International Baccalaureate program growing at La Costa Canyon

Sophie Park, James Miramontes, and Susie Schaefer are three of seven diploma candidates in La Costa Canyon's growing International Baccalaureate program.
(Thea Chadwick)

La Costa Canyon High School’s International Baccalaureate program is thriving in its second year. Through student-centered, inquiry-based learning, International Baccalaureate (IB) students are being educated with an international perspective.

La Costa Canyon Principal Reno Medina said he is proud of the IB diploma program at LCC that offers rigor and helps develop leaders and global thinkers.

“Not only are our students developing critical thinking skills but they are learning how to apply those thinking skills to navigate their college years and ultimately improve our world,” Medina said, thanking the students who took risks to join IB last year and truly become Mavericks.

Medina said they have seen positive growth in their second year of implementation of IB with 668 students enrolled this year, up from 413 last year. Last year there were 10 International Baccalaureate courses and this year there are 22. In 2018-19 there were seven diploma candidates, this year there are 18.

At the Oct. 10 San Dieguito Union High School District board meeting, SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley applauded the growth of the program.

“I think it really contributes to our philosophy of choice for students and parents and this is an excellent choice that they can make,” Haley said.

Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Bryan Marcus, the former principal of La Costa Canyon, said that IB started as just one big idea about four years ago when the school was in the process of moving to a seven period schedule to allow students more choice. Marcus said LCC had an opportunity for a “refresh” by exploring bringing the program to the school.

“We wanted to create more global thinkers, we wanted to create more open-minded thinkers, we wanted to create a caring environment and we wanted our kids to be risk-takers and, most importantly, we wanted them to reflect on their own learning process but also live a well-balanced lifestyle,” Marcus said, defining the IB student profile.

There are 1,839 IB World schools in the United States and in order to become an IB school, schools must complete an intensive authorization process. When LCC was authorized in March 2018 they were one of just two schools to receive authorization of about 60 that applied that year.

The IB diploma curriculum is made up of core elements, including theory of knowledge; the extended essay (self-directed research ending with a 4,000-word paper); and creativity, activity and service in which students complete a project related to those concepts.

Students study language and literature, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, arts and rigorous language acquisition. Additionally, many LCC students not seeking the IB diploma take one or a few IB classes.

Senior James Miramontes, the “unofficial student ambassador” for IB, said that the difference between IB and more typical school courses is that it truly is adaptable to individual students.

“Instead of being given information that we learn in a more traditional classroom setting in America where we memorize information and learn key concepts and try to apply that back on a test, in IB classes we really delve into the whole hands-on type aspect of learning,” James said. “With all of our projects we are given freedom to choose not only what we are learning but how we are learning.”

James said he appreciates the teachers’ ability to incorporate assessments that allow them to apply learning to real-world situations that really interest the students. He said he feels very prepared going into college, particularly with the number of collegiate essays they have to write, sometimes simultaneously. “It’s hard but it’s taught us amazing time-management skills.”

According to IB senior Susie Schaefer, the initial cohort of seven students has bonded and become extremely close as they go through their educational journey together. At the Oct. 10 meeting, Susie, James and Sophie Park all spoke for LCC, thanking the district and the school board for the opportunity.

“I’m so glad that I decided to do this program because of the learning style and freedom that it offered,” Susie said.

Sophie Park said the reason she picked IB was that she was interested in the “holistic world view” that it promised, and it has delivered.

“I think I have gotten such a deeper education and I’ve really been able to explore my passions and learn a lot more about things that I’m interested in and things I wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to without the program,” said Sophie.

James, who moved into the district from another IB school, has been in an IB program for six years now.

“It’s been an amazing process coming from such a well-established school on the east coast to a pilot program in California that is really taking the initiative to better the community,” James said.

The next IB parent information night will be held on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. in the La Costa Canyon learning commons. For more on La Costa Canyon’s IB program, visit