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Lower Merion School District


International Baccalaureate Diploma Program

The IB Diploma Program is a district-wide offering available only at Harriton High School.

Designed initially for students who are internationally mobile, the IB Diploma offers access to universities throughout the world.  Universities, including in the United States, regard the IB Diploma curriculum as outstanding preparation for college-level work.  Students determine in their sophomore year if they wish to participate in IB, and they complete the program's requirements during junior and senior years.

Unlike AP courses, which are selected on an a-la-carte basis, IB courses are studied in the context of a unified, comprehensive diploma experience.  Because the IB is a diploma program, students take courses in all disciplines: a literature course in their first language; a language acquisition course; a history course; an experimental science course; a mathematics course; and an elective chosen from Visual Arts, Music, Psychology, Economics, Theatre, or a second science. IB students seek a balanced education:  a humanities-oriented student can craft an IB schedule that is rooted in the humanities, but he/she must still study math and sciences; likewise, a student deeply rooted in STEM subjects can craft a schedule that is very heavy in quantitative studies, but he/she must still study the humanities.

In addition to these six courses, students complete three "core elements" of the Diploma Program:

  • CAS (creativity, activity, service), a student-designed suite of activities that engages students in endeavors that are creative, action-oriented, and provide service
  • Extended Essay, a 4,000 word essay in original research
  • Theory of Knowledge, a metacognitive course that engages the students in the evaluation of the nature of knowledge and how we come to understand the world around us.

The six subjects and the core are unified philosophically by the fundamental understanding that acquiring knowledge is a critical step toward the greater goal of critical thinking. IB teachers foster an environment conducive to the development of deep analytical skills, including long-term projects, active engagement of the students in seminar-type lessons, research tasks, and writing assignments.

Key features of the IB experience include:

  • a rigorous curriculum taught in 150 countries
  • an interdisciplinary study in which inter-curricular links are natural
  • an emphasis on internationalism
  • a cohort experience in which a common group of students studies a common set of subjects, fostering close ties among each other and their teachers
  • an international flavor, as the program attracts students from throughout the world who seek an IB diploma to facilitate their university studies either back in their homeland or a future destination.

The Benefits of AP and IB courses

By taking college-level Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes, you enter a world of knowledge and a learning environment that you might not otherwise experience in high school. By taking AP or IB exams, you have the opportunity to earn credit or advanced standing at many of the nation's colleges and universities.

The greatest benefit of AP and IB is the experience of taking academic courses in an enriched environment with classmates who are seeking intellectual challenge, are motivated to learn, and are committed to excellence. The courses offer students opportunities to delve more deeply into content, research in a scholarly fashion, and learn in a college-like inquiry-based manner.

Advanced Placement courses are college-level courses taught in high school. Most four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement, or both on the basis of AP Exam scores.  International Baccalaureate courses are designed to be high school courses by an international standard, though universities throughout the United States consider them to be college-level courses by a US standard and therefore offer advanced placement and/or credit for scores earned on IB assessments. By entering college with AP or IB credits, students have time to move into upper-level courses, pursue a double-major, or study abroad. Students must take the AP or IB assessments to be eligible for college credit.

Additional information about AP is available from Student Services, the AP Coordinator (Dr. Korey Bell at Harriton,; or Mr. Jared Epler at Lower Merion High School, or the College Board's website (

Additional information about IB is available from Student Services, the IB Coordinator (Mr. Thomas O'Brien,, The International Baccalaureate website: (, or LMSD's IB documentation online: (