New 2020 Summer Program for Students!

Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.

JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.

Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.

Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:

  • Session 1 is June 15-19
  • Session 2 is June 22-26
  • Session 3 is July 6-10
  • Session 4 is July 13-17

Find more information here: www.belinblank.org/jsa.

Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.

Applications for all of our student summer programs open December 15th at belinblank.org/summer. Please email us at summer@belinblank.org with any questions!


We hope to see you this summer!

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

Winter Break Opportunity for Professionals and Parents

The fall semester has flown by, and it’s almost 2020!  Happy holidays and we hope you are looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year.  Goethe has a quote that seems so appropriate for a new year:  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Wishing is not enough; we must do.

Over the short winter break (December 30 – January 17, 2020), educators and/or parents can take advantage of one of our most useful classes entitled Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA)!

As the title suggests, this is your opportunity to read that book you’ve heard about (or at least several chapters of that book, since a one-semester-hour class requires only about 150 – 175 pages of readings).  NAGC has awarded three 2019 book awards:

Scholar
Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools (Prufrock Academic Press) by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena F. Subotnik, and Frank C. Worrell

Practitioner
A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Publishing) by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown

Parent/Caregiver
Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (Workman Publishing) by Deborah Reber

If you attended a state conference or the national convention, you might have heard about other materials that would help you better advocate for or meet the needs of your own advanced learner(s).

You can also read research-based articles for this credit; we give you the tips you need to find your own journal articles (and while you are enrolled for credit, you have full access to all the online materials in the University of Iowa libraries!).  We can also help you find the most useful materials on a topic of importance to you (e.g., how to support twice-exceptional learners, or what articles would be most helpful to you for that upcoming professional development session you’re providing at your school later in January).

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg

All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.  All will help you better understand important issues in the field.  Billy Wilder, journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, is given credit for saying, “Hindsight is always 20 : 20.”  Let’s plan ahead for 2020, identifying and implementing best practices for gifted children.

Scholarships for High School Students Conducting Research

Interested in doing research, but worried about the costs? Looking for an outlet to share your ideas, that may lead to college scholarships? We’ve rounded up a helpful list of funding sources and prizes for you!

Iowa students who conduct research related to pigs, pork, pig production, swine care, or in a related subject area will be eligible to receive a $200 scholarship for their project from the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. This scholarship can assist in the development of a project, be used to purchase supplies to conduct or present research, or for travel to one of Iowa’s science competitions like the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium! The deadline for application is February 1, 2020.

For students seeking creative solutions to environmental problems, check out the International Young Eco-Hero Award. This award is offered by Action for Nature and recognizes students between the ages of 8 and 16 for environmental action. Students can receive up to a $500 cash prize for creative and independent environmental research projects. The deadline for application is February 28, 2020.  

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is one of the oldest national science competitions for high school seniors. To enter, students complete an online application that includes a research manuscript describing their original research. Around 2,000 students submit the application each year with 300 of them becoming scholars receiving $2,000 each; each of the scholars’ schools receive $2,000 as well. The top 40 scholars are selected to travel to Washington D.C. to present their research and compete for one of the top ten awards ranging from $40,000 – $250,000. The deadline for application has passed for this fall but be sure to check them out next year! (And consider submitting a project to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium to prepare for next year’s Talent Search competition.)

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has been named one of the ten biggest scholarships in the world and is available to extraordinary young people 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. The Davidson Institute awards scholarships in categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. The Davidson Institute denotes on their website that this award is for students whose projects are at, or close to, the college graduate level with a depth of knowledge in their particular area of study and not geared toward students at the novice level. Applying to this scholarship is worth the time as the winners are awarded $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 and are honored with a trip to Washington D.C. for some congressional meetings and a special reception. The deadline for application is February 12.

Even though it is not a requirement for an applicant to conduct high school research for the National Institutes of Health NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program, we thought this would be of some interest to students who love research. This scholarship program offers up to $20,000 per year in aid and summer research training at the NIH! High school students must be in the top 5% of their class, from a disadvantaged background, and enrolled in a University committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, or social science – health related research.

The Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is supported by the Army Educational Outreach Program, which hosts a variety of apprenticeships that create opportunities for high school students to conduct research with scientists and engineers. They also have a variety of scholarships and grants.

With these and other scholarship opportunities, publicly available data sets, and ways for teachers to incorporate student research into their regular curriculum, it’s never been easier for high school students to contribute brand new knowledge to the world. And if you’re still unsure, be sure to check out this guide to getting started on a research project. We hope you’re inspired to get out there and start researching!

AP® vs. Concurrent Enrollment

Finding advanced coursework for gifted and high-achieving students is important. You may find yourself questioning where to begin and also wondering what is most beneficial for your student. This post helps to explain the similarities and differences between Advanced Placement® (AP®) and Concurrent / Dual Enrollment.

What is Advanced Placement® and Dual Enrollment?

  • Advanced Placement®  (AP®) is a nationally standardized program administered by the College Board. Students have the option to enroll in a wide range of different courses and take an exam in May. In Iowa, schools also have the opportunity to participate in the Iowa Online AP® Academy, which allows high school students to enroll in online AP® coursework for courses their school may not offer.
  • Concurrent Enrollment is an initiative offered by the state of Iowa that allows high school students to enroll in community college courses while still in high school.

How do credits transfer?

  • Advanced Placement®: Passing an AP® exam with a score of 3 or higher generally allows students to earn either advanced standing or course credit for entry-level college courses, depending on the university’s requirements. That is, students may obtain required elective credits or course credits (as if the student had taken and passed the course at the university) for entry-level college courses. For example, at the University of Iowa, receiving a 4 or higher on the AP® Biology exam gives you credit for a specific entry-level biology course (BIOL:1140 Human Biology) that might apply towards your degree.
  • Concurrent Enrollment: Generally, if students pass their class with a C- or higher, they receive college credit. However, this credit may or may not transfer to their post-secondary institution of choice. For example, per University of Iowa policy: Course work earned at a two-year college may be applied toward up to one-half the credits required for a bachelor’s degree. Excess credit and grades will be used in computing your grade-point average (GPA) and may be used to satisfy course requirements, but they will not count toward the total hours needed for graduation from the university.

What does the research say?

A body of research has consistently demonstrated that taking AP® exams and achieving at least a 3 or higher is correlated with greater success in various ways in college. Specifically, a recent study (Wyatt, Patterson, & Giacomo, 2015) found that AP® students who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP® exam had more positive college outcomes than dual enrollment students affiliated with a 2- or 4-year institution.

There is also much research suggesting that participation in AP® courses alone, without taking/passing AP® exams, is still beneficial for students attending college. This speaks to the concept of “college prep” and coincides with anecdotal responses from Iowa teachers that students were prepared for college courses and the students felt that college expectations were below the expectations for AP® courses!

For more information about the history of AP® and future initiatives, check out this podcast.

What does the Iowa Online AP® Academy offer?

The IOAPA framework works with your high school curriculum so that you can take advanced classes (i.e. Advanced Placement® courses) that are of interest to you. In addition, AP® courses are nationally recognized as a way to earn college course credit at many colleges and universities across the nation. Finally, as an online program, IOAPA also offers flexibility that traditional courses may not in terms of scheduling, as well as practice with online course formats.

Will Iowa Online AP® Academy courses prepare students in the same ways as traditional AP® courses?

IOAPA students who take the AP® exam generally perform just as well as, if not better than, students who participate in traditional AP® courses.  Students who enroll in IOAPA courses also tend to successfully complete them—during the 2018-2019 school year, the completion rate for IOAPA high school courses was 93.3%, and of those students, 89.5% successfully passed their course.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about IOAPA by visiting our website. The University of Iowa’s AP® credit policy is here, or you can visit the College Board’s AP® Credit Policy database for the policies of other colleges and universities. You can also read about the state of Iowa’s Senior Year Plus initiative for more specifics on earning college credit in high school.

AP® Exam Scholarship Winners!

The Belin-Blank Center received funding in 2018 to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for students with financial need. IOAPA mentors were to submit an application to receive this funding. We are pleased to announce the teachers that are awarded these scholarships for their students! Congratulations to the following teachers:

Hollie Weber, Central Lee High School

DeAnn Scearce, Mount Vernon High School

Chris Rogne, Crestwood High School

Leanne Bender, Hillcrest Academy

Susan Fritzell, Marshalltown High School

Ken Baker, Forest City High School

The purpose of these scholarships is to pay for the cost of AP® exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses. We want to thank these teachers for their dedication to providing resources and opportunities to their students!

As funds permit, we will continue to offer these AP® exam scholarships. Keep an eye out for more information on the spring semester courses application process!

IOAPA: Semester Check-In

We are now over half way through the fall semester! We wanted to take the time to provide the IOAPA community with some resources that may be helpful for finishing the semester, as well as provide you with reminders and upcoming dates and deadlines.

There have many changes and added resources to AP® courses. Are you aware of all of these?

These changes have been implemented to make your role more streamlined from registration, to exam ordering, to test day.

  1. Click here to access a handout is quick guide to the new changes to AP® for AP® Coordinators.
  2. Click here for access to the AP® Coordinators Manual Part I (Part II will come out in March). This manual includes:
    1. What is new for 2019-2020
    2. 2020 AP® Exam schedule
    3. Exam ordering policies and deadlines
    4. Instructions about new exam registration and ordering processes

AP® Exam Registration and Ordering

Do you have questions with the new AP® Exam ordering process?

You will use your AP® student roster to update exam ordering information, including SSD accommodations, for each student. For more information, click here to watch a quick and helpful video from the College Board and click here for more detailed instructions.

What about my students who will only enroll in a one-term, spring semester course?
  • When students get enrolled into their spring semester courses with IOAPA, the AP® Coordinator will create the exam only sections for those students. There should not be a need to denote those sections as “second semester.”
  • APEX and Edhesive will enroll those students into “second semester” AP® Classroom sections on the College Board site.
  • When the school’s AP® Coordinator orders the exams for the one-term, spring semester students, the AP® Exam registration deadline is March 13, 2020.

Why did the College Board switch to ordering AP® Exams in the fall semester?

The College Board implemented a pilot program for fall AP® exam registration that included more than 800 schools and 180,000 AP® students in the fall of the 2018-2019 school year. Below is what the College Board noticed:

  • Students and teachers reported the students were more invested, committed, engaged, and focused.
  • When students register for the AP® Exam in the fall, 15% more students completed the exam.
  • Students’ chances of earning a 3 or higher increase when compared to students in schools with spring registration.
  • There was a 12% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by minority students, and a 20% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by low-income students.
AP® Exams Taken by Low-Income Students: Scores of 3+

For more information on the pilot study, click here, and click here to watch a short video to hear the experiences of teachers and students in the pilot study.

Reminder: The final deadline to order AP® Exams for fall registration is November 15th, 2019!