Nearly three years ago, Rose Stein International Elementary School in Lakewood set out to bring a new identity to a school that is home to around 300 preschool through sixth grade students — 50% of …
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Nearly three years ago, Rose Stein International Elementary School in Lakewood set out to bring a new identity to a school that is home to around 300 preschool through sixth grade students — 50% of who are learning English as a second language, while 87% of students are on free and reduced lunch.
Rose Stein Principal Esther Valdez hoped that a new identity could bring a sense of excitement and energy to reinvigorate the school's community. Finding that identity wasn't just about academics. It was also about bringing a sense of belonging and a sense of unity to the school.
MORE: Rose Stein's reopening
“There are many initiatives that could give us that, but International Baccalaureate (IB) was a powerful framework that we wanted to anchor to something really substantial,” said Valdez.
After instituting IB curriculum into its school when it reopened for the 2017-2018 school year, and training, recruiting and hiring staff that has an “international mindset,” Rose Stein received official IB authorization in December. In becoming authorized, Rose Stein was recognized for demonstrating a commitment toward meeting the standards, practices and requirements set by the International Baccalaureate Organization.
“The fact is that embarking on a journey for us provided our pre through six (students) with a trajectory into (Alameda International Junior/Senior High School),” said Valdez. Alameda International Junior/Senior High School received official IB authorization in 2010.
“It's a preschool through 12th grade IB track. That's a very unique component that doesn't exist anywhere else in Jeffco,” Valdez added.
MORE: In first year, Rose Stein only half full
Founded in 1968, the IB program works to teach students to think critically and independently, as well as how to think with care and logic.
During the “primary years” of the program, when students are between the ages of three and 12, the IB model attempts to prepare students to become active, caring, lifelong learners, according to the IB website. The hope is that those students end up demonstrating respect for themselves and others as well as developing the capacity to participate in the world. The IB program also works to prepare students to create a better and more peaceful world by teaching intercultural understanding and respect, according to the educational literature
Rose Stein students learn lessons about how choices citizens make within community systems affect other goals and people in those systems, and that people express feelings, culture, beliefs and values through creative expression and through behavior.
“Everyone's perspective about the school and some of the things that they have learned here is that they feel very comfortable with this program. They trust the school, and they know the kids are going to be prepared when they have a job,” said Melissa Alvarez, family engagement liaison for Rose Stein. “This school is preparing (students) for what is going to come in life.”
Lily Rutledge-Ellison, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, said the IB program encourages teachers to take risks and to try to teach lessons simultaneously. Right now, her students are learning to write essays by incorporating social studies content. She also taught prefixes around the same time she was teaching geometry.
“When you're able to teach so many things around the same thing, you can go deeper, that way we're expecting more from kids. It's not just about filling those gaps — we're expecting more,” said Rutledge-Ellison. “We're looking for above-average growth and above-average achievement, and that comes from that IB framework.”
Krista Mckeever's children, who are in first and fourth grade at Rose Stein, were homeschooled before this year. She said it's been amazing to see the transition her children have made into Rose Stein, because the school has the same teaching values she had when her children were homeschooled. Mckeever applauded the idea to teach lessons simultaneously.
“My kids wanted to go to school (at the beginning of the year), and in February, they still want to get out the door 15 minutes early,” said Mckeever, talking about how much her children enjoy Rose Stein.
To achieve IB authorization, Rose Stein was audited and reviewed by an IB team. Teams from Canada and Washington D.C. spent multiple days at the school, interviewing students and staff as well as analyzing all of the work Rose Stein did to reach IB status, Valdez said.
“(With) the IB certification, there was a lot of pride, and that was felt throughout the school. The teachers shared that pride, and the students were like `We should all be proud',” said Rutledge-Ellison. “The benefits from the IB model are endless. We do so much value on the whole child. It's not just about a test score. It's about building character and service to the community and those skills they will take beyond school.”
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