Elementary School Taking a Different Path on the Way to Student Achievement
For years, STEM has been a big buzz word in education. Not just here in metro Atlanta, but all across the country, schools have rushed to gain STEM certification. Right now thousands of schools in all 50 states are certified in the program that focuses on the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It’s gotten so popular, in fact, that schools are moving toward STEAM certification now (the “A” stands for Art).
Tucker’s Brockett Elementary is not one of those schools.
When Antoinette Seabrook took over as principal in 2018, she talked with parents, teachers, and students and the feedback she got led her to one conclusion: STEM was not going to be the future for Brockett.
“There wasn’t a passion for STEM,” Seabrook said. “Brockett had been pursuing STEM for like five years and it was a lot of start and stop based on administration changes.”
Seabrook says she sees a lot of merit in STEM-based learning, but as she got into the classrooms and observed the teaching that was happening, she decided that Brockett would be better suited in pursuing the IB designation.
Founded in 1968, IB, which stands for International Baccalaureate, has been in existence longer than STEM. This movement has spread globally with the mission of creating a better world through education. Schools like Brockett that choose an IB path are ultimately prioritizing a more student-focused path rather than the academic-focused path provided by STEM. Same coin, two different sides.
“When we talk about education and what it means, what we really want to know is how to instill in our students the knowledge that will make them better learners and better people,” the International Baccalaureate website states. “How can we be sure that we send them off into life with the skills they really need to grow and develop in a successful, happy way?”
Schools can’t just ask for and be granted IB certification. The road to becoming certified is a grueling, labor-intensive process, which Brockett has been on for more than a year. The first major step Seabrook took when initially laying the groundwork for IB certification was to reach out to a friend who knew a thing or two about the certification process, Midvale Elementary Principal Dr. Tara Dougherty.
As an assistant principal, Dougherty saw her school become the first elementary school in Georgia to become both STEM and IB certified. Now, Midvale is integrating tenets of both philosophies into their teaching and opening their doors to schools that want to model these achievements.
“Once I spent some time at Midvale and seeing what they were doing, I said ‘we’re doing a lot of these things already,’” Seabrook recalled. “[Dr. Dougherty] allowed myself and my teachers to come over and observe during IB planning days. We got to see that process. We observed the teaching, so a lot of our teachers have gotten to see their town hall meetings and how they incorporate the IB learner traits. My IB coordinator and her IB coordinator have been in close contact. They are helping us with what it looks like once it is implemented.”
This fall, Brockett plans to take the next step in sending 20 of their staffers through IB training. In the meantime, they will be working with the DeKalb County School District to assess whether the school is ready to formally begin the certification process. Parents couldn’t be more thrilled.
“We are very excited about IB at Brockett,” said the school’s PTA president Calista Allen. “This is the right program for the students and the school. We are so happy to have Midvale as our mentor. With IB programs at both Tucker Middle and Tucker High, IB certification at Brockett gives our children the opportunity to follow the IB curriculum through their school career,” said Brockett PTA President Calista Allen.
For Seabrook, even with the prospect of IB certification looming, she sees bigger things ahead for her school.
“We may come back in a few years and do what Midvale did and pursue STEM.”
Time will tell when Brockett gets its accreditation, but for now the students and teachers are gaining valuable insights and ways of looking at the world, building those young minds to become global thinkers as they prepare for the challenges ahead.