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Dueling views on another north Pinellas IB



Update on Nov. 4: J.D. Cattel, who wrote the letter below, sent a clarification to the Gradebook this morning. We added it to the bottom of the post.

If the following missives are any indication, even the Palm Harbor University High community isn’t in total agreement on whether north Pinellas needs another IB program. The St. Petersburg Times published this letter Sunday from Palm Harbor parent Kay Im, which then prompted the following response to the Gradebook from J.D. Cattel, who co-chairs Palm Harbor’s school advisory council:

Ms. Im's letter regarding the demand for IB seats in North Pinellas is very misleading. She is depending on an oft cited statistic by school administration officials which points to the so called wait list for IB students. This statistic is the cruelest form of red herring because it infers that almost everyone who applies or is qualified ultimately gets in.

This is blatantly false. According to the school administration's own statistics, over the past 5 years an average of 368 students applied to the IB program in North County but only an average of 156 were accepted. That is a rejection rate of 58%. If only the so called 278 "qualified" applicants are considered, the rejection rate is still an appalling 44%. The vast majority of students who do not get in, stoically accept their fate, move on to other programs and are bureaucratically removed from the wait list. Very few seats become available by attrition.

To say there is no demand, based on this simple analysis, is just not true. It is unfair to the students and parents who want this program and who should see it expanded to accommodate them.

As for her comment about Countryside High School, it has been my experience that success depends much on the participants. It is my impression that the Countryside High School Community wants an IB program. Its geographic location is very suitable.

Given that there is demand and that there is a suitable home, Countryside presents a viable solution to help the Superintendent and the School Board open up a third IB diploma program. The goal should be to have opportunity for all students. Students, especially the best and the brightest, should not be held hostage to a lottery or a particular list. Ms. Im is entitled to her own opinions but not her own facts and the same goes for school officials. I am in favor of keeping IB at current levels at Palm Harbor. But I continue to be equally in favor of expanding this very excellent program to meet the true demand.

Update/clarification from Cattel on Nov. 4: Thanks for getting the letter published.  But I do want to make one thing very clear. I did not write the letter as SAC Co Chair. I wrote it as a concerned parent, an individual.  When I sent it to you, I only signed it J D Cattel. You added the reference to being SAC co chair. I had been admonished to not use that in any correspondence and I have readily complied with that admonition. It infers that my opinions are those of SAC and that is not necessarily the case.   
That being said, I stand by my comments.  I have been advocating an expansion of this program long before I became SAC Co Chair. I and others have received the same response from school officials. That because the wait list clears out there is no problem which an in depth look at the data does not support.  The corollary to my comments is that it has been my experience that the problem is county wide. That south county IB is also oversubscribed. I am trying to assemble those numbers as well. 
All of the comments made by others also have validity, no doubt.  hey represent intelligent and reasoned points of view. But this program county wide has been over subscribed for many years and hundreds have been left on the outside looking in. Also let me make it unequivocally clear that my strong opinion is and has been that the program needs to remain integral at Palm Harbor at current levels.  But it certainly needs to be expanded county wide for the others who deserve it. My interpretation of the data indicates that there is a need for two more programs. This is congruent with the superintendent's plans which is intended to accommodate all students who want this challenging program and which is intended to eliminate the unfair lottery. And who are we to arbitrarily to say that this or that high school is inappropriate, or this or that student should not be given an opportunity to excel. We should not be pitted one against the other. 
I would appreciate your putting this on the blog. But I want to reiterate, that my letter came from me and not PHUHS SAC nor my position on PHUHS SAC. The comments and data interpretation are mine and mine alone. I stand by them and accept the challenges to my comments. At the very least the subject will have had an ample airing and an optimal solution will emerge. 

[Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:01am]


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