Only five high schools in Tennessee currently offer the rigorous pre-university program, Debra Bentley told EDB board members gathered for a monthly meeting. She said the curriculum, which students take as juniors and seniors, is designed for "highly motivated students" and based on international standards.
Graduates, she said, "can get into just about any school they want in the world."
Some even are able to enter college as sophomores, she said, and the state legislature is considering a bill that would grant graduates 24 hours of college credit.
The benefit to the local economy would be at least twofold, Bentley said. First, having such a program would be an additional benefit for companies considering relocation here because some upper-level managers don't want to relocate somewhere that does not have an IB program.
"I think you'll find out business and industry will see such a benefit when they're recruiting to this area," Bentley said.
Additionally, she said, graduates of the IB program - should they stay in Johnson City after college - will prove themselves among the best and brightest.
"These are the kind of people we want sitting in this room in 10 years," Bentley said. "They become community leaders."
The program includes three "higher level" classes each lasting two years and three "standard level" one-year classes. It also has a 4,000-word thesis component and 150 hours of community service. Science Hill is planning to offer English, history and chemistry as its higher-level courses.
The course exams and thesis are graded internationally, and an international committee will visit this fall to gauge Science Hill's readiness to conduct the program. Bentley said she expects the IB program to graduate up to 30 students a year within several years, and added that students not seeking the IB diploma still will be able to take the courses.
"These students become school leaders at the college level and later in the business world," Bentley said.