St. Stephen’s Episcopal to offer IB Diploma

Current sophomores at St. Stephen’s Episcopal will be the first class with the option of graduating with an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma. The IB Diploma Programme, a widely-recognized, two-year intensive program for juniors and seniors, offers college-level curriculum (for college credit) in 146 countries. It emphasizes global citizenship and focuses on the application, rather than merely the acquisition, of knowledge. To become an IB School, schools must undergo an extensive, three-year authorization process that culminates in a site visit and final approval from the IB World Organization.

Field Trip to the Yucatan Peninsula

Experiential Education in the Yucatan Peninsula

St. Stephen’s Lower School follows Montessori principles, which are student-centered and exploratory. In the later years, the school enhances its curriculum with experiential education, taking students on local and international field trips. Since the IB Program promotes “the education of the whole person through an emphasis on intellectual, personal, emotional and social growth” it is a logical step after Montessori. Connecting IB with Montessori seems be a growing trend. Other Montessori-based schools, such as Houston’s Post Oak Montessori, are also en route to becoming IB Schools.

St. Stephen’s benefits from the expertise and experience of their new IB Coordinator, Jon Mallam, who served as the IB Director for Lamar High School, one of Texas’s largest IB programs, for 15 years. During the school’s open house on November 14th, Jon’s enthusiasm for IB as a powerful educational method was clear. He informed attendees that students with IB Diplomas not only have higher college acceptance rates, but in states such as Texas, Florida, Colorado, and California, they can enter college as sophomores. In Florida, IB Diploma recipients can apply for hefty academic scholarships.

To obtain an IB Diploma, students must pass three Higher Level and three Standard Level exams in six groups: Studies in Language and Literature, Second Language Acquisition, Individuals and Societies, Experimental Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Sciences, and the Arts. Although students can choose from a range of courses within these groups, each school determines which courses they will offer based on student demand and interest. The student’s three strongest subjects should be taken at the Higher Level (HL) and the remaining three at the Standard Level (SL). In addition to being assessed through regular homework and exams, students must complete an Internal Assessment which is graded by the subject teacher and submitted to the IB for moderation.   The external assessment (the official IB exams) are administered in May.  Students who are not interested in pursuing the fine arts can opt to take another social science, experimental science, or a third foreign language.   Although SSE only offers Spanish currently, they plan to eventually offer more choices in the future.

In addition to passing six rigorous exams, students must complete the Core Program, which consists of a 2-semester epistemology course entitled the Theory of Knowledge, an Extended Essay (a 4,000 word research paper), and the 150-hour Creativity, Action,  Service (CAS) component.

Students not interested in pursuing the full IB Diploma can take IB courses in academic areas where they feel more comfortable or wish to be challenged. For each SL or HL exam they successfully complete, students earn an “IB Certificate,” which can be used for college credit as an AP score would. St. Stephen’s currently offers the basic requirements for IB, but expects their offerings to expand as demand from the (soon-to-be) increased student population dictates. As one might expect from an educational model that is student-centered, student interests will factor into determining which classes will be offered.

According to Ky Willson, St. Stephen’s Admissions Director, the IB program is particularly suitable for Houston. In our correspondences, she wrote: “We know that Houston is experiencing exponential growth.  The city is inviting to families from around the globe finding benefit in a centrally located school celebrating the variety of cultures and family experiences.  As families continue to relocate, the International Baccalaureate (IB) makes sure that the educational experiences transfer easily.  Montessori and International Baccalaureate (IB) are both globally focused curriculums that foster critical thinking skills, respect, responsibility and emphasizes the interdependence of humanity.”

Encouraging students to think critically about global interdependence and various cultures will only become more relevant in the decades to come.

Arizona Field Trip

St. Stephen’s Grand Canyon Field Trip


St. Stephen’s Episcopal, originally founded in 1971, offers Montessori-based education in the heart of Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, known for its pedestrian-friendliness, beautiful live oaks, and art museums. There are currently 212 students in Pre-K to 12th grade and upcoming expansion plans to accommodate more.

Due to the advanced nature of the coursework, students interested in pursuing an IB Diploma should carefully consider their course choices in eighth, ninth, and tenth grade. SSE’s deadline for first round of IB applicants is January 17, 2014. For more information, interested parties should contact St. Stephen’s Admissions Director, Ky Willson, at kwillson [at] or visit


About the Author: Jane Manchon spent a year teaching English in Thailand under the auspices of the Fulbright Program after graduating from Vassar College (’11) with a degree in International Studies and minor in French. Jane grew up in Houston and was valedictorian of Westside High School (’07), a National Merit Finalist, and a National AP Scholar. She currently serves as General Academic’s Communications Manager.

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