By Daniel de Vise and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The International Baccalaureate Organization, whose college-preparatory curriculum has expanded exponentially in the Washington area alongside the rival Advanced Placement program, is relocating its U.S. offices from New York to Montgomery County.
The nonprofit organization was drawn to the new location in part because of the region's high concentration of IB schools: 91 in Maryland, Virginia and the District. In Montgomery, the number of IB students has grown to about 8,000 from 500 a decade ago. Fairfax and Arlington counties, among other places in the area, have large programs.
"Obviously, Montgomery County and Fairfax are great IB partners," Drew Deutsch, who oversees the IB Americas, said yesterday. "Unfortunately, we can't have IB centers in both counties, so we had to choose."
The organization's move could bolster the area's reputation as a center of scholarship and college preparation.
Deutsch said the organization is shopping for space between Bethesda and Gaithersburg, seeking to locate near a Metro stop in a community where employees could enroll children in IB schools. Sixteen public schools in the county have IB programs, including Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Richard Montgomery and Rockville high schools, all within reach of Red Line stations.
"We have a K through 12 IB program," said Montgomery Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. "It's the only one like it in Maryland."
The new offices are scheduled to open in mid-2010, with more than 100 employees who will oversee operations and testing at 1,494 schools in 28 countries and territories in North and South America. Another such center, in Amsterdam, will be responsible for European and African operations. A Singapore office serves Asian and Australian schools.
IB is headquartered in Geneva and offers an international-flavored curriculum to about 500,000 students in 2,500 schools worldwide. The curriculum spans elementary through high school, although IB is best known for its high school diploma program. Students seeking the diploma take a full load of college-level courses in their junior and senior years, then sit for a battery of tests, similar in length and difficulty to AP tests.
In December, school officials and county and state economic development representatives traveled to New York to make their case for a Montgomery location.
Through phone calls, letters and e-mails, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he sought to convince the organization that Montgomery's high-achieving schools and educated residents were a "perfect match" for IB.
Economic development officials said the incentive package offered to the IB organization would include tax credits and loans.
"It's a good deal for IB, and it's a good deal for the taxpayers," said Bernadette Musselwhite of Montgomery's Department of Economic Development.
Fairfax has eight high schools, five middle schools and six elementary schools with IB programs underway or planned. Montgomery's IB footprint is similar: eight high schools, five middle schools and three elementary schools.
Other local IB schools include Banneker High in the District; Washington-Lee High, Jefferson Middle and Randolph Elementary schools in Arlington; Annapolis, Meade and Old Mill high schools and three middle schools in Anne Arundel County; Central, Laurel, Parkdale and Suitland high schools in Prince George's County; and Gar-Field and Stonewall Jackson high schools and three middle schools in Prince William.