ballston Spa and can be an educational presentation or community service. The intention is for students to learn what makes a good citizen and how they can insert themselves into their community, along with problem solving skills, critical thinking, and building character. 

“We are really excited for the community,” said Ballston Spa Middle School Principal Ann Laszewski, who came to Ballston Spa with a lot of experience overseeing the MYP in her prior school district. “There are not a lot of IB schools in upstate New York, and businesses in the community will be excited to hear about this.” 

Most importantly, the goal of the continuum from the MYP to the IB is for students to understand that school is a web of interconnected curriculum. Students, along with their parents, will see the culmination of the hard work they have put in over the years and be prepared for whatever their bright futures have in store for them. 

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