Message from the Director: Spring is Here and Learning Opportunities are in Bloom!

ne-cover-vol-1-fullIt’s no surprise that our big news this month is the publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students. We hosted two very successful public launch events to celebrate the culmination of this multi-year project. The first event occurred in Iowa City. Ten days later, the Belin-Blank Center administrative team and authors from nine of the 18 chapters in Volume 2 met with colleagues and graduate students in Chicago at the annual American Education Research Association Conference. Jonathan Wai, one of the 33 authors for Volume 2 and also a well-known columnist for Psychology Today, posted an interview with the A Nation Empowered editors.

A Nation Empowered is the solution to a pernicious educational paradox: despite robust empirical evidence supporting the powerfully positive impact of acceleration as an academic intervention for bright students, implementation is severely underused in American schools. Addressing this paradox started as a conversation in 2004 with the publication of A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. Over the past decade, new issues (the Common Core State Standards, twice-exceptionality, a focus on STEM, and professional development for teachers and counselors, to name a few) have emerged. In A Nation Empowered, experts address these new issues and offer significant updates to ongoing topics. What started as a dialogue in the early years of the 21st century has translated into an agenda of commitment and action.

The external validation of our work is very gratifying. We know that over these next few years there will be many students and teachers who benefit from this work and the support available through the Acceleration Institute.

Meanwhile, back at the Blank Honors Center, spring programming for students and professionals is wrapping up. You can view the amazing art and writing submissions from the 2014-2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Ceremony or follow the experiences of the five attendees to the National Junior Science Humanities Symposium. Simultaneously, we are deep into the registration process for both students and teachers who will attend one or more of the myriad summer programs and all instructors are finalizing their syllabi and ordering materials. This season of preparation always makes me a bit wistful. I’m thrilled for the life-changing experiences that await hundreds of 2nd through 11th grade students planning to attend one or more of our classes. However, it’s also disheartening to know that many students who need this programming do not participate primarily because they have not been informed about the opportunities.

Increasing opportunities at the school level is one of the main reasons why we are so committed to professional development. It is critical that teachers are aware of the need their students have for advanced programming. We are also committed to working with schools to increase opportunities through programming in the school, whether through specialized programs such as STEM Excellence and Leadership; the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy; or In-School Testing. Stay tuned to learn more about school-based opportunities available next fall!

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