LIVERMORE -- With a little international appeal and a dose of critical thinking, one school is hoping to offer a different alternative to its students to prepare them for the global community.
Joe Michell K-8 School is in the process of becoming an International Baccalaureate World School, a rigorous program that focuses on giving students the ability to connect what they learn to the real world.
"You always want kids to have an academic edge and that academic opportunity," said Laura Lembo, a first-year principal at Joe Michell whose son went through the International Baccalaureate Program at Modesto High School.
"My kid was always asking, 'Why?' about things, and (International Baccalaureate) fostered my kid's curiosity," Lembo said. "The focus is not on the information in the text but (on) how we apply the information into the real world."
The International Baccalaureate is a Switerzland-based nonprofit that offers four different programs for students ages 3 to 19 that develops intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills for a global world, according to the organization's website.
The 44-year-old organization has 16 schools certified in the Bay Area, and if Joe Michell earns accreditation it would be the first public school in the Tri-Valley to earn the recognition. Dublin's Quarry Lane School is accredited for the organization's high school program.
Accreditation is a lengthy process and can take anywhere from
The school's staff will have to go through training, and the school will have to be evaluated by International Baccalaureate staff, Lembo said.
The goal is to have the primary and middle school in place and eventually have one if not two of the district's high school's also have the program, said Kelly Bowers, Livermore School district superintendent.
"It is really exciting for teachers and students because they (students) will be better positioned for college and careers," Bowers said. "The program is highly regarded by colleges and has international recognition."
The high school component is similar to the Advanced Placement where students take classes and can earn college credits.
Matthew Runyon, Livermore school board member Kate Runyon's son, took parts of the program at Tracy High School and said the course work gave him an edge at college.
"I didn't face anything as difficult as International Baccalaureate until I was in the second half of my second year in college," said Runyon, who graduated from Tracy High School in 2006 after transferring there for the program. "The school work (those first two years) was even close. The international program really dug into stuff."
Runyon said the benefits of the program are that it makes students critical thinkers and intertwines subjects by taking a look at all the conditions that contributed to an event.
The high school program did have its drawbacks. Runyon said the schedule was not as flexible and that the reason he did not fully complete the program is because he chose to participate in band. He also said the course load required up to four or five hours of homework per night and more on the weekend.
"The sheer amount of work was overwhelming," Runyon said. "As a rule of thumb we (students) said that for every day you missed you needed at least a week to make up the work."
Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/robjordan127.