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BHS: Academic Choice vs. BIHS
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BHS: Academic Choice vs. BIHS
Going through the BHS process right now, looking at IB and AC.
Would appreciate it if you have a child in either program, if
you could say a little about:
1) the selection process -- What attracted your student to this
program - what helped choose your top pick?
2) Anything you would suggest kids think about - maybe in terms
of their own interests or study habits or.. - in selecting IB
3) Comments on workload - we hear IB carries a very heavy load -
is that different from AC? how heavy is it?
4) Comments on choice - I know that's what AC promotes - is IB
very restrictive in terms of your requirements vs. choosing
i have a berkeley international hifpgh school frshman and
this is his experience..
1) -- What attracted your student to this program? The IB diploma and the
rigorous structure. Although either program would have been fine for him.
Pretty much a positive toss up.
2) Anything you would suggest kids think about - maybe in terms
of their own intersts.? Yes. If you are intersred in other countries and
cultures in some ways ib would be better. In sophomore or junior years they
take a class on belief sytems and later a class on economics. So if those
topics are of interest then ib is good. Check out bhs catalogue to see
choices and lack of choices.
3) Comments on workload? Do not know how heavy ib is compared to ac but do
know that in IB, 10th is more than 9th ..... and 11th even harder. In ib, all
kids in same grade take same core classes so workload is ramping up for all at
same time. In ac there are a couple of core classes, but electives varry a
lot so each student may have a different experience. Ac is trying to get more
of a family feeling going and trying to have kids be in core groups to boost
4) Comments on choice - is IB
very restrictive in terms of your requirements vs. choosing
electives? Yes. This is why many kids coming from dual imersion choose ac,
to get the langauge classes that they want at the right level.
Mom of an IB freshman
My daughter is a senior in AC. She has enjoyed AC and has many friends in IB
who like it as well. I think she picked AC so she could have more choices in
her classes. She has benefited from the AP classes, which have been rigorous
and interesting. The quantity of work has, in some cases, exceeded what I
remember of the workload in college. There are excellent instructors [mostly]
and some very engaging curriculum. First two years of HS the homework was
manageable. Junior year was a heavy load, with three AP classes... many hours
of homework every night and weekends, too. I hear AC kids get tired of hearing
about the ''heavier'' workload in IB. The best person to answer this would be
a parent who has had a kid in IB and one in AC, of course some of this may
depend on the number of AP classes and whether a kid in IB is going for the IB
Diploma. We are looking forward to another four years at BHS, probably in AC.
1) the selection process -- What attracted your student to this
program - what helped choose your top pick?
My son had selected AC but was assigned to IB in his freshman year. He was
upset - 'all' his friends were in AC. but it ended up being the best. He had
a great 4 years (graduated 2011) and I could not have been happier with the
teaching, quality of instruction, depth of the program and community.
2) Anything you would suggest kids think about - maybe in terms of
their own interests or study habits or.. - in selecting IB vs. AC?
BIHS/IB totally prepared him for college, no question. Also for public
speaking. He did not get the diploma but did write several of the tests and
did well, whoch gives him some advanced standing at his college, freeing up
space for electives...My daughter was in AC (graduated 2007) and was also well
prepared for college.
4) Comments on choice - I know that's what AC promotes - is IB very
restrictive in terms of your requirements vs. choosing electives
There were fewer choices in IB due to the program requriements and some
weirdness at BHS with PE etc. but it didn't really pose a problem.
satisfied former BHS parent IB class 2011
My daughter is a freshy in IB. First of all, I think both AC and IB are great
choices. And remember, you have no guarantee of getting your top choice at
any rate. You will have less electives in IB then AC. E.g., I just talked to
hr Academic Counselor today, and next year there are no choices at all: math,
history, English, Chem, economy, and language (unless you add a zero and/or
seventh period). AC has two choices ea. year as I understand it.
I think the workload is heavier in IB then AC from what I can tell. Her most
demanding subject is latin, her language choice. Workload has not been
overwhelming, but this stuff has always been quite easy for her and she knows
to do 'do enough' and not get overboard.
My daughter, now a senior in IB chose it because she thought she wanted to go
to college in Europe. She's now changed her mind about that, and just wants to
go to college outside of CA. Both IB and AC are excellent accademic programs.
I think IB is harder/more accademic. The work load is huge in IB. Sometimes
there aren't enough hours in the day/night to get all the work done. Freshman
year was the last time my daughter got straight ''A''s. Even though she
describes herself as, and is an ''overachiever,'' many times a ''B+'' was the
best grade she could get, no matter how hard she worked, and occationally she
got a ''C''. I think about it sometimes, while we're waiting to hear back from
colleges. I think her grades would have been better if she had been in AC.
Plusses for IB: two of the best/life changing classes that my daughter took in
IB were Theory Of Knowledge, and IB Art. More minuses in IB: there is almost
no choice in classes, ever. Ok, maybe she got to choose 3 classes in her 4
years, but one of those choices was which science to take. You also have less
choice in IB of how many of the classes are college level/upperlevel advanced
classes. Junior year was really really hard. I think her freshman year in
college may be easier than Jr year in IB. Another negative: in IB there are so
many requirements that there is not enough time in the school day to fulfill
the 2 year PE requirement. If your child is on a team, or dances 5 hours a
week that can fulfill it. My daughter went to the YMCA (at my expense), for 60
hours a semester to get her PE credit. If she had to do it over again she says
she might choose AC, but she loves the way IB taught her how to think, and how
to write. She recommended that her younger sister choose AC, but her sister,
currently in 7th grade, says she's thinking of choosing IB too.
I can't speak to AC as my son did IB. IB turned out to be a
really good choice for my son. Really rigorous - he worked
incredibly hard, especially the last two years, integrated
instruction and a strong emphasis on the humanities (that may
have been just him). He's a freshman in college now and he is
finding that he is very well prepared - better than his
colleagues who went to private schools, in many cases and he
knows how to work and how to pace his work. He had a 3.94 GPA
first semester and is on track for that again.
Those were great answers about choosing AC vs IB last week. This
is the only thing I would add. The*reason* there are fewer
choices of electives in IB is not that you have a shorter list
to choose from. It is because of the huge list of requirements
for IB. There is simply no room in a schedule for those extra
electives. Junior year is absolutely brutal in IB and yes,
probably a lower GPA overall due to the rigorous courses. But
the kids who finish in IB do get a great education. However -
and this is a big but - the kids who have a ''specialty'' such
as the computer genius, the kid who wants to go to med school
and wants to take extra science, the kid who wants extra studio
art and art history classes - that kid cannot explore those
possibilities in IB. Also the kid who struggles a bit with
school but who is motivated might really have a hard time
flourishing in IB. I mean the kid who can get a B with a lot of
work in most classes, and an A in the classes where they do not
struggle at all. That last group will do better in AC. In a
classical sense, IB can be depended upon to offer a great
well-rounded education. But better plan for a sports team or
spending $$ at the Y to complete PE if your kid is an IB
student. The schedule is so crammed they cannot accomplish this
requirement without that, unless they take less foreign language
or less science and that is a lousy trade off.
AC mom class of 2011
I think its worth correcting a recent posting regarding student's
flexibility in class choices in the IB program. My older daughter
graduated with the IB diploma two years ago, and my younger one is
enrolled now. While IB does have a few additional requirements for
the kids who want to pursue the diploma, those who have a strong
interest in areas that are part of the curriculum indeed have the
opportunity to pursue those. The poster used as an example the
student who is interested in going to medical school and taking
additional science. Its quite easy to take additional science, and
use that as your elective area for the 6th exam needed for the IB
Diploma. There is a wealth of information posted on the BIHS web site
(you can get to it through the Berkeley High web site) that explains
the course progressions for those who are interested. There are some
areas that require concentrated time that are diffcult to make work
for students that also want to obtain the Diploma, but students should
also understand that they can enroll in BIHS and choose to obtain
Certificates for specific courses of study, much the same as students
in other programs take AP classes and sit for AP exams. All students
in BIHS are enrolled in Higher Level English and History, and take the
course material to prepare them for those exams, but are not required
to take the exams. Similarly, every student in any program in BHS is
required to take English and History all four years of their
enrollment, so no flexibility is lost in those areas. However, when I
see the wonderful stories posted by some of the senior classes in AC I
admit to a bit of jealousy as the different approach to learning
writing skills that those students had. We are fortunate our kids
have such great options available to them; I wish my high school
experience had been as rich.
Jan - March 2009
My son will begin BHS in the fall and choices regarding small school selection
and classes are confusing. He likes the academic choice program because it
allows more class choice. I have heard the international program has taken
many of the good teachers away from AC and that it is now a better program.
I don't know the validity of this.
Also, what about the choices for science and geometry for a freshman. Is
there something I should know about these choices? He could test into
Honors Geometry, but I hear there are problems with it being too hard and
the A students are struggling.
Any suggestions would be helpful, from those who have been through it! Thx
My daughter is in her third year of the BIHS program and really enjoys the
excellent teachers and engaging global perspective curriculum. It wasn't
first choice, Academic Choice was, but it has turned out really well for
How it compares to Academic Choice in terms of the teaching staff is
something I can't speak to but I know that Academic Choice as a whole is a
very strong program as well so either of these schools will serve your son
I have also heard that Honors Geometry is tough and as I understand it
your son absolutely LOVES math and has a high aptitude for it any of the
Honors level courses are going to be challenging. If your son has an
in entering a science or math related field later on it might be worth
for Honors Geometry, and then if he needs help he can get tutoring for
at Berkeley High or seek the help from one of the many talented tutors in
area. If he doesn't take Honors Geometry, Ms. Albrecht is an excellent
Geometry teacher if he happens to get into her class.
As far as science my daughter took Advanced Bio her Freshman year and
although much of the material was a repeat from her middle school (she
went to private school) she enjoyed it.
Hope this helps.
I am a BHS parent who has been involved in Academic Choice
for many years. We have a strong program now in 9th and 10th
and are working on curriculum development for non AP courses
in 11th and 12th. We don't have much control over which
teachers get assigned to which program. For now AC is only
really English and History. That may change next year if
the 'redesign' gets passed. ( Math, science and language
would each become a part of a program or small school).The
redesign is an overly ambitious plan with many flaws not the
least of which is that instructional minutes per class would
be reduced by 22% and if science lab classes do not become
double period, science would suffer a 33%-40% loss of
The Berkeley International High School program is also
coming along well though it is more restrictive because
there is an extra required course.
Poor teachers are found in every part of BHS. Luckily they
are outweighed by the ok and good ones.
I would say you can't go wrong with either AC or BIHS.
Things have gotten very controversial at BHS in the small
schools. The kids seem to know that small schools are the
''easy'' route. Students in small schools don't have much
homework and don't learn much. The proficiency scores are
going down each year. Some of the kids like them; others are
bored stiff. It is hard to take AP classes from a small
school so excelling is difficult. In the words of a small
school math teacher, ''We tried to get rid of honors math but
the district wouldn't let us.''
If a student signs up in time, and they do not request a
small school, then BHS is not allowed to place them in one
against their will. There are kids who prefer BIHS and
others who prefer AC. BIHS has some great teachers and AC
gives a student more choice in electives. Both are decent.
Each year, getting good teachers is luck of the draw.
The best thing BHS could do is put in some strong teacher
performance review and get rid of some of the dead wood. The
kids know who they are. ''Oh, they can't get rid of him he
has seniority.'' And there are some great teachers. ---please
sign me as
parent of a junior who is glad to be in AC
My daughter, a BIHS junior who is an honors math student
and has done well in AP classes, has found the
progressively more challenging each year (not to mention
enriching--she's had great teachers, speakers and field
trips). Freshman year was definitely the easiest. Beginning
in Junior year BIHS students start doing community service
hours and start working on an extended essay in addition to
their regular course work. My daughter is also pursuing the
IB Diploma which requires her to complete certain courses
and sit for 6 fairly rigorous exams. I think your daughter
will find the program challenging especially if she pursues
the IB diploma, but if she does decide to leave BIHS, I've
heard that there will a bunch of students from other
programs at BHS who will be happy to take her spot.
Mom of BIHS Junior
I have two daughters at BHS, a freshman in AC, and a senior in
CAS. We have always been
very satisfied with both the academic and social aspects of CAS. My daughter has had
excellent teachers- passionate, bright, committed, engaged, and available. Her classes are
rigorous in their content and expectation. Student and parent support is available and
consistent. CAS community is strong- of course this is a benefit of small schools. CAS, like
any group that reflects a mix of socio-economic groups, is not perfect, but it overcomes
adversity with understanding and respect for all.
I hope that my daughter in AC will learn similar values as my CAS daughter has- academic
rigor, hard work, respect for others, and commitment to the community in which we live.
Small schools are NOT homogeneous despite the commentary
so far in this newsletter and the academics vary according
to the teacher as in ANY BHS school program. In his small
school, my son took honors option for IMP Math (next year
there will be a formally UC-recognized Honors IMP course
for 9th graders, had a 12 page research paper in history
for NINTH grade, all of his English/History teachers also
offered an honors option (more, deeper work assignments)
and he took AP English and AP Calculus as a senior (WITHIN
the school/did not have to passport out and ALL
junior/senior English classes in his school were based on
AP English currulum which has resulted in incredible
success rates in College Freshman English). He also had to
do a research project using primary data as part of his
senior year portfolio. He also received amazing
internships that furthered his interest in law(including
Novartis and a non-profit legal agency - others in his
class were in the FACES program at Children's Hospital,
etc.). His graduation class had 22% admitted to U.C. (the
year before it was 18% and through at least 2007, 98% of
students enrolled in college). Another small school
requires Advanced Biology for 9th graders (usually not
taken till 10th grade) and another requires Anatomy and an
extensive senior portfolio to graduate.
I've found alot of the information on BHS small schools in
this newsletter is based upon individual ''bad'' experiences
or from those that strongly prefer the more known
educational philosphies at AC and BIHS. AC and BIHS are
fine choices but so are small schools (just realize that
different small schools have different philosophies about
having alot of course choice or taking classes outside of
the small school, about whether AP classes or city college
classses or differentiated ''regular'' classes should be
promoted, and about the value of internships), so families
really need to do their homework and not rely
upon ''common'' wisdom. Too many rumors/urban myths are
generated at BHS - about the small schools but about the
other academic programs as well - both good and bad. DO
Next year with the BHS redesign and a leadership grant
designed to assist some of the younger small schools,
there will be more homogeneity in the academic experience
in the various small schools (which will address some of
the concerns that have been chronicled here - and yes
there HAVE been growing pains). Also the redesign will
provide AC and BIHS with more ability to develop further
(by bringing in Science and Math as well as the current
History/English teachers into these programs as well as
into the small schools that do not currently have their
own Science/Math teachers) and will provide more
personalization and support for students.
Editor Note: At this point, the discussion veered away from the original question
of AC vs. BIHS and took up the questions of
BHS Small Schools and Math and
Would like to have feedback on Academic Choice vs.
International Bacculaureat as we are about to enter BHS
next fall. It looks like AC with 3 electives is a better
choice, especially since our child will be wanting math
and science. IB looked good and we like the option
of studying overseas but I am not sure that 2 electives
(except Jr. year) is enough for the courses my child
wants to take. Would like to know how rigorous they
really are, how is the english and writing programs?
are students engaged and challenged? Is one program more
challenging than the other? If so, in what ways?
Any and all input would be appreciated.
in a daze
I don't have direct experience with AC, but have many
friends who have children in that program. My child is in
IB, and I can say it is developing into an excellent
program. The teachers are truly dedicated and are working
hard to build a program that works for the full range of
students, including those who always saw themselves going
to top-end colleges and those who never imagined that was
One of the really great things about the IB program is the
integration of the curriculum among
history,english,economics and comparative values, and the
fact that many of the teachers follow the students through
their high school career so they really know each child.
This occurs in the core classes. For other classes,
including Math, Science and Foreign Language, the AC and
IB students share many of the same teachers.
The IB classes are at least as rigorous as the AC classes,
and the students have the option of working towards the IB
Diploma, which is highly respected at colleges around the
world as well as in the US. Some colleges accept the IB
diploma as a student's Freshman year requirements
(Stanford is one example.)
Students in the IB program can take AP classes (my
daughter is taking AP Chemistry as a sophomore this year),
although they generally would not take AP classes for the
core IB curriculum, which largely focuses on the
Humanities. Instead, they take IB Standard Level and
Higher Level classes that are approximately equivalent to
The IB program includes requirements that the students
take a class in the Theory of Knowledge and develop a
thesis paper in senior year that is judged by an
international panel. I understand the AC program is
adopting the thesis requirement as well. IB students who
want to qualify for the diploma also perform 150 hours in
the areas of creativity, action, and service.
The AC program is probably easier to understand at this
point, because it has been around longer, but I believe
the academics in both are similar and they both provide
great options for our kids.
In short, we are very happy with the IB program and look
forward to the next two years.
Please email me if you would like additional information.
Academic Choice was my kid's first choice, but we got the IB
program instead. It sounded interesting but has been really
underwhelming so far.
The freshman English class is definitely not challenging.
Believe it or not, there is no assigned reading--the kids
are just supposed to read anything they choose 45 minutes a
night. (A book was assigned for reading over last summer,
but apparently most kids didn't read it and the teacher has
yet to mention it.) So the only literature they discuss is
what they read together in class. They've had only a couple
of short writing assignments all year, including a ''group
essay'' where students were assigned to a small group and
each kid wrote one paragraph or so. (The first semester
final was a group project, too.) Global Studies has also
moved pretty slowly, I think--not much work, though some
interesting topics have been discussed.
Also take a look at the junior year offerings in IB--no AP
English or history class is offered.
Regarding AC vs IB choices at BHS, my son's experience in AC
has been positive. He's had competent or excellent
teachers, with one exception, during the past two years. I
can't compare his experience to that of students in the IB
program. You may find the Spring 07 BHS test score data
that was presented to the Berkeley School Board on 1/16/08
Percent of students ''proficient and above'' in English
All of BHS 50.9%
Percent of students ''proficient and above'' in math:
All of BHS 24.2%
This information can also be found on the BUSD website in
the 1/16/08 School Board meeting packet.
I just had to comment that BHS standardized test scores
are only one indicator of how well the various
programs/small schools are doing in preparing students
for ''real world'' academic success. For example, CPA has
relatively low CST standardized test scores, but last
year, 100% of seniors graduated and 100% completed the A-G
requirements for 4-year college. And, of this year's
senior class: 1/4 are taking AP Calculus and 1/4 are
taking AP English Composition. So, obviously, the CST
scores don't necessarily correlate with academic success
in ''real world'' measures of graduation rates and college
Just a response to the posted test score information -- BHS has extremely poor
turnout on the STAR tests, and many students do not take them seriously
because they are not high stakes tests, and they often do not correlate with what
students are learning. For instance, the math sequence is different in IMP and
the state tests do not match it at all. But as mentioned in the post regarding
IMP math in CAS and CP Academy, IMP students do just as well as regular math
students on the SATs.
I am writing in an effort to put the Berkeley High test
scores which were posted in the Feb 08 POT in context. The
API scores are obtained from the CST (STAR) Tests which are
offered each spring. The state requires that the school
offer the exam. The school is graded on the test results
but students are not. Last year close to 30 percent of BHS
students opted not to take the exam and many of those who
did put little effort into the test. It was low stakes for
the students and that is reflected in the results. That
being said, at 50.9 BHS still scored above the state (~40%)
and county (~45%) average in English. Math numbers are a bit
more difficult to generate but we still compare favorably.
Here are some numbers I prefer: The class of 2007 had
slightly more than 700 students, at least 10% speaking a
primary language other than English and 30% qualifying for
free or reduced lunch yet 92% of the class planned to attend
college after graduation. 474 students from the class of
2007 took at least one SAT and 138 took the ACT. Average BHS
SAT scores (553 Critcal Reading, 561 Math, 550 Writing) were
higher than both the national (502, 515, 494) and the state
average (499, 516, 498). 869 students took AP exams in May
2007. 125 were AP Scholars scoring 3 or higher on 3+ exams.
Next year we will start to offer the first IB exams and we
expect to have the same impressive results.
this page was last updated: Mar 11, 2012
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