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IB distinction expands for Parks Academy

Wichita's Gordon Parks Academy has been authorized as an International Baccalaureate World School for its kindergarten through fifth grades, becoming the only school in Kansas to achieve the distinction for both its elementary and middle school programs.

District officials announced Tuesday that the school's primary grades met the requirements to be an IB World School. The Gordon Parks middle school program earned the distinction in November.

"The rigorous training and hard work has paid off," said principal Stephanie Stovall in a written statement.

"We are excited about the benefits that this program will provide our students, family and the Wichita community."

Gordon Parks Academy, near 25th North and Grove, opened as an IB candidate school in 2008. The process to become certified by the international organization involves staff training, interviews and visits from IB supervisors, and usually takes about three years.

The K-8 magnet school was one of the diversity solutions the district touted after discontinuing its policy of busing for integration. All students must apply. Half are drawn from a pool of applicants who live in the surrounding neighborhood; the rest are chosen by lottery from applicants across the district.

Unlike the exclusive, academically rigorous IB diploma program at East High School and the pre-IB program at Robinson Middle School, Gordon Parks accepts students into its program regardless of academic ability.

Though the district advertises the Robinson program as pre-IB, the school isn't certified by the international organization.

Fundamental concepts of Gordon Parks' IB World School program — an approach known as IB for All — are holistic learning, critical thinking, communication and intercultural awareness.

The primary years program "is designed to help students find a sense of belonging in the ever-changing... world around them and to foster a positive attitude to learning," district officials said.

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