US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Catholic grade schools make the leap to International Baccalaureate

By Catherine O'Connell-Cahill | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Popsicles for everyone! A shout-out to St. Matthias School in Chicago, which just became the first Catholic elementary school in Illinois to become an International Baccalaureate World School, and the seventh Catholic elementary school in the country. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Wauwatosa Catholic School in (naturally) Wauwatosa, Wisconsin was also just named an IB World School, the first such Catholic grade school in Wisconsin. St. Matthias will offer the IB curriculum to junior high students, and Wauwatosa Catholic will take part in the Primary Years Programme for students aged 3-12.

The IB curriculum has for years now been gaining traction at high schools across the country, both Catholic and public. It’s great to see Catholic grade schools stepping up to go through the demanding three-year application process, which requires extensive teacher training and curriculum development. Having had a child who received the IB diploma from a Catholic high school, I can testify to the rigor of the program and the depth of thought that it requires from its students. IB is one way that Catholic schools can keep their traditional academic edge and offer the excellent education that parents expect, while continuing their emphasis on strong Catholic values and a nurturing environment. 

St. Matthias’ IB coordinator, Sandria Morten, calls the sixth through eighth graders the “pioneers” in this process. They have learned, she says, “to stop asking their teachers, ‘What do I need to know?’ and instead ask, ‘Why does this matter?’”  That’s the hallmark of an IB education right there—and, I might add, the mark of a great Catholic school as well.

Image: Chicago’s St. Matthias students enjoying popsicles in celebration of the school’s new status as an IB World School. Courtesy of St. Matthias School.