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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

McNeil’s New IB Program Conflicts Westwood Transfers

Aarya Kale
McNeil has already begun to display their new IB accreditation by modifying their website and description to include the words “IB World School”. This accreditation is taking the next step in providing a better academic environment for McNeil students, but has left some Westwood IB transfers feeling conflicted.

Tying students across the globe together with a shared love for learning and curiosity, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program is known as  a rigorous curriculum that transcends basic academic benchmarks to equip students with an arsenal of honed social, critical, and analytical skills that will allow them to succeed in the real world. Striving to bring this renowned and, quite literally, world-class education to their own campus, McNeil High School recently earned the IB accreditation in December 2023, making them the third high school in RRISD with the program, following Westwood and Stony Point.

While much information hasn’t been released regarding their primary motivators to pursue candidacy, many students and faculty across the community speculate that it may have something to do with the annual mass exodus of transfer students that left their home campus of McNeil for IB schools. Due to the large number of transfer students, McNeil has bade farewell to numerous capable and academically strong students over the years.

“Ever since a few years ago, whenever McNeil dropped in ranking, a lot of the smarter students who were more academically gifted started to transfer to Westwood for IB, but also because McNeil didn’t even seem like a good school,” transfer student Avishka Boina ‘26 said. “I think [that] because they were losing so many students, they introduced the IB program to combat the issue — not because they truly wanted to introduce the program.”

Leaving behind childhood friends and peers, all to enter an entirely new academic and social environment in which everyone seems to know everyone, is a phenomenon that likely resonates with each and every transfer student. In the final months of the eighth grade when future transfer students faced a choice between an average high school experience and what’s described as a better education, complete with the opportunity to prepare them for the real world through innovative and liberal learning strategies, the decision seemed easy to some. But there were many more emotions and complications behind the scenes that even the transfer students themselves didn’t realize until well after they’d submitted the transfer form.

“When I heard that McNeil became an IB school last year, [my first thoughts were] that it was a bit unfair, and not the best decision that could have been made, especially through my perspective,” Boina said. “I came to an [entirely] different school for the IB program and it caused me [multiple] different inconveniences and problems — driving the long journey to school everyday compared to if I would be zoned here, and [being] forced to make an entirely new friend group — so considering that McNeil became an IB school the very year I transferred to a different one for the same thing was, least to say, annoying.”

While the rigor and toughness of academically challenging courses was anticipated, many transfer students underlooked the feeling of social isolation and the heavy emotional turmoil that inevitably comes with adapting to new circumstances. While the abundance of additional resources and creative academic pathways the IB program opens up was likely a big factor in McNeil’s pursuit of the program, the desire to prevent numerous students from experiencing the emotional and physical challenges that come with simply being a transfer was plausibly a much larger motivator for McNeil to pursue the IB curriculum.

“In middle school, I remember the very last day when so many of my friends were going to McNeil and a lot of them were going to Westwood, so it was a very emotional experience,” Boina said. “Having to leave people that you’ve known for so many years behind, knowing once you are in different schools, you can never really get that emotional bond again. Having to make a whole new group of friends and meeting new people was a hard experience and it was hard to leave everybody behind, but it was a good opportunity to meet new people and get to know new personalities as well.”

Although McNeil has overcome many of the obstacles that come with the process of becoming IB-accredited, some believe that although they will incorporate a uniform global curriculum, McNeil’s IB program will be less rigorous and not as reflective of what the diploma program truly stands for due to their rather recent introduction of IB. Varun Nagarakanti ‘28, an eighth grader at Pearson Ranch Middle School, believes that if one were to compare an IB student at Westwood with one at McNeil, the former would benefit more due to Westwood’s established IB program and status among the district as opposed to McNeil’s brand new, experimental position in regards to the IB curriculum and teaching methods.

“While at first I was intrigued by the idea of pursuing IB at McNeil, I feel like it would not be a proper IB experience since McNeil just introduced it,” Nagarakanti said. “If I do decide to pursue the IB path [at McNeil], I anticipate it to be [a lot] less rigorous than Westwood’s.”

Nagarakanti is also the younger sibling of a Westwood IB transfer student, but is on track to attend McNeil next year. Nagarakanti believes that even if he were to choose the IB program in McNeil, he’d have a significant advantage over his peers due to his sister’s former knowledge and experience with the established IB program at Westwood. Nagarakanti will not only receive a closer look into the life of an average high school student, he will become familiarized with the rigor and curriculum of highly advanced courses.

“I think that the difference between the average high school student in McNeil and Westwood is the significant [academic gap],” Nagarakanti said. “But I feel like there’s not much pressure for my academic career [because] I get guidance from my sister [who] is acquainted with the academically rigorous high school [and IB] life. Mentally, I feel like [I would have] less pressure because I am aware of the struggles of high school and [can] expect what’s coming.”

As they move into uncharted academic territory, McNeil has already begun to proudly display their new accreditation by modifying their website and description to include the words “IB World School”. But looking beyond the widespread speculation and discussion amongst the community surrounding the program’s new home, many are eager to discover how truly the IB curriculum will affect students all across the district, whether it be at McNeil, or the numerous transfer students that used to call it their home campus.

“I’m happy that McNeil has chosen to take this next step in providing a better academic environment for their students,” transfer student Lahari Gadi ‘26 said. “But at the same time, I have to admit that revisiting the months in eighth grade when we’d have to consider each and every aspect of transferring, from the mental to the emotional to the physical, only for the program to come to our previous home campus a year later is pretty conflicting, puts all of us in a tricky situation.”

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Aarya Kale
Aarya Kale, Reporter
Class of 2026 Hey! Besides being a passionate writer and photographer, I also happen to have a liking for all things cheese :) If I don’t happen to be eating some, I’m probably off reading a nice book or hanging out with my friends!

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