FARMINGTON — Navajo Preparatory School is in the running for an accreditation that would bring an international degree program to the boarding school and give graduates an advantage in college.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme would offer a secondary diploma for seniors who have completed the program, which requires students to complete a number of assessments and courses. Work from the program equals a year of higher education coursework, allowing students to begin their first year of college as sophomores.

Navajo Prep was selected in September 2012 as an IB school candidate, said Executive Director Betty Ojaye.

Caleigh Benally, left, and Melaina Shirley work on a class project during Sten Caudill’s history class on Tuesday at Navajo Preparatory School in
Caleigh Benally, left, and Melaina Shirley work on a class project during Sten Caudill's history class on Tuesday at Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

Representatives from the organization visited the campus this year on Sept. 16 and 17 to determine if the school has taken the necessary steps to become an IB school.

Ojaye said the school expects to learn the status of its accreditation in spring 2014. If approved, current Navajo Prep sophomores graduating in spring 2016 would be the first graduating class eligible for the diploma.

Ojaye said the school has met the requirements for the Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act for 12 years. Adequate Yearly Progress was the measurement used to determine academic performance on tests before New Mexico was given a waiver for its A-F grading system.

With about 95 to 100 percent of graduating seniors accepted to higher education institutes, the staff was hungry for a new challenge, Ojave said.

"We came to a point where we felt like we need to challenge ourselves more. Meeting (Adequate Yearly Progress) became a routine for us," she said. "We decided we needed to go up another notch and pursue the IB program."

According to the IB program's research, students who receive the diploma are more likely to graduate from college than students who graduate with a standard high school diploma.

Navajo Prep staff have worked since 2010 -- two years before becoming a candidate school -- to fulfill the requirements.

"We looked at our whole curriculum and redesigned a lot of our courses," said Nancy Wray, an academic counselor at the school. "IB requires more in-depth education."

Courses including English, math and social studies have been adjusted to adapt to the requirements of the IB program.

There are currently 803 schools in the country that offer the IB program, including seven in New Mexico. Those seven schools are in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Montezuma. Right now, Durango, Colo., has the only two IB schools in the Four Corners.

Both Ojaye and Wray felt comfortable about the school's chances of becoming accredited, saying an exit conference with IB representatives was positive.

"We would be the very first Native American IB school," Ojaye said. "We really feel privileged if we get there."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.