Professional Development for Spring and Summer 2023

“Teachers benefit from professional development trainings that are focused, purposeful, provide examples of what the targeted expectation should look like, and allow teachers the opportunity to apply what they have learned and implement it into their instruction”

(Keely Blair P’Pool, 2021, p. 100)
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

That is why professional development has been an integral part of the Belin-Blank Center since 1980, when Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, founding director of the Center, was first talking with Connie and David Belin and Jaqueline and Mike Blank about how to best support gifted and talented children.

Winter Session

Over winter break, the Center will offer EDTL:4085:0WKA Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (December 21, 2022 – January 13, 2023), allowing “just-in-time” professional learning on topics of most interest to participants.

Spring Semester

In Spring of 2023, the Center is offering three-semester-hour extension classes (Identification, Program Models, Curriculum Concepts) and a two-semester-hour class about Administration and Policy Issues.  A variety of workshops are also available.  Check belinblank.org/courses after the Thanksgiving holiday to see everything that is available.

Summer Professional Development Options

Belin-Blank Fellowship

The Belin-Blank Center will host the 43rd Connie Belin & Jaqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education, July 16 – 21, 2023, on campus at the University of Iowa.  One of the longest-running professional learning programs in the country, the Fellowship allows those with little background in gifted education and talent development to immerse themselves in ways to identify and understand gifted students, including those who have been traditionally underrepresented, and ways to develop students’ talents.  This is the time for parents and teachers of the gifted to find allies in their schools, urging those who have an interest and would benefit from the program to apply for the Fellowship, free of cost to participants (although participants do need to cover the cost of travel to Iowa City).  Room and board, as well as presentations from experts in the field, are all part of the Fellowship.  Teacher leaders / instructional coaches are especially welcome!  Anyone wanting to earn academic credit can enroll in CSED:5237:0WKA.  Look for application materials in mid-January (belinblank.org/fellowship)!

Online Coursework

Summer of 2023 will offer both PSQF:4123:0EXW Academic Acceleration and the CSED or EDTL:4137:0EXW Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (both three-semester-hour extension classes), as well as multiple online and asynchronous one-semester-hour courses, offered in a workshop format.  Everything available will be posted at belinblank.org/courses early in December.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

As well as online opportunities, the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (belinblank.org/chautauqua) will take place in June 2023.  Over the two weeks from June 12 – 17 and June 19 – 24, participants will have an opportunity to participate in up to six workshops that will include two days of either face-to-face interaction on campus in Blank Honors Center or via Zoom (participants may choose the option best for them).  Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four). Chautauqua offers opportunities in the Psychology, Programming, and Administrative strands, making earning the endorsement easier than ever.  Chautauqua classes differ from summer to summer, allowing those interested in the endorsement (belinblank.org/endorsement) to complete all of their work through Chautauqua over two summers.  Between online and Chautauqua opportunities, endorsement candidates can complete all of their work before the next academic year.

Get Registered for Credit

To participate in endorsement classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the purposes of 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. In other words, 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 (belinblank.org/educators/reg).

Using Achievement, Aptitude, and Ability Tests for Acceleration Decisions

Achievement, aptitude, and ability tests:  What do those terms mean, and how are these three types of tests used in academic acceleration decisions?  Since the words can be a bit confusing, let’s take them one step at a time. 

Achievement testing is common in schools. Achievement tests measure the student’s learning in specific content areas in the student’s current grade. They are called “achievement” tests because they were developed to measure past learning. “Standardized” tests are typically developed to measure the progress of groups of students. All students are tested under similar conditions and the test items are from a specific item bank. They differ from teacher-made achievement tests, which are not subject to the rigorous test item development usually seen in standardized testing. Examples of standardized achievement tests are the state tests such as ISASP in Iowa or STAAR in Texas. Other examples of standardized tests include Terra Nova, Stanford Achievement Tests, or Measures of Academic Progress (MAP). The Belin-Blank Center highly recommends using the Iowa Assessments (available through Riverside Publishing) if other achievement tests are not already available. For acceleration decisions, we recommend using achievement test data from the past year. Achievement testing is important in acceleration decisions to determine if the student has already mastered the material he or she will be skipping. Frequently, students who are considered for grade-skipping have already scored in the 90th or 95th percentile in many subjects compared to agemates. 

Aptitude testing is important for acceleration discussions because these tests provide information about what a student is ready to learn. Aptitude testing is less dependent on specific content (which is why it is in the center position in the graphic above). General aptitude tests are designed to measure an individual’s problem-solving ability that is unrelated to specific instruction in a school setting. Specific aptitude tests are designed to measure an individual’s problem-solving ability for material in a content area that has not yet been formally presented to the learner. One of the best indicators of a bright student’s aptitude in a specific content area is the student’s performance on an above-level test, a test that was developed for older students. These tests include I-Excel, ACT, SAT, and above-level Iowa Assessments (usually two grade levels above the student’s current grade). For purposes of acceleration decisions, aptitude testing should have been completed within the past two years. Students earning scores in the 50th percentile and above when compared to older students might be considered for acceleration in their strength area. These guidelines are intended to help us predict that the student will continue to be successful in the higher grade if accelerated. 

Ability testing rounds out the trio of types of tests. Ability testing tells us about a student’s potential for success in school. An intelligence test (also known as an IQ test or cognitive ability test) is required for acceleration decisions, especially grade-skipping and early entrance to kindergarten. A group or individual test may be used. Measures of verbal ability are highly correlated with performance in school, so verbal IQ scores are especially useful. Tests include: Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT), Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, and the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities. Ability testing should have been administered within the past two years for acceleration decisions. The Belin-Blank Center recommends that students considered for grade-skipping would have scored at least one standard deviation above the mean (average) on a cognitive ability test; in other words, the student scores 115 or higher on an intelligence test that has an average score of 100. In contrast, students earning average cognitive ability test scores are more likely to have their learning needs met with grade-level curriculum and at the same pace as their grade-level peers. 

Data gathered from all three of the above types of tests are important in making acceleration decisions. This objective information helps us to compare students to other bright students and to determine if acceleration is indeed in the best interests of a particular student. Other information is important in the discussion about acceleration, including psychosocial factors, school support, and family support. All of these factors (and more) are considered in the new online Integrated Acceleration System, which facilitates a discussion about four forms of academic acceleration (grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten, early entrance to college, and subject acceleration). 

Interested in learning more about acceleration? The Belin-Blank Center offers a 3-semester-hour graduate course on academic acceleration each summer. The course is taught entirely online. Contact acceleration@belinblank.org for details about the class and about enrollment. 

Getting Ready for the 69th Annual NAGC Convention

Nesibe Karakis and Laurie Croft

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Many of us dedicated to meeting the needs of gifted learners—and supporting the development of their varied talents—are looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues next week in Indianapolis.  We often talk about the importance of ensuring gifted learners spend time with their true peers, and it’s the same for professionals in the field. 

Our field is a small one, though, and the word bittersweet comes to mind when thinking about this year’s convention without Dr. Marcia Gentry, the winner of the 2022 NAGC President’s Award.  She contributed so much to the field, and to our awareness of “missingness,” that is, inequity in identification and services.  While we go to learn from our peers, Dr. Gentry’s voice will be there in many sessions, but we will miss her.

The October newsletter from the Belin-Blank Center included a message from our new director, Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, about our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with reflections on lessons learned from Dr. Gentry.  We also have a post-doctoral colleague at the Center, Dr. Nesibe Karakis, who graduated from Purdue University.  Dr. Karakis shared insights from colleagues at Purdue:

Dr. F. Richard Olenchak, Professor, Purdue University, Gifted Creative and Talented Studies, noted that

Having been friends with Marcia Gentry for over 35 years as far back as graduate school, I not only enjoyed working with her, I most enjoyed spending brainstorming sessions with her. Marcia’s dry wit and tendency to drift to dark humor not only ended up helping us to see the positives in otherwise stressful scenarios, but these occasions stimulated my own thinking to find the positive dichotomies when we zeroed in on the cynical side of things. I will go through the rest of my life loving her as one of my dearest friends. She was far more than a work colleague for me.

Dr. Nielsen Pereira, Associate Professor, Purdue University, Gifted Creative and Talented Studies, shared

It is very difficult for me to separate Marcia’s impact on me as a person and scholar since she was such an integral part of my life for over 15 years. It also would be difficult to decide on only a couple of things that impressed me about knowing and working with Marcia, but I will focus on two that come to mind now: her brilliance and her generosity. Marcia was definitely and truly a brilliant scholar. When I look at her contributions to the field (some we have collaborated on), I see how unique and brilliant her ideas were. The Total School Cluster Grouping model, the HOPE projects, the Native American Research Initiative, the Access Denied report all represent her passion for making gifted services more equitable and accessible to students from underserved populations. Additionally, each of these included a twist on things that have been considered best practices in gifted education. More recently, the introduction of “missingness” as a concept when looking at underrepresentation in gifted education (see Access Denied report) is (in my opinion) a contribution that could be key to, hopefully, one day achieving equity in gifted education. Marcia’s generosity is something that I had the privilege to experience at a personal level, but also in professional settings. Over the years, she went from being my doctoral advisor to a colleague and a friend I knew I could trust and count on in almost any situation. She was generous with her time, resources, friends, and so many other things. She helped me in times of great need and when I simply needed a hand or advice. She was always the first to reach out (to me and others) to offer help or support. She also was always willing to share her home with friends and colleagues. I will always remember each celebration at her house… graduation parties for doctoral students, end-of-the year celebrations, a welcome reception for a guest, and many others. She will always have a special place in my heart and I will always remember her as the best mentor and colleague I could have asked for and a dear friend.

Dr. Alissa Cress, Clinical Assistant Professor, Purdue University, Gifted Creative and Talented Studies

I worked with Dr. Marcia Gentry since the beginning of my graduate school program in 2016. Although that is not long in the scope of her amazing career, I was honored to work with her for the time we had. I was her 25th advisee to graduate with a Ph.D.! Learning from her expertise in the field and how she navigated professional and personal challenges life attempted to throw at her were just a few of the many qualities I found most admirable about her. Her constant, selfless dedication to creating opportunities for all students inspired me and everyone in her life to do and be better. Marcia Gentry’s impact on the world of gifted education—and the world as a whole—will outlast her for decades to come.  

Dr. Olenchak will be presenting at the Convention with Jeffrey Thomas about Exploring Social-emotional Development of High-Ability LGBTQ through Retrospectives.

Dr. Pereira will be presenting with Hernan Castillow-Hermosilla and Yuxiao Zhang about Are They Really Gifted Too? Challenges in Identifying Underrepresented Gifted Students; with Dr. Sarah Bright, Zafer Ozen, and Tugce Karatas: Fostering SEL Skills in STEM Curricula for Underrepresented Gifted Students; and with Dr. Joni Lakin, Dr. Emily Mofield, and Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, focusing on Research into Practice (topic varied by presenter).

Dr. Cress will be presenting with Abdullah A. Tuzgen about Reducing Biases and Creating Partnerships to Recognize & Foster Children’s Gifts and Talents; with Dr. Jennifer Richardson and Dr. Yukiko Maeda, discussing Total School Cluster Grouping: New Research Findings, Directions, and Discussion; and with Abdullah Tuzgen and Hernan Castillo-Hermosilla about What Do Teachers Really Think about Differentiation? Strategies, Successes, and Solutions.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Presentations from staff and faculty at the Belin-Blank Center include:

Dr. Laurie Croft & Dr. Alena Treat, Diverse Faces in Gifted Education: LGBTQ+

Sheyanne Smith, Dr. Toni Szymanski, & Dr. Laurie Croft, Expanding Concepts of Multi-tiered Systems of Support to Serve Gifted Children

Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Dr. Susan Assouline, Dr. Duhita Mahatmya, and Dr. Saba Ali, A Hybrid Model of Talent Identification-career Exploration for Underrepresented Students

Dr. Kimberley Chandler, Dr. Jaime Castellano, Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Dr. Kristina Henry Collins, Erik Francis, Dr. Anne Gray, Dr. Nancy Hertzog, Dr. Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn, Dr. Kimberly Lansdowne, & Dr. PJ Sedillo, Identifying and Serving Diverse Gifted Learners: Meeting the Needs of Special Populations in Gifted Education

Dr. Del Siegle, Dr. Betsy McCoach, Dr. Catherine Little, Dr. Susan Assouline, & Dr. Scott Peters, Not so Fast: Think Twice about Identification

Dr. Lori Ihrig & Dr. Nesibe Karakis, Developing Rural STEM Talent Through Afterschool Programs

Dr Randy Lange & Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Transition Planning for Whole-grade Acceleration

Dr. Joni Lakin, Dr. Emily Mofield, Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, & Dr. Nielsen Pereira, Research into Practice

Dr. Katie Schabilion & Dr. Amanda Berns, Essential Tips for Teachers of Twice-Exceptional Students

Dr. Katie Schabilion, R&E Dissertation Award Recipients Presentation

Posters of interest from staff and faculty at the Belin-Blank Center include:

Anna Payne & Dr. Laurie Croft, Acceleration: Insights into Environmental Constraints to an Effective Practice

Dr. Toni Szymanski & Dr. Laurie Croft, Exploring Curriculum Models through Lesson Planning

Dr. Nesibe Karakas, Dr. Lori Ihrig, & Dr. Duhita Mahatmya, Who Is Missing from Rural STEM Talent Development Efforts?

Dr. Randy Lange & Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Grade-skipping: The Essential Considerations

Policy: A Fundamental Component in an Acceleration Plan

Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska gave an important talk at a previous Belin-Blank Center conference on “The Research and Practice of Acceleration for Gifted Students: Toward Policy Development.” She explained that acceleration policy is needed:

  1. To ensure that it happens consistently across districts, individual students, and time;
  2. To provide guidance for educational decisions about acceleration options; and
  3. To ensure that it is presented as one of the basic provisions for gifted students at all stages of development.
Photo by Nicole Berro on Pexels.com

The research on academic acceleration is the strongest research and the best practice we have in gifted education. Nothing else comes close.  Both short-term and longitudinal studies consistently demonstrate the power of acceleration for gifted students; for example, in one study of students who had accelerated 38 years prior, researchers found accelerated students earned terminal degrees (e.g., Ph.D., J.D., or M.D.) at a rate substantially higher than in the general population (37-43% in the accelerated group compared to only 1% in the general population), performed at a high level in their careers, demonstrated a higher rate of patents and publications, earned higher salaries, etc.

Acceleration can be used as the catalyst for talent development in schools.  Schools should provide:

  1. Advanced opportunities as early as possible in identified areas of aptitude;
  2. Sustained practice of the progressive development of skills under the guidance of a coach, tutor, or mentor;
  3. Competitions in the area of strength, so students can see what excellence looks like; and
  4. Collaboration on expert teams for performance.

The above recommendations are consistent with those provided by the National Science Foundation (2010), which calls for more use of inquiry through project-based learning, more research preparation, and more emphasis on career development.

If we accelerate gifted students, what does that look like at each stage?  Dr. VanTassel-Baska recommends using acceleration as the first intervention, then providing enrichment and other services. By using acceleration as the first intervention, we are starting with the evidence-based provision. Higher levels of functioning demand that we raise the level of curricular challenge; this ensures a good match with the student’s readiness for learning.  In short, gifted students who are ready for more advanced curriculum need acceleration.

Acceleration is flexible. It can be provided in different ways, from content acceleration to grade skipping (20 different types of acceleration are listed in A Nation Empowered). Acceleration can be provided at different times during a student’s development, it can be provided for a group or individually, and the types of acceleration can be used alone or in combination.

Content acceleration options at all stages of development should be a core for acceleration policy.  Policymakers and practitioners should consider utilizing existing practices. For example, if an option for testing out of high school courses is available for students who have difficulties, this option should be made available for gifted students as well.

Both research and effective practice demonstrate the power of acceleration with high-ability learners. Acceleration is the first and most important differentiation tool for instruction for gifted students and needs to be acknowledged as such. Our gifted programs would be far more effective if strong acceleration policies were enacted.

We thank Dr. VanTassel-Baska for presenting this important talk.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

The publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Whole Grade, Early Entrance, and Single Subject is available online. This publication, a project of the Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children, was published in 2018.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies uses current research and practical considerations of school-based issues to guide decision-making. It includes recommended elements of whole-grade acceleration policies, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade policies, and subject-acceleration policies. Each section includes a checklist of items to consider while developing those specific policies. The information provided is supported by recent research.  Lists of resources are also included.  Download your copy of the publication from the Acceleration Institute website.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Additional Notes from the Belin-Blank Center

  • See the 2-volume book, A Nation Empowered (nationempowered.org), which provides the latest information on research and practice in acceleration.
  • The Acceleration Institute (accelerationinstitute.org) contains many resources for making decisions about acceleration and
    implementing acceleration policies.
  •  The Integrated Acceleration System is a useful tool for making decisions about a grade skip. Other forms of acceleration will be included soon.

IOAPA Spring enrollment is now open!

Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) registration for Spring 2023 classes is now open! The primary aim of this program is to provide access to Iowa students who would otherwise be unable to find these courses offered in their school district. In addition to courses that run for the full academic year, IOAPA also provides free access to asynchronous, one-semester, advanced courses for Iowa students in 6th grade and above. These courses can be perfect options for students needing more advanced coursework during the school year or who would like to add an additional AP course to their transcript. Additionally, AP exam scholarships are also available to eligible IOAPA students taking spring semester courses.

On our website, you can find a wealth of information, including our course catalog, important dates, registration, and information about getting started, along with support materials designed to help you and your students make decisions about course selections.

ONE-SEMESTER COURSES OFFERED

  • 4 AP courses are available to high school students.
    • AP Macroeconomics
    • AP Microeconomics
    • AP Psychology
    • AP U.S. Government
  • 3 advanced courses are available to middle school students. These courses are designed for high school students and made available to advanced students in grades 6-8.
    • Creative Writing
    • Psychology
    • U.S. History to the Civil War

Course descriptions and syllabi for each course can be located by clicking “Learn More” on the course’s entry in our Course Catalog.

REGISTRATION DETAILS

To begin, visit our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) and review the Getting Started information. When you are ready to register, navigate back to the registration section of our website and click Register.

Students who are taking year-long courses do not need to re-enroll; they will be automatically enrolled in the spring semester of their course unless we receive notification from site staff that they would prefer to do otherwise.

If your school has already registered with us this year (i.e., if you currently have IOAPA students), then you will be automatically redirected to the appropriate step in the registration process (nominating the student; see below for details). 

Step-by-step course registration instructions are included below:

  1. Register your school and assign a site coordinator and mentor.The first step is for principals to register their schools. They can do that on our website by clicking on Register. As part of this step, schools assign a site coordinator and a mentor. They can be the same person or different people; however, the mentor needs to be a certified teacher at the school. For spring semester courses, when schools have already registered during the current academic year: During spring semester registration, site coordinators are able to skip step 1, since the school is already registered for this academic year. You should still start by clicking Register on our website. You will then be redirected to step 2 (student nomination). 
  2. Nominate the student(s) taking the IOAPA course(s). Completing the school registration page sends the principal an automated email with a link to nominate the student. The principal either needs to complete the nomination or forward the link to the site coordinator or mentor to complete.
  3. Confirm that the student has self-enrolled in the course. Once the student has been nominated, an email will be automatically sent to the student to enroll themselves in the actual course. Be sure to have students check their junk mail folders, as automated emails sometimes get filtered there. Students should complete this process and be sure to click submit when they’re done.

After registering, be sure to complete any College Board requirements for offering AP courses:

  • Register your school with the College Board.
  • Complete the AP Course Audit process for Online/Distance Learning courses by the end of January in order to be able to label courses as “AP” on students’ transcripts.
  • Encourage high school students to take the AP exam and order all AP exams by the College Board’s deadline. Also, as mentioned above, be on the lookout for emails about applying for our IOAPA AP exam scholarships.

Be on the lookout for information about Fall enrollment for the 2023-2024 academic year during the spring semester. More information about our program, academic year courses, and important dates can be found here.

As always, please feel free to reach out to us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions or concerns.

Message from the Director: What does DEI Mean for Talent Development and Education?

by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director

The focus of the fall Belin-Blank Center newsletter is on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). What does a DEI focus mean for talent development and education? For decades, Professor Marcia Gentry asked that question and provided scholars and educators with viable answers. There was a collective sadness among all who knew her a few months ago, on August 31st, when she passed away.

Professor Gentry was a faculty member in the Department of Educational Studies and Director of the Gifted Education Research and Resource Center, both at Purdue University. Her work focused on talent identification and development among youth from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and Black, Latinx, and Native American communities. She highlighted the underrepresentation crisis in gifted and talented programs across the nation. Her research described inclusive and expanded programming for historically underserved populations, and she translated this research into best practice for educators throughout the country. Her impact is truly difficult to put into words and will last far into the future.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are committed to uplifting Professor Gentry’s work. As we revisit our mission, vision, values, and strategic plan, DEI and anti-racism are at the forefront. We already have in existence many initiatives and programs related to this value. For example, our extensive work with twice-exceptional youth through our research, clinical, and university programs; the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy that provides AP opportunities for rural youth; two federal grants serving talented underrepresented students in STEM and rural settings; professional development focused on DEI; and our extensive financial aid for families to attend student programs or visit our clinic psychologists.

But we can do more. I hope to increase school and community outreach regarding best practice in identification; assist more families in their homes and communities with twice-exceptional youth; spearhead DEI-focused funding initiatives; and consider community-based participatory research approaches to programming and research. We must face the biased and discriminatory history of the field and commit to a better future. 

Toward the end of her life, I was fortunate to have a brief text conversation with Professor Gentry through her daughter. I told Professor Gentry the impact she has had on me professionally and, more importantly, thousands of talented youth whom would have otherwise been excluded from gifted and talented programming. Her response impacted me greatly – mostly that she said Susan Assouline and I were “women committed to the cause.”

Professor Gentry, I thank you, I’ll never forget you, and I vow to be committed tirelessly to the cause.     

Advanced Coursework Opportunities Free for Iowa’s Rural Schools 

The College Board’s Advanced Placement® (AP) program allows high school students to complete college-level coursework. Additionally, success on the associated AP exams can translate into college credit. In fact, AP credit is accepted or recognized by the three public universities in Iowa, as well as many colleges and universities throughout the country. This gives students the opportunity to earn college credit at a greatly reduced cost while still in high school. However, despite these benefits, rural schools still fall behind urban and suburban schools in their AP course offerings. 

Providing the appropriate level of challenge to gifted and talented students is not always easy for rural schools. Offering AP courses requires additional resources such as teachers and training, and sometimes it is simply not possible to offer an AP course for only one or two students. The Iowa Online AP® Academy (IOAPA) provides free access to nearly 30 online advanced courses for Iowa students who would not otherwise have access to these courses in their schools. IOAPA classes include Advanced Placement® courses for high school students as well as high school-level courses for eligible middle school students. Unlike courses offered by community colleges, IOAPA’s AP courses are designed for bright high schoolers. They introduce college-level material in a way that is approachable for a high school student. IOAPA also offers AP exam scholarships to IOAPA high school students, with preference given to students from rural schools, so cost is no longer a barrier to taking an AP exam.  

The IOAPA team also publishes the Iowa AP Index, another way to provide recognition to Iowa schools. The Iowa AP Index recognizes the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement opportunities to Iowa’s high school students. Every public and nonpublic high school in Iowa accredited by the state Department of Education and that administered AP exams the prior year is invited to participate. The Iowa AP Index for a given high school is the ratio of AP exams taken by its students (any grade) divided by the number of its graduating seniors. This means that smaller schools still have similar opportunities to be recognized for providing their students with advanced coursework. 

The Belin-Blank Center will begin registration for spring semester IOAPA courses on November 7th. If you have any questions about your Iowa school’s eligibility for IOAPA courses, email us at ioapa@belinblank.org.  

Recent Research on Twice-Exceptionality

The Belin-Blank Center has an extensive body of work on twice-exceptionality — from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to professional learning to leading research. Our director, Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, is a leader in that field. Here are some of the recent publications that come from her work.

Policy Considerations for Twice-Exceptional Students

Abstract: Policies for talented students with disabilities, or twice-exceptional students, exist in very few states across the country. Historically, families of twice-exceptional students have found most of their support through implementation of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Accommodation plans. Yet, there is no federal mandate for gifted education service provision; consequently, these students’ coexisting high abilities often are overlooked. We recommend states modify their gifted and talented policies to address specifically twice-exceptional best practices in identification, such as using universal screening methods tied to curriculum interventions, and intervention, such as creating Gifted Individual Education Plans in conjunction with IEPs. These methods outline not only service provision for one’s disability but also specify methods for developing talent among twice-exceptional youth. (Foley-Nicpon, M., & Teriba, A. (2022). Policy considerations for twice-exceptional students. Gifted Child Today, 45(1), 212-219. https://doi.org/10.1177/10762175221110943)

Developmental Milestones as Early Indicators of Twice-Exceptionality”

Abstract: Twice-exceptional individuals are those who have high cognitive ability in one or more areas, but also have a diagnosed disability. The needs of these individuals likely differ from those with high cognitive ability without a disability and those who solely have a disability. Intervening early can offer exceptional benefits for twice-exceptional individuals, but this has proved challenging due to the high cognitive abilities masking disabilities. This study explores if parent-reported developmental milestones can predict the number of disabilities diagnosed for an individual, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). Using a clinical sample of about 1,300 individuals, we used a Bayesian cumulative logistic model to explore if developmental milestones can predict the number of diagnoses after controlling for IQ and age. Study results showed that when an individual began to count and read informed predictions for the number of future diagnoses in the clinical sample. Implications for future study and practitioners are discussed in further detail. (LeBeau, B., Schabilion, K., Assouline, S. G., Foley-Nicpon, M., Doobay, A. F., & Mahatmya, D. (2022). Developmental milestones as early indicators of twice-exceptionality. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2022.107671)

Excellence Expected, Needs Overlooked: Implications for Working With Asian American Twice-Exceptional Students”

Abstract: Twice-exceptional students often face challenges stemming from misconception, misidentification, or misplacement in educational systems (Foley-Nicpon & Candler, 2018). Because the disability may mask the gift/talent domain or the gift/ talent domain may mask the disability, it can be challenging to recognize these students and appropriately respond to their learning needs (Baldwin et al., 2015). For Asian Americans in particular, the Asian American community has vocalized the problematic nature of ignoring the heterogeneity and diversity within the community and the impact this has on their education (Park, 2019; Wong, 2015). Without considering their racialized experiences, the learning and social and emotional needs of Asian American twice- exceptional (AA2E) students might not be captured fully. Asian American students are well represented in the U.S. gifted and talented education (GATE) system; they are 5% of school populations but 10% of GATE populations (Civil Rights Data Collection, n.d.; Ford, 2013). These data seem to support the model minority stereotype, a stereotype that can negatively affect talented and gifted Asian American students who may feel pressured to maintain high standards and internalize this high expectation (Henfield et al., 2014; Mun & Hertzog, 2019; Wong, 2015). When “what giftedness or disability should look like” meets “what Asian American should be like,” the multilayered stereotypes make it even harder to recognize, understand, and respond to the needs of AA2E students. In this article, we discuss the development and needs of AA2E students. We provide strategies to support practitioners in addressing (a) the diversity within the Asian American community, (b) family culture and dynamics regarding immigration and education, and (c) mental health needs of AA2E students. We hope to leave teachers and educational practitioners feeling better able to support the needs of diverse AA2E students in their classrooms. (Park, S., & Foley-Nicpon, M. (2022). Excellence expected, needs overlooked: Implications for working with Asian American twice-exceptional students. Teaching Exceptional Children. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00400599221097020)

To hear more about the Belin-Blank Center’s research, be sure to attend our presentations or stop by Booth 506 at the National Association for Gifted Children 69th Annual Convention in Indianapolis next month!

Interview with an Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Student

In 2021, the Belin-Blank Center created a new university-based program, the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality. This program provides individualized support to University of Iowa students who are twice-exceptional. We define twice-exceptional as learners who demonstrate the potential for high achievement or creative productivity in one or more domains AND who manifest one or more disabilities as defined by federal or state eligibility criteria. 

By collaborating with our university partners, we can offer a support structure that addresses academics, practical skills, and social-emotional needs. Once accepted into the program, a student receives services from admission through graduation. 

We recently sat down with one of our Academy for Twice-Exceptionality students so he could share his story. 


Q: What is one of your favorite things at the University of Iowa? 

A: I really like the closeness of everything. Because the town is right next to the university, it is easy to get to both classes and stores. The way that the two are organized makes it very walkable. 

Q: What is your major?  

A: I am majoring in biomedical engineering. Although I haven’t decided exactly how I want to use my degree in the future, I am interested in a career with a research focus on things to be used in the medical field. I would like to be employed in a setting that designs something to help people, like prosthetics, medical software, or imaging technology.  

Q: What are your areas of talent?  

A: My talent areas are definitely mathematics and music. Math has always come to me pretty simply. My major requires a lot of mathematics, so I know in the future, I will be using it in my job. The engineering courses at Iowa have developed my math talent, specifically through real-life application problems and experiences. I used to sing in a chorus in school but haven’t joined any musical groups on campus. I do listen to music a lot at home.  

Q: How did you hear about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality? 

A: I am not sure how I first heard about it, but it was in a few different ways. I was identified as twice-exceptional later in life. My clinician in Des Moines told me about it. My parents also talked to me about it. I also am active with the Autism Society of Iowa. I believe I heard something about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality through that group as well.  

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest benefit of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality for you as a student? 

A: Getting to know people with the same mindset as me. Other students in the Academy seem to have the same way of thinking that I do. Sometimes when I talk to people, I don’t think they are on the same wavelength as me. In the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, people have similar thought processes as me. 

Q: What do you do to take care of yourself, especially your mental health, during the school year? 

A: I know that I get nervous. Now, I know how to calm myself down. I lie down and listen to music. I have been doing this for a long time. During the school year, I have to be careful not to lie down and listen to music for too long.  

Q: What extracurriculars are you involved in on campus? 

A: I am a supplemental instructor for a course through the Academic Retention Center at Iowa. I pair the lecture’s content in my sessions by assisting students who are having difficulty with the content through problems (including ones I have them create). I am also involved with Parkview Church in Iowa City. 

Q: What is something you would like other prospective students to know about the Academy of Twice-Exceptionality?  

A: Coming into it, I didn’t know what the support method would be like, so others should know it combines one-on-one meetings with a professional and community sessions with the entire group. 

Q: What is a goal you have for yourself this semester?   

A: My main goal is to do the best I can in my classes. Previously in classes, I didn’t study too well or prepare enough for projects. This might be a difficult goal, but my goal is a 4.0 for this semester.  

Q: What are three fun facts about you?  

  1. I have triplet cousins. 
  2. My parents have had a total of three sphinx cats (they still have two). 
  3. My favorite philosophical book is The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, check out our website. The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality could be the right fit for you! 

5 Things That Every Educator and School System Should Know 

The Gifted Education field is more committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion than ever. In August 2022, the National Association for Gifted Children hosted its second annual National Symposium on Equity for Black and Brown Students. The Belin-Blank Center started its Academy for Twice-Exceptionality in the Fall of 2021. Researchers and national gifted education centers are focusing on key issues and providing schools with practical ideas to implement. Here are five essential ideas and/or resources to help schools do this. 

Donna Y. Ford’s Equity Goal and Equity Formula

Dr. Ford believes that schools and program schools must be deliberate in setting specific minimal goals, especially regarding representation, to be equitable for their students. She introduced the Equity Formula that supplies a target percentage goal to better address underrepresentation in advanced programming. With this target in mind, decision and policymakers can review current placement criteria and/or processes to find barriers for students traditionally “missed” for advanced programming within a school system. This article shares more information on this important idea.  

Local Norms

For too long, gifted programs used national percentiles in deciding who was identified for a variety of advanced programming. While a national perspective has some degree of value in interpreting scores, especially at the district level, a specific program at a particular site does not need to cast such a wide perspective on scores. Schools should serve the students within them, so it makes much more sense to compare the students within a school. Dr. Scott Peters has written prolifically on the benefits of using per school local norms in helping to make gifted programs more equitable. Here is an article detailing “Everything You Need to Know” about local norms.  

Tips for Improving Identification of Gifted EL Students

The face of America’s students is changing. In the Fall of 2020, Hispanic students made up 28% of public school students. Because gifts and talents are found among all populations, schools must do a better job of discovering students for advanced programs within this population. The National Center for Research on Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut conducts excellent research that often results in practical resources for schools. Their tips address screening, identification, communication, and professional development. These tips are also available as a downloadable pdf.  

Jacob’s Ladder Program

There is great power in scaffolding as an intervention. Students with high potential might need focused support to better access critical and creative thinking tasks. Dr. Tamra Stambaugh began working with an interactive approach to scaffold reading as a graduate student at the College of William & Mary. As a result, the Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program was developed. Using a ladder image, students move from lower-order, concrete thinking skills to higher-order, critical and creative thinking skills. The critical thinking skills (consequences and implications, generalizations, and main idea/theme/concept) are based on the work of Paul’s Reasoning Model. In addition to “ladders” related to short stories, poems, fables, and non-fiction, there are ladders that focus on affective skills.  

The Paradox of Giftedness and Autism

According to the Autistic Society’s research, approximately fifty children are diagnosed with autism in the United States every day. With the increasing number of autistic students across the country, schools and families must work together to support student success. While it is essential to focus on the strengths of all students diagnosed with autism, this is a non-negotiable when working with the twice-exceptional student population. The Belin-Blank Center drafted a Packet of Information to supply recommendations for administrators and educators that would lead to a positive experience for twice-exceptional students. The experience-based information and suggestions offered in this resource have resulted from working with gifted students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.   

We encourage you to view this list as a foundation and a catalyst. The five items shared here are research-based and should be considered in any effort to better address diversity, equity, and inclusion within a program for advanced students. They have been developed from solid thinking, so they serve as an excellent foundation from which to grow. Inevitably, new ideas that will help schools will be forthcoming from leaders in the field. We urge practitioners, especially those in decision-making positions, to stay up-to-date with current research and research-based resources. It is our hope that this list serves as that spark! 

For You at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any of the helpful information for talented students, families, and educators this semester!

An icon of a calendar

FOR EDUCATORS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Information Sessions

  • On Campus: November 3, 2022
  • Online: November 8 or December 6, 2022

Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Information Session

  • Online: 6:30 pm on November 9, 2022

Computer Science Python Fundamentals

  • Start anytime!
  • Access ends June 30, 2023

Disability as Diversity in Gifted Education

Students with disabilities are often underrepresented in gifted education programs. Being “twice-exceptional,” (the coexistence of disability and high ability) seems paradoxical to many, despite growing awareness of and research on twice-exceptionality. Here are a few tips for increasing twice-exceptional (2e) students’ access to gifted services.

Increase communication between gifted, general, and special education teams. Often, students who are identified for special education services first are eliminated from consideration for gifted programming (either intentionally or accidentally). Increasing opportunities for collaboration across classroom environments can promote the identification of talents among students with disabilities.

Use universal screenings in place of nomination or referral processes. As with other underrepresented groups, unconscious biases can prevent the referral of 2e students for further evaluation. Reliance on nomination or referral procedures as an entry point for further evaluation will likely exclude students who could otherwise benefit from participation. Benchmark assessments and other curriculum-based measures can be used as screening tools without requiring additional testing.

Use domain-specific rather than global talent identification processes. Reliance on one overall measure of talent will likely inaccurately exclude 2e students, whose cognitive and academic profiles are often more variable. Consideration of available programming can help determine the domains to assess, as identification processes should always be aligned with services.

For more information on serving twice-exceptional students, visit our Assessment and Counseling Clinic‘s website.

Starting Soon: Reading for High Ability Learners

One of the needs perceived in the fall semester is appropriate programming in reading for gifted learners!  The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented reported that approximately 50% – 70% of traditional reading material could be eliminated for gifted and talented learners.

Workshop:         EDTL:4026:0WKA  Reading for High Ability Learners

Dates:                   October 24 – November 11, 2022

Instructor:           Dr. Patricia Champion

Format:                Fully asynchronous online workshop

This workshop reviews the purposes and methods of reading instruction, with a focus on developmentally-appropriate needs of high-ability readers. Topics include genres of literature, enriched and accelerated reading curricula, and the role of reading in the social and emotional development of gifted students.

Get Registered for Credit

To participate in endorsement classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the purposes of 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. In other words, 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 (belinblank.org/educators/reg).

If more than one person from your school or district enrolls, the Belin-Blank Center is pleased to provide an automatic 50% tuition scholarship to those using this workshop as a professional learning community!  Just contact educators@belinblank.org to let our professional development team know.

Taking advantage of workshops is one of the most cost-effective ways to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  Workshops are focused on one topic for three weeks; tuition is the only cost associated with a workshop (no additional fees).  Many workshops (ITAG credit, NAGC credit, Belin-Blank Chautauqua in the summer) offer automatic scholarships!

The Belin-Blank Center meets all national Standards for Gifted Education, including Standards for Faculty.

We look forward to supporting your professional learning needs!

What Does the Research Say About Academic Acceleration?

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

At the Belin-Blank Center, we are big fans of academic acceleration. Why? Because it is a research-based best practice. Acceleration is “…one of the cornerstones of exemplary gifted education practices, with more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted individuals” (from the National Association for Gifted Children position statement on acceleration).

Academically, acceleration provides a better match between a student’s abilities and the curriculum. Socially, acceleration places students with academic peers who are similar both in terms of their intellectual level and in terms of their interests.

What does the research say? Acceleration benefits students both in the short-term and in the long-term.

Short-Term Benefits

In terms of academics, accelerated students are more challenged and therefore more engaged in school. Research studies have demonstrated that academically talented students who enter school early do very well compared to their older classmates and, as a group, those who enter college early perform very well academically and socially. There may be a bit of an adjustment period, but accelerated students (those who skip a grade or move ahead in a particular subject) earn good grades, demonstrate they do not have gaps in their knowledge, and continue to perform well in school in later years.

Socially, accelerated students tend to perform as well as or slightly better than their age peers. They also perform as well as or slightly better than the older students in the new grade. They fit in, which means that our concern about acceleration somehow damaging students’ social development is unfounded. As a group, they do just fine socially.

Long-Term Benefits

Acceleration has long-term beneficial effects, both academic and social. Accelerated students tend to be more ambitious, earning graduate degrees at higher rates. They hold more prestigious jobs and have a higher productivity rate. Some students say they wish they had accelerated more. They talk about “the gift of time,” meaning that they view the time saved as an opportunity to pursue an additional graduate degree, participate in diverse projects, travel, and get a head start on their careers. Longitudinal research shows us that accelerated students even have an economic advantage: They earn higher salaries than their age peers and higher salaries than the older peers with whom they graduated.

The longitudinal research on social development and academic acceleration is positive overall. Looking back, an overwhelming majority of accelerated students say acceleration was the right decision for them. They do talk about some challenges (for example, being too young to date), but the students say they would do it again, if given the opportunity. In fact, in a 2020 study (Bernstein, Lubinski, and Benbow) that followed accelerated students for 35 years, the authors state that our concerns about a negative impact of acceleration on social/emotional development are “fruitless.”

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

Dare We Say It? Not Accelerating Students Who Are Ready is Educational Malpractice

Maybe those are strong words, but with all the research supporting the decision to accelerate students who are ready, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider this option? Have courage and do your research! There is a lot of information available to help you make informed, research-based decisions in the best interests of your students.

For More Information

A Nation Empowered:

  • Volume 1 was written for the educated layperson. It includes personal stories of acceleration as well as an overview of the research.
  • Volume 2: Contains the supporting research

Acceleration Institute:

  • Website with information useful to parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers.
  • Also see the Annotated Bibliography on the Acceleration Institute website. You’ll find sections on academic effects of acceleration, long-term effects, radical acceleration, rural students, etc.
Professional Development About Acceleration:
Upcoming Webinar

The Belin-Blank Center regularly offers webinars on the Integrated Acceleration System for teachers and administrators. 
Learn more and sign up here.

Message from the Director: New Beginnings

by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director

August is synonymous with new beginnings for many of us.

Kids are heading back to school – it is my favorite time to check social media feeds to see friends post first-day-of-school pictures. On campus, we welcomed new students from across the globe, including new arrivals to our Bucksbaum Early Entrance and Twice-Exceptional Academies. Over the weekend, thousands of students met new friends, ate ice cream on the University of Iowa’s President’s lawn, and learned the Iowa fight song.

It’s a great time to be a Hawkeye!  

New beginnings are also happening at the Belin-Blank Center – I started as Director on August 1st.

I am not new to Iowa or the Center, however. I arrived in January 2004 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic. I later became a licensed psychologist, focusing mainly on assessment and intervention with twice-exceptional youth. In 2008, I joined the UI Counseling Psychology faculty.

There, I have had the honor of training future child psychologists, researching talent development among underrepresented groups, and serving the college, University, and Iowa community.

In the Belin-Blank Center’s 34-year history, there have been only two directors before me: Nicholas Colangelo and Susan Assouline. Both are giants in the field known internationally for their development of the Center, love for and dedication to talented youth, and commitment to creating best practices for acceleration and twice-exceptional intervention. I am honored to continue their legacy and the legacy of the Center.

I know these are big shoes to fill.

However, I join a dedicated staff and faculty who care deeply about the Center and its mission. I am certain we will continue to do great things. We seek to be the leaders in talent development for elementary through university-aged students; diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in gifted education; research and discovery for high ability and twice-exceptional youth; and collaboration and outreach both within and outside the University.

Together, we will embrace this new beginning and continue the Belin-Blank Center’s impact far into the future.

High achiever? Join neuroscience research.

If you or your child have talent in a particular domain, please consider this request from our partners in the Michaelson Lab.


We are seeking research volunteers who can partner with us to better understand the strengths and concerns of exceptionally talented individuals. 

If you (or your child) meet any of the below criteria, regardless of any other diagnosis you may have, we want you to participate:

  • have participated in accelerated coursework in school
  • have skipped a grade
  • have competed for admission into talent development program for art, music, dance, or writing
  • have competed for admission into talent development program for math, science, or engineering
  • earned or recruited for an athletic scholarship at the collegiate level
  • a clinically assessed IQ > 90th percentile (120 or above) 
  • scored 29 or higher on the ACT
  • scored 1300 or higher on the SAT

We are also eager to have your family members participate in this research if they are available. Participation will involve answering surveys about your mental health and creative strengths and talents, and potentially: 1) donating saliva for genetic research 2) participating in an MRI session (brain scan). 

Participants who complete online enrollment and return a saliva kit will receive a $20 Amazon gift card. Additional compensation for follow-up studies (e.g., the MRI scan) is also available.

Please visit http://2e.devgenes.org today to learn more and to enroll!  If you have questions, please reach out to us at michaelson-lab@uiowa.edu or by phone at 319-335-8882.

This Fall at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any of the helpful information for talented students, families, and educators this semester!

An icon of a calendar

FOR EDUCATORS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Information Sessions

  • On Campus: September 12 or October 11, 2022
  • Online: November 8 or December 6, 2022

Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Information Sessions

  • On Campus: 10:00 am on October 18, 2022,
  • Online: 6:30 pm on August 31, September 28, or November 9, 2022

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Submissions Opening Soon!

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program is the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition program of its kind. It celebrates creative teens locally and nationally with awards, exhibitions, publications, and scholarships. 

The Belin-Blank Center is proud to serve as the Iowa and Midwest Region-at-Large Affiliate for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards program. We accept and judge art and writing submissions for those regions, hold an awards ceremony recognizing regional winners, and provide summer programming for talented young artists and writers.

Participating in the Awards enters your work into consideration for Gold Key, Silver Key, Honorable Mention, American Visions Nominee, and American Voices Nominee Awards. We present these awards to Iowa and Midwest students in a celebration ceremony and exhibition in the spring. 

Submissions will open on September 1st. Receive scholarships, cash awards, or tuition assistance by participating in the Awards!

My Principal Is Hesitant About Acceleration: Where Do I Start?

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

We recommend a team approach to making decisions about academic acceleration. Important members of the team include administrators, educators, and parents or guardians. Because some educators or administrators have not had training or experience with acceleration, they may be hesitant to pursue a discussion about acceleration with a family or other educators. Below are some helpful hints for talking with a reluctant principal or other administrators about acceleration.

Students’ Educational Needs Vary

Students start school at various levels of readiness, and a one-size-fits all approach fails many learners. Research findings suggest that academically talented students begin the school year already knowing more than half of the curriculum that they are expected to learn that year. Too often, our brightest students are left bored, underchallenged, and disengaged in the classroom. We need a variety of methods to differentiate their instruction–including acceleration.

Research Supports Acceleration

Over 70 years of research have revealed a proven method of differentiating instruction for students – academic acceleration. Because research has repeatedly shown the academic, social, and emotional benefits of acceleration, it is heralded as the most effective academic intervention for bright students. In fact, a 2020 longitudinal study (following a group of individuals for 35 years) demonstrated positive effects on the long-term well-being of students who had been accelerated in school, including those who skipped a grade.

A Nation Empowered, a well-known report about academic acceleration, indicates that acceleration matches the level, complexity, and pace to the curriculum, readiness, and motivation of the student. Matching readiness to opportunity is common in sports and music. We can offer the same programming option for academic learning in school.

Resources about Acceleration

Detailed information about the various forms of acceleration (at least 20 forms!) is available on the Acceleration Institute website. Visitors can see a map including information about acceleration policies throughout the United States, review guidelines for developing acceleration policies, and have their questions about acceleration answered.

How Do We Make Decisions?

Whether or not to skip a grade or move ahead in a specific subject is considered a high stakes decision. It needs to be made carefully by a team following a personalized process, including a wealth of data that includes both subjective and objective measures.

Acceleration experts at the Belin-Blank Center used these important considerations to guide the development of the online platform, the Integrated Acceleration System. It serves as an excellent tool to guide a team’s decision. The Integrated Acceleration System carefully leads the team through an efficient and effective process to help them prepare for a successful acceleration, if it is determined that it is in the bests interests of the student. As a comprehensive tool, it provides:

  • A research-based foundation,
  • A user-friendly, web-based platform,
  • A series of guides to build expertise and to support the child study team,
  • An email compatibility feature, which fosters efficient communication,
  • A comprehensive written student report with research-based recommendations,
  • A wealth of resources for educators and families,
  • Sample documents that can be used in communication, and
  • A flexible approach centered around the student.

For grade skipping decisions, a child study team collects a variety of data spanning various times and settings. The data are reviewed and discussed in their entirety, and the focus throughout the process remains on the individual child. The intent of the Integrated Acceleration System is to offer educators and families a powerful approach rooted in a well-defined process that objectively considers the student’s academic, social, and emotional needs.

Additional Information

www.nationempowered.org

Overview of Acceleration video on the Acceleration Institute website

Information about subject acceleration, an option for students who do not need whole grade acceleration

Interested in Professional Development?

The Belin-Blank Center provides webinars about the Integrated Acceleration System for teachers and administrators. Access a recording of a previous webinar or sign up for a scheduled webinar here.

With thanks to Randy Lange for providing the content for this blog.

Learn More about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality


“We tossed a small pebble and made a big splash.” 

Jacqueline Blank  

Fall 2022 marks the first official semester of the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality! Although we supported two students last year, the full program we envisioned will be in place this academic year for our inaugural cohort of twice-exceptional University of Iowa students.  

The Academy’s three-part structure of support (academics, practical skills, and social-emotional skills) will take place through whole group workshops, weekly one-on-one meetings, planned social events, and a cohort living situation for first-year students.  

We are now recruiting for our 2023-2024 cohort!

If you are interested in finding out more about the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality, please plan to attend one of our Information Sessions. The dates for the online sessions are August 31st, September 28th, and November 9th, 2022. We also have an on-campus Information Session planned for October 18th. Sign up for a session at belinblank.org/2eacademy.  

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is a prime example of building off the Belin-Blank Center’s expertise and showing a commitment to tossing a small pebble. We are confident that the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right fit for many students, and we would love to talk about it with you! 

Learn to Develop Talent in Any Domain

Talent needs to be recognized and fostered within all domains and fields, so its focus must expand beyond K-12 classrooms and business. To that end, the Belin-Blank Center, in collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Education, has developed a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development. This certificate is hinged upon a broad perspective of talent development, and it will prepare professionals in any domain to recognize and develop talented people in whatever their field may be.  

What is talent development? Talent development is a systematic process that supplies the necessary skills and training, so an individual’s talent area(s) is actualized. Discovering and developing talent fosters equity when casting and considering a broader “net” and when the process includes proper support and accommodations.  

We are excited about this professional learning opportunity because of its potential to partner with multiple departments at the University of Iowa and professionals from various fields. While we predict the Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will attract K-12 pre-service and in-service educators, we drafted it to be relevant for individuals outside of education (e.g., the arts, STEM, athletics, or leadership).  

Our one-of-a-kind Graduate Certificate in Talent Development is open for Fall 2022 registration.

This meaningful learning experience can be completed 100% online or in a hybrid fashion. It is research-based, provides elective course choices within and outside education, and culminates with an interest-based project. If you have any questions, contact Randy Lange at randolph-lange@uiowa.edu 

Come learn with us! 

To learn more or register, visit our website.

There’s room for your students in IOAPA!

Funding is still available through Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) for Iowa students in 6th-12th grade! IOAPA provides Iowa students free access to high-quality, online, advanced course offerings not currently available within their school districts. These courses are offered asynchronously so they can fit into any schedule. We also offer scholarships to cover the cost of AP exams for some low-income students participating in an IOAPA course. Additionally, our team is available to support students and mentors every step of the way.

Our current course offerings include the 13 advanced courses for middle school students and 15 for high school students listed below.

Middle School

  • Algebra I (Honors)
  • Algebra II (Honors)
  • Biology (Honors)
  • Computer Science Python Fundamentals
  • Creative Writing
  • Environmental Science
  • Geometry (Honors)
  • Physical Science
  • Precalculus (Honors)
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Psychology
  • Spanish I
  • U.S. History to the Civil War

High School

  • AP Biology
  • AP Calculus AB
  • AP Chemistry
  • AP Computer Science A
  • AP Computer Science Principles
  • AP English Language & Composition
  • AP English Literature & Composition
  • AP Environmental Science
  • AP Macroeconomics
  • AP Microeconomics
  • AP Psychology
  • AP Spanish Language & Culture
  • AP Statistics
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics
  • AP U.S. History

More information about this program is on our website. There you can find course descriptions, information about getting started, and support materials. You can also find more information about School Eligibility and Requirements here. If you are ready to register students, contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org by September 2nd.

Integrated Acceleration System: Webinar Sept. 13th

Figuring out whether to accelerate a child is a major decision; accounting for all the relevant information can feel overwhelming. The Belin-Blank Center has developed an online system that helps educators and families gather the correct information, targets the essential factors, and produces a report which recommends whether acceleration is a good fit for a particular student. 

TheIntegrated Acceleration System, an online tool developed by leading researchers in gifted education, guides participants through integrating information about acceleration.  On September 13, we will be hosting an online professional development session about using this new tool when considering a grade skip. The session will focus on:  best research-based practices in using academic acceleration, how to use the online Integrated Acceleration System, and suggestions to coordinate communication among the relevant team members and support the student’s transition to acceleration.  

 Informed by decades of research, the Integrated Acceleration System includes all the significant factors to consider and produces a report about readiness for one of the many forms of acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to kindergarten, subject acceleration, and early entrance to college. The Integrated Acceleration System is designed for users in the United States. However, the flexible framework can be applied to international educational systems.  This online session will focus on grade-skipping. Future online presentations will focus on early entrance to kindergarten, early entrance to college, and subject acceleration. 

Presenters: Dr. Susan Assouline, Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, and Dr. Randy Lange .

Session fee: $79. Includes one access code to the Integrated Acceleration System (valued at $69). 

Date/Time: Tuesday, September 13, 2022; 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Central Time (The last 30 minutes is an optional question/answer segment.)  

Location: Online, via Zoom. Registrants will receive location details via email. 

Register: Learn more and register on our website

If you cannot attend the live session, the session will be recorded.  The recording is available for purchase.

Message From the Director: The Last Word

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Welcome back! 

After a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus from onsite professional development and on-campus residential student programs, the hallways of the Blank Honors Center resound with the happy voices and excited footsteps of students and teachers. Their faces reflect the anticipation of making new friends and engaging in meaningful new learning. None of this would be possible without months of careful planning. Multiple teams of Belin-Blank Center colleagues attend to the details so participants can enjoy our comprehensive programming. I am very appreciative of my colleagues’ unflinching commitment to excellence. 

Welcome to our summer faculty and staff! Serving several hundred students and teachers takes many sets of hands, ears, eyes, feet, minds, and hearts. From residence hall advisors to student assistants to front-desk support, many of the summer program staff are undergraduate and graduate students. Their praises often go unsung, so I want to take this opportunity to thank them. 

Welcome to our many faculty colleagues who mentor and instruct students and teachers. This summer, we are pleased to have Ms. Cori Milan as the student program coordinator for our residential student programs, the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP), Perry Research Summer Institute (PRSI), and Summer Art/Writing Residencies (SAR/SWR). In addition to Ms. Milan, we will work with our colleague, Dr. Barry Schreier, a clinical professor in counseling psychology and the Director of Higher Education Programming at the Iowa Center for School Mental Health. Dr. Schreier leads our efforts to enhance the student experience through increased attention to social-emotional well-being and the professional development of the staff who support our students.  

Welcome to licensed psychologist Dr. Christopher Smith, the newest Assessment and Counseling Clinic staff member. Dr. Smith joins a dedicated team of professionals who kept the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic open throughout the pandemic. 

Welcome to Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, recently named the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and the new Belin-Blank Center Director. Dr. Foley-Nicpon brings a wealth of experience to this position and is singularly qualified to become the third director of the Belin-Blank Center. Watching Dr. Foley-Nicpon present her formal job talk was one of the more joyous moments of my 32-year career. We’ve been colleagues since 2004, and she has enhanced the reputation of the Belin-Blank Center in multiple areas, including twice-exceptionality and talent development. Dr. Foley-Nicpon will begin her tenure as director in August, making this my final post as director. 

Welcoming new colleagues and delighting in the wonder of a Belin-Blank summer makes my last “Message from the Director” bittersweet. Nostalgia fills my thoughts as I reflect on the many moments that form decades of personal, professional, and organizational growth and development. We have done so much together during this time, and I know this team of professionals will have many more triumphs to come. 

I have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and a dedicated advisory board. I have a loving family who has graced me with their phenomenal support throughout my entire career.  

I am now approaching my final weeks as the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and Director of the Belin-Blank Center. Only one word adequately captures the sentiment that fills my heart: Gratitude. 

Belin-Blank Center Finalists Win Big at Nationals!

Finalists from two of our programs, Invent Iowa and the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), recently competed at the national level in their respective programs.

2022 Invent Iowa Finalists at the National Invention Convention

Invent Iowa finalists advanced to the National Invention Convention, hosted by the Henry Ford Museum.

Charles Smith (Ottumwa) won 2nd place in the 3rd-grade division, as well as Best Video Presentation, for his E.F.A.F. (Emergency Floor plan App for First responders). Jason Ahn (Ames) won a Patent Application Award and Best Logbook for his ARE Board (Auto Rolling & Erasing Whiteboard). Those who are interested can view the complete list of winners or watch the award ceremony replay.

Finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS earned an expense-paid trip to compete at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the oral presentations, Amara Orth (Lewis Central High) won 2nd place in the Life Sciences category, for an $8,000 scholarship! In the poster competition, Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) won 3rd place in the Biomedical Science category and a $350 scholarship. A full list of winners is posted here.

Congratulations to all!

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

AP Summer Institute – Online!

Advanced Placement (AP) coursework is one of the most recognized forms of acceleration. There are many benefits to taking an AP course, including providing the appropriate level of challenge for talented students.

Advanced Placement classes help develop college-level academic skills. The classes are made up of students and educators with a strong commitment to excellence in learning and problem-solving. These are all qualities necessary in college. Many students who enter college are shocked at the amount of work and study time involved. Taking AP classes in high school will better prepare them for challenging college classes.

The Belin-Blank Center is proud to be an approved site to provide AP summer training for teachers. To accommodate as many teachers as possible, we are offering an online session (August 1-5, 2022). The seven AP trainings offered online are Computer Science & Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

We would love to work with you this summer! Learn more and sign up here.

NEW! Graduate Certificate in Talent Development

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce our new graduate certificate in talent development! It addresses talent development from a broad perspective and considers multiple fields. This certificate will be open to current, degree-seeking students at the University of Iowa and non-degree students (e.g., full/part-time personnel in teaching and/or a wide range of professions). The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a synthesis of theory and multiple perspectives across various areas of study and provide opportunities for registrants across fields to engage and interact with the common goal of how to best match individuals with appropriately enriching experiences (within and outside of school). 

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

The purpose of the Graduate Certificate in Talent Development is to increase understanding of talented individuals, the process of talent development and the creative process, and to prepare advocates for talented individuals. The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a research-based foundation for cultivating talent and encouraging best practices, especially in K-12 schools.  The emphasis on talent development is moving away from simplistic “pull-out” programming within schools and exploring more sophisticated conceptions of the development of expertise in specific fields and domains. The proposed certificate intends to train professionals across fields to develop talent among artists, athletes, business leaders, musicians, and STEM, to name a few. 

The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will be available in Fall 2022. It consists of 14 semester hours and can be earned completely online. Its three-fold learning approach is composed of: 

1) required coursework (6 semester hours),  

2) interest-based elective coursework (6 semester hours – can reside in any UI department), and  

3) a culminating independent Capstone Exploration Project (steered completely by student interest).  

If you have any questions, please contact Randy Lange (randolph-lange@uiowa.edu).

We would love to learn with you!

Does Your Child Need More Academic Challenge at School This Fall?

Our Assessment and Counseling Clinic can help you learn more about your child and their academic needs.

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Our clinic offers individual educational assessments to help you better understand your child’s cognitive and academic strengths. These evaluations can assist with academic planning by helping determine whether your child is ready for advanced learning opportunities such as acceleration and enrichment programming. You can use the results to better advocate for your student’s advanced learning needs at school. When shared with your child’s educators, the results may inform team decisions about identification for enrichment and/or accelerated programming.

These assessments involve tests of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant to academic planning decisions.

If you’re interested in learning more about educational assessments and other clinic services, visit our website. To request information about pursuing an educational assessment for your child, click here.

Professional Learning Makes All the Difference

by Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development

Gifted and talented students have unique social-emotional needs AND unique academic needs.  Professional learning allows educators to understand and address those unique needs, and that facilitates student success in school and in life in a wide variety of ways.  Peterson (2009) suggested that giftedness can actually be a risk factor for poor personal and educational outcomes.  Comprehensive preparation to interact with and support the various challenges faced by gifted learners facilitates appropriate affective and academic development.

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Belin-Blank Chautauqua 2022

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua provides six classes for professionals, who can take any or all.  Allowing educators to spend time with others who share their focus on the nature and needs of gifted students—either in person on campus or via Zoom—each class meets from 9:00 – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm for the first two days of each class.  Participants finish up any readings and final projects over the next couple of weeks, working online and independently. 

All classes fulfill one of the strands required for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement and count toward the total number of 12 required credits.  Enrolling in Chautauqua allows an educator to complete half of the endorsement this summer, and the different Chautauqua schedule from summer to summer allows a participant to complete the endorsement program the next year.

Those who enroll in all three graduate credits the first week receive a full tuition scholarship for one class; those who enroll in all six credits receive a full tuition scholarship for two classes, one each week.  In other words, the Belin-Blank Center covers the cost of two of the six classes; the Center understands the value of professional development!

Chautauqua Courses in 2022

Chautauqua courses include the following in Week I:

Thinking Skills (EDTL:4072:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Laurie Croft;

Topics: Executive Functioning for Learning and Life (new in 2022; EDTL:4096:0WKB), Jul 13 – Aug 2, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn; and

Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted (RCE:4125:0WKA, Jul 15 – Aug 4, taught by Dr. Debra Mishak.

Chautauqua continues in Week II:

Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA), Jul 18 – Aug 5, taught by Dr. Haley Wikoff;

Topics: Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking (EDTL:4096:0WKC), Jul 20 – Aug 5, taught by Gwen Livingstone Pakora, MA; and

Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA), Jul 22 – Aug 5, taught by Lori Danker, MA and MSE.

Learn more about Chautauqua at belinblank.org/chautauqua.

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Teacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses (EDTL:5080:0WKA), available to those participating in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute.  The Belin-Blank Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship, allowing participants to earn two hours for the cost of one graduate credit.  The APSI takes place on campus from Jun 28 – Jul 1.  Contact educators@belinblank.org about information to override the restriction on enrollment. 

APSI participants benefit from earning another credit hour for Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.  APSI participants receive a 50% tuition scholarship for this class, as well.

Fully Online and Asynchronous Courses

In addition to Chautauqua courses this summer, the Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, is offering additional online courses that are fully asynchronous.  Professional learning opportunities began at the end of May, but they continue in July, including:

Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (EDTL:4029:0WKA), taught by Dr. Beth Maloney;

Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.

The practicum experience, required for the endorsement is available every semester, including summer.

For more information about all the summer professional learning opportunities available, visit belinblank.org/courses.

Visit belinblank.org/educators/reg for all the information you need to get registered as a non-degree seeking Distance and Online student.

Welcoming a New Licensed Psychologist to the Assessment and Counseling Clinic!

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Christopher Smith to the Belin-Blank Center! Dr. Smith is joining the Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a licensed psychologist.

Dr. Smith earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and his MA and PhD from Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA. He completed his internship at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Maine, and his post-doctoral fellowship working with children and adolescents at an eating disorder clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds psychology licenses in Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts. Most recently, he worked as a licensed psychologist at ChildServe in Iowa City.

We are looking forward to having Dr. Smith on the team at the ACC! He will be involved in providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting research and other clinic initiatives.

Be sure to check out all of the clinical services we provide in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic. If you are interested in requesting more information about scheduling clinic services, you can do so here!

Acceleration: An Equitable Approach

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Access and opportunity are pillars of an equitable school experience. We know that acceleration is a research-supported method of challenging academically talented students, so we need to provide talented students access to accelerative opportunities. Research confirms that talented students who are allowed to move ahead tend to perform better academically both in the short- and the long-term. How do we make access to acceleration equitable, so that all students who are ready can take advantage of the opportunities that acceleration can provide?

The answer is policy. Acceleration policies can make educational opportunities more equitable for talented students. So, let’s examine our current acceleration policies and practices and see what might be getting in the way of student opportunity.

Some examples of inequitable practices and procedures include:

  • a teacher-initiated review process,
  • unclear information or information that is not adequately publicized on accelerative options,
  • school-sponsored testing scheduled for weekends when students would need transportation,
  • requiring families to pay for individual testing that might be needed for acceleration decisions,
  • information available only in English,
  • rigid criteria for identification that does not allow for alternate assessment data,
  • and single-entry date admission.

School systems need individuals within them to serve advocates for acceleration. Are you an advocate for acceleration in your school?

Resources for Acceleration Policy

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

National Association for Gifted Children Position Statement about Acceleration

With thanks to Randy Lange for providing this content.

Take an Online Course About Acceleration this Summer!

We teach a graduate-level course about academic acceleration – entirely online!

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PSQF:4123:0EXW (3 semester hours). Academic Acceleration

Dates: June 6 – July 29, 2022

Academic acceleration moves high-ability students through an educational program at a rate faster or at an age younger than typical. The goal of acceleration is to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum with student’s level of cognitive and academic development.

Academic acceleration has been one of the most debated and misunderstood issues in gifted education. It has decades of research support, yet educators and families are still reluctant to use it for students of high academic ability.

In the course, we will review the research basis for when and for whom academic acceleration is appropriate. The goal of this course is to provide parents, teachers, and administrators with the knowledge of the forms of acceleration, the ability to evaluate students for acceleration, and the skills to practice and implement acceleration effectively.

Course topics include the forms of acceleration, the process of implementing acceleration, suggestions for writing and evaluating school acceleration policies, and advice for effecting attitude change through persuasive communication and media outreach.  We will introduce the new online tool for making decisions about academic acceleration, the Integrated Acceleration System. Students will learn how this new tool is to be used for acceleration decisions and how to support students, families, and educators through the process of collecting data, having a team discussion, and making a transition to an accelerated placement.

Instructor: Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik, Administrator, Acceleration Institute and Research, University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center.

Registration: To take part in classes, participants must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Those earning the Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education may register as either graduate or undergraduate students, regardless of professional status (undergraduates pay less tuition per course but may lose district benefits). Once participants have their “HawkID” and password, they can follow the directions to register for courses that match their interests and needs. Follow the steps at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Questions? Email acceleration@belinblank.org

Big news!

Dr. Foley Nicpon

Congratulations to Megan Foley Nicpon on being named the new director of the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development and the new Myron and Jaqueline Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education!

Read more on the College of Education’s website.

Full funding available! Remember to schedule I-Excel testing for incoming sixth graders!

UPDATE: I-Excel testing is now available this spring at no cost for incoming 6th graders.

As we begin to look towards Fall 2022, please note that we have changed our middle school testing requirements for IOAPA middle school students. This testing should be scheduled as soon as possible to meet the June 15th deadline for prospective students without previously I-Excel scores.

Middle School Requirements

The Belin-Blank Center has instituted a requirement for current 5th and 6th graders (who will be in 6th or 7th grade in the fall) to take the above-level test I-Excel. The reasoning behind this new requirement is:

  1. On average, IOAPA students taking middle school courses struggled more than IOAPA students taking high school courses. Therefore, we want to help educators identify students who are ready for these rigorous courses.
  2. Research shows that above-level testing provides an excellent method of discovering students who are ready for advanced coursework such as IOAPA courses for middle school students (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2012).
  3. Research shows that even the short-term intervention of taking an above-level test such as I-Excel provides a boost to students’ academic achievement (Rogers, 2015). These opportunities may be especially important for low-income and disadvantaged students.
  4. The Belin-Blank Center has developed I-Excel to provide an above-level test that is affordable and accessible. Typically, the cost of I-Excel testing is $45 per student. However, the Belin-Blank Center has obtained funding for this purpose! So, we are pleased to announce that schools that are considering identifying students for IOAPA courses may offer this testing at no cost to the student or school

To schedule an I-Excel assessment or learn more about the testing process, please email assessment@belinblank.org. In your email, indicate that you are interested in testing prospective IOAPA students. If you have other questions about IOAPA courses, email ioapa@belinblank.org.

Message from the Director: Opening Doors for Talent Development

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“You’re a girl; you don’t need to take calculus.”

I’ve never forgotten those words stated by my high school counselor when I inquired about registering for calculus my senior year. That was then. I didn’t even question the statement. Not taking calculus in high school probably closed some doors for me, but other doors — education and psychology – opened.

Many decades have passed since then. Legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex or “…any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual[i]” has opened doors to more opportunities for more people. We are all better off because of those legalities. Nevertheless, much work remains concerning nondiscrimination, societal racism, and social justice. Furthermore, we have not fully addressed the most significant issue facing students, families, and educators: inequality in educational programming, especially in access to gifted education. The gifted programming inequalities in schools nationwide are society’s way of saying, “You’re a _________; you don’t need access to gifted programming.”  Educators, researchers, and psychologists can do better.

This spring, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) dedicated an entire issue of their flagship journal, Gifted Child Quarterly, to equity in gifted education. I applaud my colleagues who contributed to that special issue, which catalyzed the entire field to reflect and act. We can all make a difference in addressing this pernicious problem in education, which reflects a broader problem related to discrimination and lack of respect for diversity. At the Belin-Blank Center, we continuously aspire to offer services and programming focused on talent development through our student programs and professional development opportunities. We seek to recognize the strengths and potential of a diverse student population more fully.

As a high school junior, I didn’t know then the impact of being excluded from an educational opportunity based on one educator’s bias about girls and advanced math. Now I recognize that that experience was the entry point to a career as an educator, administrator, and researcher dedicated to ensuring that we extend opportunities to all who would benefit from them.

Bias, whether implicit or explicit, leads to exclusion and discrimination that has long-term consequences. It denies marginalized communities and people opportunities that would positively contribute to their lives and to society. Each of us has the power to chip away at discrimination through our words and our actions.

There has been improvement for some, but there is much more to do. I have hope because of a new generation of educators. This generation has greater awareness of the vastness of human potential, which we should not limit based on “classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.” As we look to the future, professional educators must ensure that inclusion and equity become focal points of practice and policy. We aim to lead the way.


[i] The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705, oie-ui@uiowa.edu.

Sign Up for Summer!

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • The Integrated Acceleration System: Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: February 26, 2022
    • Topics in Teaching and Learning (Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner): February 16, 2022
    • Prog/Curr for High Ability Students: March 7, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022, or April 18, 2022
    • Continuing Education Individual Study (Connecting to Align Gifted Programming and Services): April 25, 2022
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: May 16, 2022, June 13, 2022, or August 22, 2022
    • Academic Acceleration: June 6, 2022
    • Senior Honors Project: June 13, 2022
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 17, 2022
    • Practicum: October 24, 2022, or November 14, 2022
  • Summer Programming for Educators:

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

Online Professional Learning in Summer 2022

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John Cotton Dana, an American library and museum director, brilliantly asserted that “who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”  That is certainly true of teachers who support the needs of gifted and talented learners.

Teachers from across the country who are new to the field of gifted education and talent development look for coursework to help them earn the Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  Teachers who already work in gifted programs continue to develop their understanding of gifted children and how to best develop their talents.

Chautauqua

The Belin-Blank Center sponsors Chautauqua in the summer, and many teachers take advantage of one or more of the six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each of these classes meets, either in person on the University of Iowa campus or via Zoom, for the first two days of the class; look for more information at belinblank.org/Chautauqua.

Online Programming

Others might prefer the flexible format of fully online and asynchronous opportunities throughout the summer.  All classes are one semester hour unless otherwise indicated.

May 17 – Jun 6EDTL:4096:0WKA (Topics)Assessing Achievement for Talent Development (Programming strand)Anna Payne
Jun 6 – 24EDTL:4024:0WKADifferentiating Projects with Technology (Programming strand; updated content)Dr. Antonia Szymanski
Jun 6 – Jul 29PSQF:4123:0EXW (3 semester hours [s.h.])Academic Acceleration (1 s.h. each in the Psychology, Programming, and 1 Administrative strands)Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
Jun 13 – Aug 4EDTL/RCE:4137:0EXW (3 semester hours)Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Kimberley Chandler
Jun 20 – Jul 11EDTL:4085:0WKACurrent Readings & Research in Gifted Education (strand based on readings)Anna Payne
Jun 27 – Jul 18PSQF:4126:0WKACognitive/Affective Needs of Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Katie Schabilion
Jul 1 – 22EDTL:5080:0WKATeacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses** (Programming strand)Dr. Randy Lange
Jul 6 – June 24EDTL:4029:0WKALeadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (Programming strand)Dr. Beth Maloney
Jul 11 – 29EDTL:4074:0WKADifferentiation at the Secondary Level (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn

**option for participants in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute (belinblank.org/apsi)

Registration

To take part in classes, participants must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Those earning the Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education may register as either graduate or undergraduate students, regardless of professional status (undergraduates pay less tuition per course but may lose district benefits). Once participants have their “HawkID” and password, they can follow the directions to register for courses that match their interests and needs. Follow the steps at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua—Back with an In-Person Option!

Journalist Charles Bowden once said, “Summertime is always the best of what might be.”  That might be the most accurate way to look at the Belin-Blank Chautauqua, an opportunity to enjoy professional learning with colleagues who enjoy time with others who share their interests.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, bringing Americans together to learn and enjoy time spent with one another.  After two years of hosting Chautauqua only online during the pandemic, the Belin-Blank Center is looking forward to hosting participants who want to participate in person, as well as those who choose to continue to participate via Zoom.

Professional Learning

Our Chautauqua is a unique form of professional learning, offering six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each class meets for two days and continues online with readings, an online discussion or two, and a final project.  All classes end on or before August 5 this summer, the final day of the last university summer session.  Those who are interested in expanding their professional expertise in gifted education may enroll in the combination of classes that makes sense for them, from one to all six classes.

Scholarships

Participants who enroll as graduate students in three classes in one week receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class (you pay for two, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for one).  Participants who enroll as graduate students in all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week (you pay for four, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for two classes).

Coursework

The six classes represent the strands required for the endorsement in the State of Iowa: 

  • the Psychology strand (understanding the nature and needs of gifted/talented learners);
  • the Programming strand (appropriately differentiated programming/coursework for talent development);
  • the Administrative strand (administrative issues in the field that school personnel might now know).

Classes in Chautauqua are different from one summer to the next, so educators can earn the State of Iowa endorsement in two summers!  For those who want to earn the endorsement even more quickly, Chautauqua classes can be combined with online summer classes to complete the endorsement in one summer.  Classes are offered throughout the year to meet the needs of anyone seeking endorsement or seeking professional development in new areas.

Chautauqua in Summer 2022 includes all one-semester-hour courses:                  

Week 1: Jul 11 – 29 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4072:0WKAThinking Skills (Programming strand)Dr. Laurie Croft
Jul 13 – Aug 2 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKB (Topics)Executive Functioning: Skills for Learning and Life* (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn
Jul 15 – Aug 4 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4125:0WKACounseling/Psychological Needs of the Gifted (Psychology strand)Dr. Jean Peterson
Week 2: Jul 18 – Aug 5 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4123:0WKAGender Issues and Giftedness (Psychology strand)Dr. Jolene Teske
Jul 20 – Aug 5 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKC (Topics)Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking* (Programming strand)Gwen Livingstone Pokora
Jul 22 – Aug 5 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EPLS:4113:0WKAStaff Development for Gifted Programs (Administrative strand)Dr. Jolene Teske

*NEW!

Registration

To take part in classes, you must register one time each year 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 (scholarships are awarded to those who register as graduate students). Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for courses that interest or benefit you. Follow the steps laid out at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Applications Open for the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

What are people saying about the Belin-Blank Center’s new Academy for Twice-Exceptionality?

“The individual weekly meeting helped me get through college with ideas and suggestions for what I can do better or improve on for exams, projects, and life in college overall.”

-Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Student

In Spring 2021, the staff at the Belin-Blank Center began working on a pilot for an Academy for Twice-Exceptionality. Our expertise in twice-exceptionality and experience with university programs (specifically the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy), made us the perfect fit for starting such a program. We are now accepting applications for the 2022-2023 cohort!

Academy students must be high school graduates and ideally entering Iowa as first-year or transfer students. (We will consider students who fit other academic standings.) Currently, students who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or identify as Autistic are the target population. In the future, we hope to be able to expand into other areas of twice-exceptionality. Students must also be registered with the University of Iowa Student Disability Services (SDS).

The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality offers a variety of services for its students:

  • a weekly seminar for the entire cohort
  • weekly one-on-one meetings to work on individual needs and goals
  • assistance with connecting to university-based supports and resources
  • helping students better understand their struggles and then leverage their unique strengths
  • consistent communication with parents/guardians.

Start the journey to see if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right fit for you or your student by visiting our website. We are confident we will be!

IOAPA Fall enrollment is now open!

Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) registration for Fall 2022 classes is now open! IOAPA provides free access to asynchronous advanced courses for Iowa students in 6th grade and above. A primary aim of this program is to provide access to students who would otherwise be unable to find these courses offered in their school district. To aid in this goal, the Belin-Blank Center also provides AP exam scholarships to eligible IOAPA students each semester in an effort to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa.

On our website, you can find a wealth of information, including our course catalog, important dates, registration, and information about getting started, along with support materials designed to help you and your students make decisions about course selections.

COURSES OFFERED

  • 15 AP courses are available to high school students. Note: Beginning Fall 2022, the drop deadline and fee will also apply to AP computer science courses.
  • 13 advanced courses are available to middle school students. These courses are designed for high school students and made available to students in grades 6-8. Note: Beginning in Fall 2022, we will require above-level testing for middle school students. More information about this can be found here. When in doubt, you can also review our guidelines.

Course descriptions and syllabi for each course can be located by clicking “Learn More” on the course’s entry in our Course Catalog.

REGISTRATION DETAILS

To begin, visit our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) and review the Getting Started information. When you are ready to register, navigate back to the registration section of our website and click Register.

Step-by-step course registration instructions are included below:

  1. Register your school and assign a site coordinator and mentor. The first step is for principals to register their schools. They can do that on our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) by clicking on Register. As part of this step, schools assign a site coordinator and a mentor. They can be the same person or different people; however, the mentor needs to be a certified teacher.
  2. Nominate the student(s) taking the IOAPA course(s). Completing the school registration page sends the principal an automated email with a link to nominate the student. The principal either needs to complete the nomination or forward the link to the site coordinator or mentor to complete.
  3. Confirm that the student has self-enrolled in the course. Once the student has been nominated, an email will be automatically sent to the student to enroll themselves in the actual course. Be sure to have students check their junk mail folders, as the automated emails sometimes get filtered there. Students should complete this process and be sure to click submit when they’re done.

After registering, be sure to complete any College Board requirements for offering AP courses:

  • Register your school with the College Board.
  • Complete the AP Course Audit process for Online/Distance Learning courses by the end of January in order to be able to label courses as “AP” on students’ transcripts.
  • Encourage high school students to take the AP exam and order all AP exams by the College Board’s deadline. Also, as mentioned above, be on the lookout for emails about applying for our IOAPA AP exam scholarships.

As always, please feel free to reach out to us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions or concerns.

Learn More About Your Child’s Academic Capabilities

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Are you interested in learning more about your child’s aptitude in math, science, English, and reading? If your school doesn’t already provide this opportunity, you can register your 4th-6th grader for individual testing using I-Excel, an online above-level test provided by the Belin-Blank Center. You can arrange for your child to test individually, at a time and place of your choosing.

  1. Parents schedule an individual testing session at a location they select, often at a school, testing center, or local library.
  2. Parents are responsible for finding a licensed educator who is willing to proctor the test. Acceptable proctors include full-time teachers, tutors, and college professors. The proctor must be a college graduate and cannot be a relative.
  3. To initiate these arrangements, parents must submit a request form to their designated proctor.
  4. Test dates are arranged with the Belin-Blank Center, and a few blackout dates apply. We recommend planning at least 3 weeks or more before you’d like to test.
  5. The fee for individual testing is $90 ($45 for students who are eligible for free/reduced cost lunch). Fees are payable to the Belin-Blank Center and can be paid via credit card.
  6. Several families can combine efforts in order to save money. If 4 or more students test at the same time, the fee is $45 per student ($22 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch).
  7. Testing takes about 2 ½ hours but may be split over two days.

Do you have additional questions? See our website or contact us at assessment@belinblank.org.

The ABCs of Acceleration

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Our thanks to Randy Lange for writing this post.

Spring is often a time when teachers or parents/guardians bring up issues about appropriate student placements. The Belin-Blank Center has developed a new tool, the Integrated Acceleration System, to assist schools and families with whole-grade acceleration discussions.  Below are the “ABCs” of this tool. 

All about the Integrated Acceleration System  

The Integrated Acceleration System consists of 10 modules, which foster a comprehensive review of a student by a team of people who know that student best. The breadth of the areas covered through the Integrated Acceleration System results in a thorough examination and discussion of the “whole child” as it relates to the appropriateness of a grade skip. Through this process, team members review data concerning the academic, social, and emotional aspects of a student.  

The Integrated Acceleration System gathers relevant data commonly observed in school, taps extracurricular involvement, and includes input from families. Because the student is an essential voice in the process, several questions for a face-to-face conversation are included. Standardized tests measuring achievement, ability, and aptitude assess a student’s current academic performance and readiness for additional challenges, and additional questions help form an accurate academic performance profile.  

The wealth of data contributes to an informed team discussion. Because questions about social and emotional development are often raised during discussions of a possible grade skip, the meeting provides the platform to address them. During the meeting, team members can review all data. The Integrated Acceleration System generates a report that includes a recommendation for the student. If the recommendation is for the student to skip a grade, team members are encouraged to develop a plan for transition to acceleration.  

Bells & Whistles” of the Integrated Acceleration System 

  • Fosters team-based decision making  
  • Research-based 
  • Utilizes objective and subjective data  
  • Online 
  • Involves the parent/guardian and the student  
  • Generates an individualized written report  
  • Addresses twice-exceptionality  
  • Provides direct email access capability to expertise at the Belin-Blank Center  
  • Is fluid and dynamic (so updates occur in real time) 
  • Permits direct emailing of the team members 
  • Includes a comprehensive guide for educators to use during the transition period  
  • Addresses early entrance to kindergarten and first grade (COMING SOON) 

Collection of supplemental resources included with the Integrated Acceleration System  

The Belin-Blank Center staff members who created the Integrated Acceleration System understand the need for practical suggestions and resources for educators. With the Integrated Acceleration System, users have access to multiple supplementary resources. These are all made available with an access code. 

  • The Integrated Acceleration System at a Glance  
  • Cautionary considerations for Grade-Skipping  
  • Developing a Transition to Acceleration period plan 
  • FAQs 
  • Important Student Considerations 
  • Key Role of Standardized Testing 
  • Overview for the Facilitator 
  • Preparing for the Meeting and Producing the Report 
  • Special Populations 
  • Summaries of Research Findings related to the benefits of acceleration for various stakeholders 

Users are strongly encouraged to model trust in the Integrated Acceleration System and the process it details. It supports a rigorous process, informed by decades of research and clinical experience. It is a team-based approach that focuses on gathering a wide variety of information and building consensus among the members of the child study team.  

The cost of one access code to the Integrated Acceleration System is $59. Bulk pricing is available. The Belin-Blank Center recently hosted an online professional development on the Integrated Acceleration System. Recordings of this event can be purchased for $79. Included in the cost of the recording is one free access code for the Integrated Acceleration System.

Guide for IOAPA High School Courses

We are excited to share the IOAPA High School Course infographic! This infographic uses data from 2020-2021 IOAPA students and may be helpful for upcoming fall enrollment decisions. This infographic, our middle school infographic, and other useful information can be found here on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about policies and individual course options.

Guide for IOAPA Middle School Courses

We are excited to share the IOAPA Middle School Course infographic! This infographic uses data from 2020-2021 IOAPA students and may be helpful for upcoming fall enrollment decisions. This infographic, our high school infographic, and other useful information can be found here on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.

IOAPA AP® exam scholarship winners

This year, the Belin-Blank Center was pleased to continue receiving funding to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for IOAPA students with financial needs. IOAPA mentors were able to submit applications to receive this funding. 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 typically offer these scholarships once in the fall and again in the spring to extend this opportunity to students in both full-year and one-semester courses.

This year we have been able to award over 50 scholarships! We are pleased to congratulate the following school staff who applied for these scholarships for their students!

  • Jadyn Schutjer, Emmetsburg High School
  • Joan Enockson, Estherville Lincoln-Central High school
  • Molly Sterner, Oskaloosa High School
  • Laurie Eyre, Maharishi School
  • Paulina Rodenburg, Glenwood Community High School
  • Jill Janes, Boone High School
  • Patti Kuennen, Oelwein High School
  • Taryn Mottet, Ottumwa High School
  • Hollie Weber, Central Lee High School

Congratulations to all the IOAPA students who received AP® exam scholarships this year! We wish them the best of luck on their AP® exams and other academic endeavors. As funds permit, we will continue to offer these AP exam scholarships. Be on the lookout next year for more information about the application process.

Using Above-Level Testing for IOAPA Decisions: Focus on Current 5th and 6th Graders 

Starting in the 2022-2023 school year, IOAPA will require 6th or 7th grade students to have taken I-Excel in order to be eligible for IOAPA middle school courses. Additionally, we highly recommend using the ACT to inform eligibility for older students to take IOAPA courses. Two programs that are part of the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS), work together to help Iowa teachers discover talented students and develop their abilities. For more on how BESTS and IOAPA work together, check out our IOAPA-BESTS blog roundup.  

Why Test? 

The Belin-Blank Center has instituted a requirement for above-level testing with I-Excel for current 5th and 6th graders (who will be in 6th or 7th grade in the fall) for a number of reasons. 

  1. On average, IOAPA students taking middle school courses seemed to struggle more than IOAPA students taking high school courses. We want to help educators find the students who are ready for these rigorous courses.  
  1. Research shows that above-level testing provides an excellent method of discovering students who are ready for advanced coursework such as IOAPA courses for middle school students (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2012). 
  1. The Belin-Blank Center has developed I-Excel to provide an above-level test that is affordable and accessible. The use of I-Excel also allows IOAPA to offer reduced-cost group testing sessions, as well as no-cost group testing for schools that have not provided I-Excel testing in the past three years.   
  1. Research shows that even the short-term intervention of taking an above-level test such as I-Excel provides a boost to student’s academic achievement (Rogers, 2015). These opportunities may be especially important for low-income and disadvantaged students. 

Now is the time to begin the above-level testing process for current 5th and 6th graders. (IOAPA fall registration opens April 1, and we expect seats to fill quickly.)  There are several steps for participation in BESTS testing prior to IOAPA registration. 

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenges; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90th percentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing. Students who have earned scores at the “Advanced” level on ISASP are also good candidates. 
  1. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in above-level testing using BESTS. 
  1. Contactassessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up I-Excel testing for 5th and 6th graders. I-Excel testing sessions for current 5th-6th graders are flexible to schedule. However, it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s). Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand. I-Excel testing will be required for students interested in taking 6th-7th grade courses next school year, so we highly recommend testing eligible 5th and 6th graders this year. 
  1. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing. 
  1. Use the recommendations found in the individualized student test report to help determine which students to recommend for IOAPA middle school courses. 

Costs 

  • The cost for I-Excel is $45 per student when groups of 4 or more students are testing.  Iowa schools using I-Excel for the first time in the past 3 years can request up to 20 free student test registrations to try out I-Excel with their students. Schools receive group results as well as individual student reports following I-Excel testing. Families also receive the individualized report. 
  • These individualized reports explain their test results and compare them to other talented students in the same grade. 
  • Fee reductions are available for students eligible for the free/reduced cost lunch program. 

PLEASE NOTE: We do not require ACT testing because ACT testing has been difficult to obtain for 7th-9th graders in the last few years, due to COVID. (ACT has prioritized the testing of 11th and 12th graders.) However, the Belin-Blank Center highly recommends that 7th to 9th graders take the ACT before taking high school IOAPA courses. For more information about ACT registration, see https://belinblank.education.uiowa.edu/students/bests/#7-9-grade.  

For more information, see: 

What’s the Best-Kept Secret in Gifted Education? Above-Level Testing — This post offers an overview of the theory and research behind above-level testing. 

An Easy Way to Learn More About Your Students’ Needs— Specific steps for setting up I-Excel are included in this post. 

References 

Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2012). The talent search model of gifted identification. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 30(1), 45-59. 

Rogers, K. B. (2015). The Academic, Socialization, and Psychological Effects of Acceleration: Research Synthesis. In S. G. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses That Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, Vol.2 (pp. 19-29). Iowa City, IA: Belin-Blank Center. 

2022 Winners of Iowa Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

Congratulations to everyone who competed at this week’s Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!  

These high school students are doing impressive research projects and did an excellent job communicating their findings to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional winners receive scholarships and an expense-paid trip to compete at the annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

2022 Winners of the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2022 Iowa Regional winners are:

🏆 1st place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) – “Secret Sounds of Bees: Analysis of Honey Bee Vibroacoustics Using Hidden Markov Models”

🏆 2nd place: Kiersten Knobbe (Adair-Casey Guthrie Center High School) – “Turbid or Not Turbid? That is the Question: Creating a Water Filtration and Sanitation Method for Developing Countries”

🏆 3rd place: Alina Markutsya (Ames High School) – “Biomechanical Analysis of Balance Beam Skills in Gymnastics”

🏆 4th place: Libby Knipper (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Efficacy of Antimicrobial Starch-Based Plastic Food Storage Films”

🏆 5th place: Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Novel Mammalian Fibroblast Cell Culture Media Technique for Ultraviolet Cell Reduction”

Message from the Director

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Today’s view from the Blank Honors Center is grey and bare, seemingly devoid of energy. However, activity and enthusiasm abound inside the Blank Honors Center as we prepare for the Belin-Blank Center’s many student and professional learning programs, services, and information sessions scheduled for the next several months. 

This summer, students in grades 3-11 can choose from science, technology, engineering, art, math, and writing options. Whether online or on-campus, full-day or residential, all of our programs give students access to valuable university-level resources and experts in developing talent. 

Educators can earn their TAG Endorsement through our Chautauqua program and fully online classes. Other excellent professional learning opportunities include our Belin Fellowship and AP Summer Institute.

We are also pleased to welcome two new members of the Belin-Blank Center team! Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in our STEM Excellence and Leadership program. Mr. Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is our new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP AcademyAP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. If you encounter either of them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!

New colleagues and changing seasons are but two reminders that change is the only constant. January closed with the very sad news that our friend and colleague, University of New South Wales Professor Emerita Miraca Gross, passed away. Dr. Gross’s work had a profound impact on the field of gifted and talented education. This is especially true in academic acceleration, where her contributions are unparalleled. She will always remain an inspiration, and her impact will positively influence many generations of students, families, and professionals. 

Dr. Gross advocated for tools associated with making acceleration decisions, such as our newly developed Integrated Acceleration System.  We invite you to learn more about this tool during an upcoming online session focused on making decisions about grade-skipping, featuring Belin-Blank Center experts.  

It may still be a grey day in February, but we are staying cozy inside the Blank Honors Center, eagerly turning our eyes toward sunnier days. Whether you are a parent, educator, or student, we hope you will join us for one of the many exciting events and programs we are planning for this summer. We are excited to see you soon!

Two New Faces at the Belin-Blank Center

We are pleased to formally introduce two new colleagues here at the Belin-Blank Center!

Dr. Nesibe Karakis

Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in STEM Excellence and Leadership at the Belin-Blank Center in the College of Education at the University of Iowa. She earned her doctorate in Gifted, Creative, and Talented Studies from Purdue University. She is a former middle school math teacher in Turkey. Dr. Karakis’ research focuses on STEM education, professional development, student achievement, quantitative (e.g., statistical analysis, machine learning) and qualitative data analysis, and students from underrepresented populations (e.g., students from ethnically diverse or low-income backgrounds) in gifted education.

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox

Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is the Belin-Blank Center’s new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP Academy, AP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Northwestern University in 2020, where his studies focused on international security and environmental policy. His most recent position before joining the Belin-Blank Center was a US Student Program Fulbright appointment in Trabzon, Turkey, where he taught English speaking lessons at Karadeniz Teknik University. His interests include the intersections between the environment and security, diplomacy, and sustainable agriculture.

Nesibe and Dominic are fantastic additions to our staff, and we are delighted to work alongside them. If you encounter them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!