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By Caroline Burt | Guest Opinion
April 15, 2013

I have spent the last two years in a long term relationship with Dos Pueblos’ International Baccalaureate Program (IB). IB and I often disagree over what time I should go to bed and how often I get to see my friends, but in the end, I am always appreciative of how much IB has taught me.

There is a new program in town called the Accelerated Academic Program for Leadership and Enrichment (just call it the AAPLE Academy). Not only does AAPLE challenge IB’s position as the sole accelerated academic program in Santa Barbara, but it also calls San Marcos, our cross-town rival, its home. My sister, a freshman at SM, is deeply committed to AAPLE, and for a while I considered disowning her.

But then I had a better idea.

Why don’t I investigate the IB and AAPLE programs? Many students at both DP and SM don’t understand these programs and have unrealistic, biased views of them. So, I sat down with counselors and students of both IB and AAPLE to get to the bottom of these two self-acclaimed enrichment programs.

Jeff Sofro, the five-year IB counselor at Dos Pueblos defines IB as a program fit for “intrinsically motivated, curious students who enjoy discussion, debate and depth of knowledge
and appreciate having a wide range of courses to take.” IB is a two year program that, much like Advanced Placement (AP), has testing in May, as well as internal projects, such as the Extended Essay, that are sent across the world to be graded by qualified foreign intellectuals. Additionally, IB Students learn a curriculum that is taught in 117 different countries. These aspects put the ‘International’ in International Baccalaureate.

Erik Nielsen, the AAPLE Academy director, describes AAPLE as a program that “directs the collective energy of our highest achieving student leaders to create a school culture that celebrates excellence and a focus on giving back to the community.”

AAPLE also provides students the with ability to adjust their schedule based on what they might want to study in college. This is aided by SM’s notorious block schedule, allowing students to ‘double up’ on subjects they find interesting. Junior Anastiasia Kunz points out that the AAPLE students took honors physics the first semester of their sophomore year and then took AP physics their second semester, providing an easy transition into the AP course.

But what separates these programs from an average honors or AP course of study?

“I just don’t get the same feedback from students” Mr. Sofro explains, “IB students are very appreciative of everything they have been through in the last two years… [they have a] strong sense of accomplishment and pride in what they have been able to achieve.”

This can be seen in DP junior Camille Wyss’s experience with the IB program: “I think about what its going to be like to be at the end… to have it [the diploma].” Wyss also reflected on her experience as an AP World History student during her sophomore year, and feels as if IB is preparing her better for college. From my own personal experiences, I couldn’t agree with her more.

Mr. Nielsen sees AAPLE as unique because of its sense of community that is fostered through a “support system” of not only students and teachers, but also parents. Parents must contribute fifteen hours of service to the Academy per year, allowing parents and students to create a supportive communication network throughout the program.

The AAPLE Academy also develops its community through ‘enrichment experiences’ or overnight trips. Junior Clare Holehouse describes her experience: “We have a good time together – we get to know each other really well.” Other benefits of the program include a spacious classroom devoted to the AAPLE Academy, along with many leadership opportunities. Students can become a part of the small government elected by cohort classes within the program.

The International Baccalaureate program also promotes students to get involved; this aspect is an acronym called CAS. Sofro describes CAS as “living and learning through hands-on experiences.” The ‘C’ stands for creativity, the ‘A’ stands for action and the ‘S’ stands for service. Students must complete 150 hours of CAS during their two years in the IB program; CAS activities include, and are not limited to, athletic events, community service, and creative endeavors. Junior Patrick Taylor completes many of his CAS requirements by participating in cross country and track. Despite his busy schedule, he is still able to “buckle down and do the work.”

These programs seem great, but they are also very difficult. How do these students manage the rigorous course load?

Holehouse describes her stress level as “up and down.” Her peer Alexis Flores adds that AAPLE students have the ability to organize their schedules in order to reduce their stress levels; “We also have a support group and close relationship with our counselor [Mr. Neilsen].”

Wyss’s answer was very similar to Holehouse’s. “It fluctuates; it’s not the day-to-day homework that gets you down, it’s the projects.” These projects, although they are challenging, are more helpful than harmful. Mr. Sofro emphasized that one of the greatest benefits of these projects is time management skills, a vital tool for a successful college career.

The most amazing aspect of AAPLE and IB is the sense of community and belonging that is apparent in both programs. Kunz, in her reflection on her three years in the AAPLE Academy, stated that the program is “kind of like having a sports team, you get to know them [our peers] really well… we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.” Her fellow classmate Alex Seyle agrees – she found value in the Academy as a “community where you are not afraid to voice your opinion.” It is clear that the AAPLE students have formed extremely close bonds that will last long after high school.

The International Baccalaureate program had the same effect on me. Each day I get to attend school with a group of students that have become my second family. We lift each other up through the difficult parts of the program and we support each other with every success and failure. This past fall was a very pressing time for my senior class. We had numerous IB deadlines along with an endless amount of college applications to fill out. I was able to survive the semester because I was certain that there were seventeen other students who were willing to give me a big hug…and then tell me to get back to work.

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2 Responses to “IB vs. AAPLE”

  1. James Gossett on April 21st, 2013 8:01 PM

    “Notorious block schedule”? Please explain.


    Madeline Reply:

    The block schedule is notorious because it is the only public school in Santa Barbara that is run on four classes a day that are 90 minutes long. When other schools are at the half way through there curriculum we get all new classes. This allows for students to participate in more sports as well as take more classes.


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