Smart students get a new challenge at OSHS

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX)- The math problems facing a group of Ocean Springs High School students are pretty challenging for high school sophomores.

"Another way to write it is sine of 90 degrees squared for this right here," the teacher tells the students.  "It's the exact same thing."

A cluster of letters, numbers and symbols fills the board in front of the class.

For about 40 Ocean Springs students, advanced learning is about to become a way of life. Next year, they will be the first class of International Baccalaureate Students at Ocean Springs High school.

"International Baccalaureate Worldwide is recognized as the most rigorous and comprehensive curriculum that exists throughout the world," said Ocean Springs School District Superintendent Robert Hirsch.

Teachers are already in training to teach the 2-year curriculum. This math class is a prep course to prepare the students.

"A lot of us have never been challenged as students, and this has just been a great opportunity for that to happen for most of us," said Steven Mockler.

The IB program is not your average honors class.  Students' work will be compared to the work of other students worldwide, to make sure these students are on the same level as students all over the world.

"It's a junior senior curriculum that's recognized internationally. It's taught the same year as it is, lets say, in London, England, or Shanghai, China or Melbourne, Australia," said Ocean Springs High School Principal David Baggett.  "One student could actually transfer from this school to one of the other schools and maintain the same curriculum and expectations."

Kids in the program hope they will be more competitive nationally and internationally when it's time for college.

Statistics from the Pew Research Center show that 29 percent of students who graduate from public schools drop out of college before their second year. Organizers hope this program will prepare dedicated students for collegiate success.

"It's going to make them better thinkers and really lifelong learners," said Renee Hill, who will teach IB Biology next year.  "Instead of being fed information, they are going to be asked to discover information on their own and then come up with creative ways to use it."

It's not easy to be approved for the program. Ocean Springs High School is one of only three Mississippi schools taking part.

"It took an effort from everyone to get this type of program in Ocean Springs," said Baggett.

"Going through this process is undoubtedly the most rigorous assessment of a school district that I've seen in four decades," said Hirsch.  "Tougher than anything I've ever gone through."

But students are certainly glad they did.

"I just want to know what I can do, what my potential is," said Katie Huang.  "Just how much I can do? Just how much I can push myself?"

"It's a higher level curriculum, that will be way more challenging than the normal level, accelerated or AP route," said Mockler.  "AP could take me far, but I think this could take me farther."

The first school in Mississippi to receive approval for the program was Jim Hill in Jackson. Ocean Springs was the second, and is still the only one in South Mississippi.