By Dustin Shipman BSSD Superintendent 

“The Ram’s Horn” is a regular column by Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman, offering news and insight from the district.

 Greetings and happy holidays from the Big Sky School District superintendent’s office. We are approaching a major milestone in the school year, the holiday break. This signifies that the school year is nearly half over and upon reflection, we have accomplished some great things.

The board has adopted a significant strategic plan, which includes the implementation of the International Baccalaureate program of education for Big Sky students.

The IB program is a continuum of approaches to teaching and learning from kindergarten through grade 12. The key component of the IB philosophy is the process of inquiry, meaning students take the content and skills they’re learning and apply them in new and unique ways to solve problems.

Consequently, the inquiry-based classroom looks much different than the traditional classroom, since the students lead their own learning while the teacher supports content and skill approaches to solve authentic problems.

The current implementation guidelines for the district are working toward implementing the IB Diploma program, a two-year course of study for 11th and 12th graders. Our current ninth graders will be the first class to start the diploma program, when they become juniors in fall 2017.

Our ambitious timeline for implementing the school-wide program, including grades k-10, is fall 2018. This will result in significant training for staff in the process of inquiry.

While inquiry is the foundation of the IB program, it’s also a best practice for how students learn and how teachers teach. We anticipate that trainings will have immediate impact on how our teachers approach each classroom situation starting this year.

The IB program is a highly respected educational program in use all over the world, with the fastest growing segment in American public schools. Colorado leads the U.S. in public school IB programs, and in Montana the IB is present in Flathead and Missoula public schools.

The long-term implementation (2-3 years) is due in large part to our commitment to making sure all appropriate supports are in place for student and staff success. Principal Ide and I will be hosting listening and informational sessions throughout the course of the year to focus on IB and the implementation of the strategic plan.

Stay tuned and have a great holiday!