For the Minneapolis Public Schools, it's a big deal. The district announced last week that three more of its high schools have been approved to offer the "International Baccalaureate Programme," which is a crucial step on the district's path to getting more of its students to take more rigorous courses.

International Baccalaureate is a program used worldwide by schools to step up the difficulty of course work and give kids a more globally oriented, outward-looking education. Now it will be offered in six of the district's seven high schools.

All of them except South, which didn't pursue the authorization, will offer IB. South is going to keep offering its Advanced Placement and College in the Schools classes.

The authorization process takes two years, and includes site visits by an IB team. Students can either take individual IB courses or enroll in a whole slate of them to earn an IB diploma.

Last week, Deputy Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson talked to the Star Tribune about the district's focus on IB and what it hopes to get out of it. Answers have been edited for length.

Q What does this authorization mean for the district?

A One of our key strategies is to increase access and opportunities for our students across the district. ... When we looked across the district, in terms of equity, we only had two high schools -- Henry and Southwest -- that had authorized [IB] diploma programs. At Southwest, there were a lot of interested families trying to get into the program, and we didn't have enough spaces.

Having the rigor of the curriculum in that program really gives our students an opportunity to stretch themselves and think more about post-secondary opportunities.

Q Some parents say that the district is putting all its eggs in one basket with the expansion of IB, and that maybe it's not for all kids.

A IB is not required, it's an option for students. We want our students to make these choices with their parents and counselors. So, a student may want to take an [Advanced Placement] math course, but they would also take an IB course. Or you could take a regular college prep course.

It's about giving students more choices.

We have a diverse portfolio of advanced course offerings. IB courses are not the only advanced courses. But IB is not only a way to get college credit, it also has more of a focus on looking at students' place in the world, a global connection to the world.

Q How many students are you hoping will sign up?

A We've already seen an increase in overall participation, as well as an increase in the number of students of color. We start in eighth grade, talking to kids about their options. It gives kids more options and opportunities.

Emily Johns • • 612-673-7460