Author Archives: belinblank

7 Tips for a Successful SSTP Application

SSTP Extracurriculars 2017-5

Applications are officially open for the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa. The fall break is a perfect time to work on your materials, so here are 6 quick tips for making your application the best it can be!

  1. Once you’ve started your application, write down your username and password! The $75 application fee applies for each application account you start on the portal, so be sure you can log back in when it’s time to finish your application later.
  2. Contact your references now! The application requires two references from you: First, the academic reference, which should come from a teacher who can speak to your abilities in your desired research fields; Second, the character reference, which should come from a mentor who can speak to your character and maturity as a person. We define mentor broadly. Past applicants have chosen teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, rabbis, etc. Just make sure that your mentor is not a friend or family member. Once your teacher and mentor have agree to provide references on your behalf, enter their email addresses into the appropriate field in your application. We will then email them a few short questions. They have until February 1st to send us their responses. Late references cannot be accepted, and it’s your responsibility to follow up and ensure that your references respond on time.
  3. Start yApp5our essays now! We ask for two separate pieces of writing from you: First, a 750-word essay describing your research interests and background; And second, a 750-word essay explaining why SSTP is a good fit for you. We recommend writing and editing your essays in a separate document and pasting them into the application platform once you’re satisfied with your work. Please bear in mind that the essay fields in the online platform will save your essays as plain text, meaning that your formatting will not be kept.
  4. Carefully consider your desired research areas. In the application, we will ask you for top three research areas, and we include a list of research areas that other SSTP students have used in the past. If you do not see your desired field, that’s fine! You may write in research areas that we have not listed. If you’re not sure what’s available, be sure to check out our virtual poster session on the SSTP website, where you can view past students’ work. Although not every research area you see there will necessarily be available in 2019, what you see can give you a good idea of the kind of research that students have been able to do in the past.
  5. You may only submit one set of test scores. We recommend the SAT, ACT, PSAT, or PLAN, but if you have not taken one of those four tests, you may also submit state-administered standardized test scores. Since you may only submit one set of scores, we strongly advise against submitting SATII subject test scores. If you are a non-native speaker of English, no problem! You do not have to submit TOEFLs scores or any other proof of English ability. Your English results from the SAT, ACT, etc., will suffice.
  6. SSTP Buchholz Lab 2018-1Review the costs of the program. For students applying from within the US, the total costs will add up to $6,270. US students may also apply for financial aid within the online application platform. For students applying from outside the US, however, no financial aid may be awarded. Additionally, students applying from outside the US must pay an additional $550 fee to cover the costs of insurance and two additional nights of room and board, bringing the total costs of the program for international students to $6820.
  7. When you’re done, save your application and leave it is as! There’s no “submit button.” Whatever you have on your application as of February 1st will be what we use to make admission decisions. Until February 1st, you may return to your application and make edits as often as you like. Applications are considered on a non-rolling basis, so there are no advantages to finishing early other than peace of mind and the assurance that your application is complete. You will be able to see at-a-glance what sections still need your attention using the little red lights. Once they all have turned green, you’re all set.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at sstp@belinblank.org. During times of high inquiry volume, it may take us up to two business days to respond to your email, so please contact us sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive your response in a timely manner.

We look forward to seeing your application!

SSTP Musselman Lab 2018-13.jpg

Message From the Director: How Did We Get From 1988 to 2018? Phase VI (2013-2018)

This six-part retrospective has been an opportunity for me to reflect not only on the three-decade history of the Belin-Blank Center, but also on my own professional trajectory in the field of gifted education and talent development, which spans the same time frame. Although no educator can pinpoint the exact date when his or her professional career began (was it during student teaching, when you had the class to yourself for the first time; when you signed your first contract; when you tested – by yourself – your first student; or when your defended your dissertation and the committee members refer to you as Dr.?), there is always a period in which you can look back and say that the journey was finally underway.

For me, that was 1988.  With a newly minted University of Iowa PhD in hand, I headed east to Johns Hopkins University to start my post-doctoral fellowship with Professor Julian Stanley.  Just a few weeks before I left Iowa City, the Iowa State Board of Regents had recognized the establishment of the Connie Belin National Center for Gifted Education.  Today’s readers know that the Belin Center was renamed the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.   The expansion of the name (1995) also reflected the expansion of the Center’s services and programs.

In 1990, I applied, and was hired, for the Center’s very first professional position.  I happily joined the small group (one director, one secretary, and a few graduate students) in 1990.  I have been invested in the work of the Center ever since, becoming the Center’s director in December 2012, just as Phase VI commenced.

BBC Staff 1997

The years 2013-2018 were phenomenally productive, the reason being entirely because the Center has a collaborative team of professionals who administer the programs and provide the services.  Every program has been elevated during the past five years and there are many new programs that have started.

Belin-Blank staff 6/2018

Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff

Our oldest programming, for teachers, introduced the Chautauqua Series during the past few summers, infusing a strong sense of community among educators.  Summer student programs now include the Perry Research Scholars Institute for 8th – 10th graders and the Summer Art and Writing Residency Programs for 9th – 11th graders.

The Perry Research Scholars Institute was made possible through an endowment from the Perry Family.  A generous endowment from Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan and her husband, Patrick Scanlan, made possible the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Program that allows selected high school students to skip the last two years of high schools and begin the university as early as 10th grade.

A significant Talent Development Grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation established the STEM Excellence and Leadership Program, an after-school STEM enrichment program, in ten rural districts in Iowa.  The results from that program led to the funding from the National Science Foundation for a deeper investigation of the informal learning environment provided by this program.  The NSF grant was followed by a Javits grant that will allow us to increase the numbers of underrepresented students who are identified for gifted programming and implement a career exploration intervention.

Wallace_Group3.jpgAmong all the growth in programming, we also hosted two Wallace Symposia (2014 and 2018).  The 2014 Symposium was co-hosted with the National Association For Gifted Children in Washington DC and the 2018 was co-hosted with Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins Universities in Baltimore, MD.  We updated A Nation Deceived with a new two-volume publication A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students and developed an online, above-level test for 4th – 6th graders, which can be used in schools and thus allow teachers to benefit from the information available through above-level testing.  We also established a collaboration with the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI) to further our work with twice-exceptionality.

We celebrated three decades, and especially the past five years of inspiring potential and nurturing excellence, with an open house showcasing our innovative programs and featuring a special presentation by two Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI) colleagues, Dr. Ted Abel, director of the INI, and Dr. Jake Michaelson, director of the UI Spark site.  The collaboration with INI will greatly enhance our work with twice-exceptionality.

The past five years are a testament to the collaborative spirit exemplified by the staff.  The growth over three decades, from a small group of professionals to a fully- functioning center has been phenomenal.

Hear our story in this special commemorative video.

See You at NAGC!

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) will hold its 65th annual convention on November 15-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our staff will be available to discuss our programs and services, and answer any questions you may have, at Booth 610 in the Exhibit Hall. We will also be delivering several presentations, and we hope to see you there!

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NAGC Convention presenters from the Belin-Blank Center include Dr. Susan Assouline, Professor in the Department of Psychological & Quantitative Foundations (P & Q), Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, and Director of the Center; Dr. Laurie Croft, Clinical Professor of Gifted Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning (T & L) and Associate Director, Professional Development at the Center (and NAGC Board Member); Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Professor in P & Q and Associate Director, Research (Past Chair, Research & Evaluation Network); Jan Warren, Assistant Director, Student Services at the Center (Chair, Arts Network); Dr. Alissa Doobay, Supervisor, Psychological Services; Dr. Joy Goines, Staff Psychologist, Assessment and Counseling Clinic; David Gould, Administrator, Bucksbaum Academy; Dr. Lori Ihrig, Supervisor, Curriculum and Instruction; Dr. Duhita Mahatmya, Administrator, Research Methodology; and Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Administrator, Acceleration Institute. In addition, other familiar names in gifted education from the University of Iowa, Dr. Clar Baldus, Clinical Professor in Teaching & Learning, Consultant for the Arts at the Center (Past Chair, Arts Network), Dr. Susannah Wood, Associate Professor in Counselor Education, and colleagues Dr. Carol Smith, Clinical Associate Professor, and Dr. David Duys, Associate Professor, will be presenting at the NAGC Convention.

 

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Governor Reynolds declared the month of October to be Gifted Education Awareness Month. The Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) proposed many activities to celebrate giftedness in your school and district! Here on our blog, we revisited some of your all-time favorite posts all month long. 

First, we encouraged you to think about who your talented students are and what they need to stay challenged and engaged at school. Then, we gave away the best-kept secret in gifted education and shared why we should all be advocates for academic acceleration. Finally, we discussed educational assessments, including twice-exceptional assessments, and explained when and for whom they might be helpful.

Although October is coming to a close, we know that for advanced learners, and their families and educators, every month is gifted education awareness month. To carry you forward from here, we are sharing some of our most helpful resources. We hope you can return to these again and again as you continue to advocate for your own gifted students. 


Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 1.25.34 PMA Nation Deceived, published in 2004, is still relevant today. It highlights disparities between the research on acceleration and the educational beliefs and practices that often run contrary to the research. We highly recommend Volume 1, which contains responses to common myths about acceleration.

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The update to that publication, A Nation Empowered, came out in 2015. You can download the free pdf here or obtain a paper copy or Kindle version here. Volume 1 contains many stories about acceleration, and those seem to resonate with people. Volume 2 contains the up-to-date research supporting acceleration.

The Acceleration Institute website has many, many resources on academic acceleration for parents, educators, policy makers, and researchers.

20 Forms of AccelerationWhen most people think of acceleration, they think of either skipping a grade or moving ahead in a particular subject. But did you know there are at least 20 different types of acceleration within the broad categories of grade skipping and subject acceleration?

Thinking about early entrance to kindergarten? These resources will be helpful.

What about early entrance to college? Start here and then head over to the Bucksbaum Academy website.

How do you make an informed decision about skipping a grade? The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a highly recommended tool.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.07.28 PM.pngDo you have a talented math learner? Be sure to check out the book, Developing Math Talent, by Susan Assouline & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik (published by Prufrock Press, 2011). Build student success in math with the only comprehensive parent and teacher guide for developing math talent among advanced learners of elementary or middle school age. The authors offer a focused look at educating gifted and talented students for success in math.

To help answer questions about which students are ready for subject acceleration, consider investigating I-Excel, an online, above-level test for high-ability 4th-6th graders. I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format.

If you’re wondering whether your child is ready to be accelerated, these tips for parents can help guide you. This Tip Sheet from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) will also be helpful.

Does your school need to create or update its policy on academic acceleration? Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy are available in a free download. This document supports schools in creating a comprehensive and research-based acceleration policy that is compatible with local policies. (And be sure to keep an eye out for an update to this publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Single Subject and Whole Grade, in late 2018!)

If you’re a fan of podcasts, you can listen to Dr. Ann Shoplik talking about acceleration on Mind Matters, and Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon discussing twice exceptionality on Bright Now by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY). Or check out our own podcast, The Window, and listen to our founder, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, engage thought leaders on issues relating to maximizing human potential and directing talent toward a larger social good.Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.08.59 PM

We know that TAG educators can sometimes feel a bit isolated from their other colleagues in gifted education. If you are looking for a group of like-minded professionals and experts to connect with and share ideas, be sure to subscribe to the Gifted Teachers’ Listserv.

Connect with your state and national organizations, the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). The Iowa Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented webpage also has helpful resources and information about important legislation affecting gifted education. Not in Iowa? Find information about your state gifted association, statistics, and policies concerning gifted education here.

For a comprehensive look at all things gifted education, grab a cup of coffee and settle down to peruse Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development’s database.  The Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop on acceleration was so excellent, it was offered a second time (with fresh content) in “Acceleration, Again.”

Follow our own @AnnShoplik and @LCroft57 on Twitter, who often tweet about topics related to acceleration and gifted education, and read through the hashtags, #nationempowered#gtchat, and #gifteded.

And finally, be sure to connect with the Belin-Blank Center on social media (you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated all year long!

Professional Learning: Always Available

The fall term is flying by, and we have had teachers enrolled in a wide variety of online learning opportunities, from three-semester-hour classes to one-semester-hour workshops focusing on specific topics over three weeks.  We have had 99 individuals who have enrolled for 221 semester hours of credit; seven of our students this fall are educators from India who are learning to better serve their gifted/talented students in their schools.  Current registrations for conference credits (options at the Iowa Talented and Gifted [ITAG] Association conference and the National Association for Gifted Children [NAGC]) add another 17 people earning 29 semester hours of credit, most often applied to credits required for the Talented and Gifted Endorsement.

woman-791185We still have two online fall credit options available.  One workshop, EDTL:4096:0WKA Special Topics: Personal Learning Plans and the Gifted Students, is helpful for any Iowa educator who needs to provide plans for identified students, in compliance with Iowa Code.  Educators from other states will benefit from learning more about this option, an important component in the continuum of options recommended by the NAGC.

For anyone attending the NAGC convention in Minneapolis in November, the Belin-Blank Center provides a credit option (PSQF:5194:0WKA) for a choice of either one or two semester hours of credit. As with other credit options, those who are interested must be registered as a Distance and Online Learner (belinblank.org/educators/reg), and contact educators@belinblank.org to override the restriction for the conference credit, ensuring that anyone who registers understands that conference attendance is required.  The Belin-Blank Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship for the graduate tuition rate for conference credits, in an effort to support educators’ interest in learning through these opportunities.

The Center is offering one online credit over Winter break. Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA) will allow educators to review the information they most need for their students and schools.  The class begins on December 26 and ends on January 11, 2019, getting the new year off to a great start.

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Spring enrollment hasn’t opened yet, but the Center will be providing a variety of online three-semester-hour classes, including content focused on identification, on classrooms and curriculum, and on programming models.  As well, Administrative and Policy Issues (EPLS:4110:0EXW) is available as a two-semester-hour online class.  A variety of one-semester-hour online workshops will allow educators to focus on topics such as curriculum development, mathematics for gifted learners, and issues of perfectionism.  Classes for each semester are posted at belinblank.org/educators/courses.

 

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Services at the ACC – Educational Assessment

In Iowa, October has been declared Gifted Education Awareness Month! To celebrate, we’ll be revisiting some of your favorite posts from the blog all month long. We get a variety of questions about what our Assessment and Counseling Clinic does and how to know if a particular service is right for a given child. Today, we’re focusing on educational assessments.


Services at the ACC: Educational Assessment

Dr. Alissa Doobay, Licensed Psychologist, Supervisor of Psychological Services
Dr. Alissa Doobay, Licensed Psychologist, Supervisor of Psychological Services

Individualized educational assessments are conducted to assist with academic planning.  They involve individual assessment of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant in academic planning decisions.  These assessments are not diagnostic in nature; therefore, they cannot be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.

Following the assessment, parents are provided with a comprehensive report detailing the test results and our recommendations. The cost depends on the number of hours spent, but a typical educational assessment includes approximately 6 hours of testing and costs $730.

Some initial reasons to consider an individualized educational assessment include:

  • You’re considering whole grade acceleration and would like to get the bulk of the information needed all at once.
  • The student is in 3rd grade or younger, and therefore too young for most other assessments.
  • The student has behavioral/cognitive factors that result in individualized assessment being more accurate than group-administered (e.g., 2e students who don’t “test” as well as expected based on knowledge).

We also offer twice-exceptional assessments, which include intellectual and academic testing in addition to a diagnostic assessment to determine whether the child meets criteria for a particular psychological diagnosis (e.g., Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Specific Learning Disorder, anxiety or depression, etc.). These evaluations are conducted by a licensed psychologist and may be submitted to insurance depending on your insurance provider. There is a currently a waitlist for twice-exceptional assessments.

Could an educational assessment help your child?  You can request an appointment through our online intake form.

Originally posted on January 12, 2017

Celebrating 30 Years of Nurturing Potential and Inspiring Excellence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.  That long name packs an abundance of information about who we are and what we do.

Named for two of the four co-founders of the Belin-Blank Center, the name pays tribute to the founding families and honors their philanthropic contributions to the center.  The name also references our international connections and the fact that we address both gifted education and talent development, which are complementary concepts.

Over the years, the Belin-Blank Center has been committed to providing programming and services to educators, students, and their families.  Our aim is to empower the worldwide gifted community through exemplary leadership in service, research, and advocacy. Through our work, supported through the generosity of our benefactors, funds from private foundations, and federal and state grants, we aim to eliminate barriers that impede the full development of students and educators. 

Belin-Blank staff 6/2018

Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff

 

The Belin-Blank Center is part of the University of Iowa’s College of Education.  For the first fifteen years of our existence, the Lindquist Center housed our center.  Early in 2004, we moved from the Lindquist Center to the newly built, six-story Blank Honors Center. This move was essential because over the decades, our staff and faculty have grown; that growth matches the growth in our programs.

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Blank Honors Center, home of the Belin-Blank Center, on the Unviersity of Iowa campus

Through all of this change, our values have never wavered; in particular, our strong belief in the benefit of recognizing and validating talent.  Ceremonies such as our annual Recognition Ceremony increase awareness of the needs of gifted and talented students and teachers; simultaneously, they acknowledge for the students, teachers, and their families that their efforts matter.  We have noticed, and we know that they will make a difference. 

30th invitation graphicAn anniversary is an opportunity for reflection and celebration as well as for dreaming about the future.  Thanks to our benefactors, our faculty and staff, and the University of Iowa, this year we celebrate a decades-long reality created from a single vision.  We step into the future empowered to create a better world for the gifted and talented community. Paraphrasing an observation and a question attributed to Sidney Parnes, an early leader in the field of creativity, “We are already living in someone else’s dream of the future; why not make it your dream?”