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Vallas: Study Vindicates Rigorous International Baccalaureate Program

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former Chicago Public Schools chief executive officer Paul Vallas says new research from the University of Chicago vindicates a program he instituted that had many doubters.

As WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports, Vallas took the helm at the school system in 1995, when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley took control of the system and overhauled its governance structure.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger reports


Two years later, Vallas moved to open International Baccalaureate – or IB – programs in a dozen neighborhood high schools. The IB program was created in Switzerland for the diplomats' children, and is linked to international standards.

Before 1997, only Lincoln Park High School had an IB program.

"At the time that we implemented the program, a lot of people thought we were crazy," Vallas said Thursday.

Melissa Roderick, the author of the U of C study that finds the IB program highly effective, admits to the Chicago Sun-Times that she, herself, thought 15 years ago the idea of expanding the program was crazy – particularly in schools with less-than-stellar performance records.

But Roderick's research shows the IB program has been perhaps the most successful of any school reform in getting high school students to graduate and go on to top colleges, and in keeping them in college too.

Vallas says the U of C study is vindication.

"One of the criticisms was, 'Oh my goodness, there's not going to be enough qualified students to participate in the program, and this program is going to actually undermine the other magnet schools and their magnet programs," Vallas said. "Well, we proved our critics to be wrong."

Vallas, who is now the interim school chief in Bridgeport, Conn., thinks the IB program is one of the most effective legacies in his tenure in Chicago.

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