Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Educational Policy and Leadership Studies

First Advisor

McNabb, Scott

First Committee Member

Bills, David

Second Committee Member

Haack, Marcus

Third Committee Member

Hlebowitsh, Peter

Fourth Committee Member

Fehn, Bruce


The International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program has been one of the fastest growing accelerated learning programs in recent years. At the high school level, the program offers a focus on critical thinking, combined with the accountability of external assessments of student performance. A significant portion of the program's growth is attributed to its effective marketing, presenting itself as a program that benefits the entire school community, above and beyond the benefits reaped by its graduates. To date, the research literature on IB schools has been clear about the benefits of participation; what remains unclear is how and to what extent the program affects the educational experience of non-IB students as well.

In an effort to learn more about these claims, the researcher conducted a qualitative study of an IB school, specifically interviewing teachers and administrators about the IB and its impact on non-IB students. The study identified two general arguments the school was making to this end: 1) the IB benefits the whole school by attracting students (and the funding that follows them) through Open Enrollment, and 2) IB-trained teachers teach non-IB classes, providing the whole school with an improved teacher capacity. The principal findings of this study suggest that offering the IB program benefitted non-IB students in ways that the school claimed--but only to an extent.

The results of this study reveal how certain social and political realities emerge alongside program growth, and how these factors influence the distribution of benefits over time. As test scores increasingly signaled program quality, the need to preserve the school's reputation seemed to prompt a corresponding shift of high-quality teachers towards IB. From the interviews, it was clear that IB classes were smaller than general education classes, and that the teachers with the highest status were disproportionately assigned to teach the upper-level classes. When put together, the case study data points at seemingly inevitable inconsistencies between the claims that the IB benefits non-IB students and the ongoing institutional necessities of the program.


Education Reform, International Baccalaureate, Open Enrollment, School Choice


xi, 157 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 146-157).


Copyright 2011 Ryan O'Connor