Author Archives: cwienkes

IOAPA & COVID-19: Internet & Educational Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19, and we will continue to provide updates and new resources. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. This blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

Internet Resources

We acknowledge the digital divide could prevent some students from continuing with their online IOAPA courses. We want to provide you with a few resources to combat this barrier:

  1. The College Board is attempting to navigate this situation for students enrolled in AP courses. Please fill out this survey for the College Board to provide mobile tools or connectivity.
  2. The University of Iowa is providing free drive-up wireless service to allow students, faculty, and staff who need high-speed internet Review the Drive-up Wifi Locations page for additional on-campus and off-campus locations, maps, and instructions on connecting.
  3. Many internet providers are announcing various packages to help those who don’t have internet or have slow internet at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Below is a partial list of what is offered. Please note: This list is rapidly changing. Please check with your the provider for the most recent updates and offers:
  • FCC agreement stating providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots.
  • AT&T COVID-19 response: Offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
  • CenturyLink COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, will waive late fees due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19, and will suspend data usage limits for consumer customers for 60 days.
  • Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months.
  • Comcast COVID-19 response: Offers free WiFi for 2 months to low-income families plus all Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
  • Mediacom COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, offering complimentary access to all Mediacom Xtream Wi-Fi Hotspots for 60 days, and extending the pricing of Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service to new customers at $19.99 per month for the next 12 months. 
  • Sprint COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, provides unlimited data to existing customers, and, starting Tuesday, 3/17/2020, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • T-Mobile COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • Verizon COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus giving all mobile customers 15GB of extra data from March 25th through April 30th.
  • US Cellular: Follows FCC agreement.

Educational Resources

  1. Amazon Future Engineer and Edhesive have collaborated to offer free access to additional Edhesive computer science courses or professional development through August 31, 2020. See this page for more information.
  2. Check out this list of education companies that are offering free subscriptions due to school closings. It is frequently updated so make sure to bookmark it!

We are continuing to think of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog posts and emails that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

IOAPA & COVID-19: Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

APEX Resources

Apex has suggestions for proctoring exams, and Apex also offered a ‘course-pause’ option for students that lose access to courses. If your courses are set up to be proctored by a mentor, you can:

  1. Have students take exams upon their return.  Per Apex’s standard policy, students will not be penalized for late work.
  2. Work with parents to proctor students taking exams. Mentors can unlock tests remotely.  

You can also request a course-pause for your entire program, or just for students that may lack access. Apex will leave the courses ‘paused’ until you confirm they should be re-opened.  Please reach out to our student services team (alvs.support@apexlearning.com; 855-550-2457) to initiate this option.

Edhesive Resources

Edhesive has created a guide on how to continue courses with remote learning. This guide includes tips to support teachers, students, and parents. Edhesive is currently working with their partners at Amazon to support students who may lack equipment and internet access. Support and online teaching assistants will continue to be available to support students and teachers via online forums. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

IOAPA & COVID-19: AP Exams

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide information on how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams. Another blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive.  This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources.

The College Board is supporting AP students by offering free, optional remote learning and at-home AP testing. These resources are offered in order to allow students to still earn the college credit and placement that they have been working toward all year. 

  • For the 2019-20 exam administration, students can take a 45-minute online exam at home. The College Board development committees are currently creating these exam questions.
    • Students are able to take these exams on any device – computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.
    • The College Board recognizes the digital divide for low-income and rural students. If students need mobile tools or connectivity, please reach out to the College Board.
  • Each AP exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. This will account for the students who may have lost more instructional time than others. 
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject there will be two different testing dates. Specific test dates will be posted by April 3. 
  • Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they’ve worked hard to earn. 
  • Any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge. 
  • Beginning March 25, students and schools will have access to free, live AP review lessons,delivered by AP teachers from across the nation. 
  • For more information, check with the College Board’s websiteand their AP updates for schools impacted by COVID-19. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

Spring Term AP® Exam Scholarship Winners!

The Belin-Blank Center received funding in 2018 to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for students with financial need. This cycle of applications were for students enrolled in one-term, spring semester AP® IOAPA courses. Mentors, site coordinators, or principals were to submit an application to receive this funding. We are pleased to announce the teachers that are awarded these scholarships for their students! Congratulations to the following teachers:

Donna Bohlmann, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Junior/Senior High School

Shawna Goemaat, North Mahaska Community School District

Patrick Trewin, Decorah High School

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

As funds permit, we will continue to offer AP® exam scholarships. Make sure to watch for the AP® exam scholarship application this fall, 2020!

AP Summer Institute Registration is Open Now!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

It is that time of year to plan for summer events, including summer professional development! Make sure to save the date for the 2020 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 29 – July 2, 2020Registration is now open

We will be offering workshops in the following courses: AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature & Composition, AP US Government, and AP US History.

APTTI is a College Board-approved AP Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit current teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course. Teachers who attended our institute in 2019 shared some of their valued experiences:

“Great instructor! Provided us with many valuable resources. This depth of knowledge was impressive, interesting, and captivating.”

“I learned so much! Great presenter with excellent ideas and information. I’m feeling much more equipped to teach AP [course] now!”

Funding

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI (participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 of the $600 registration fee.  Click Financial Aid to learn more and to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2020. 

Professional Development Credit

We offer two credit options (3 semester hours total) for those who attend APTTI. Participants who enroll receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship applied to the cost of graduate credit ($560). 

EDTL:5080:0WKA (2 semester hours): These credits are earned through participation in APTTI, plus any additional follow-up assignments from the College Board consultants. 

EDTL:4976:0WKA (1 semester hour): To extend the learning experience at APTTI, participants can earn credit by enrolling in this course, Differentiation at the Secondary Level. This course is completed online once you have completed APTTI.

State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement

The Belin-Blank Center offers classes across the required strands that allow for a TAG endorsement to be earned in one summer! Attending APTTI contributes to up to 3 of the 12 required credits (see above). For more information, click here to view all 12 credit options.

New Requirements for IOAPA Middle School Courses

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services, and to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. There are extraordinary benefits in identifying students who are in need of an additional challenge, and we at the Belin-Blank Center and IOAPA want students to experience these full benefits. According to research, above-level testing is one of the best methods to make these identifications.

After examining previous years’ completion and passing rates for IOAPA middle school courses, the Belin-Blank Center is implementing a new policy regarding IOAPA middle school courses. Beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year, all students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 6th grader* will be required to have completed the I-Excel assessment. All students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 7th or 8th grader will be required to have completed the ACT.

By requiring these above-level assessments, we are hoping to provide teachers with an effective tool to identify students who would benefit from advanced coursework through IOAPA.

Students must have taken I-Excel or the ACT in the past two years or will need to sign up for testing in order to register for the Fall 2020 IOAPA courses.  Teachers need to begin the above-level testing process now. Registration for Fall 2020 IOAPA courses will be open April 1 – August 15, 2020. Below we discuss the two different above-level assessments and the process of signing up.

I-Excel

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90th percentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments or ISASP, are strong candidates for above-level testing.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. If you have 6th-graders*, contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing after reading through the details at belinblank.org/inschooltesting. 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/act for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA spring registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand.
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.
*If next year’s incoming 6th graders are currently in a separate building, please feel free to share this information with the appropriate person in that building.

I-Excel Costs

The cost of I-Excel in Iowa is $45 per student if groups of 4 or more students are tested. The cost is $22 if the student is eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. For students test individually, the cost is $90 ($45 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch). If students test on the University of Iowa campus in June at our testing session on campus (June 11, 2020), the fee is $70 ($35 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch).

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

ACT

The ACT is a test that many students take in 11th or 12th grade as part of the college admissions process. The ACT has also been used since the 1980s to discover younger students who are ready for greater academic challenges. Students testing through the Belin-Blank Center are provided with the individualized report mentioned above. Scores on the ACT can be used to qualify students for a wide variety of academic programs, including IOAPA courses.

Registration / Test Date Process

To make this process easier, parents can sign their child up for the ACT through our BESTS program. Click here for more information on this process. In doing so, we remove the guesswork from the registration process, we file the registration paperwork with ACT, and we also send you a coupon for a free IDEAL Solutions for STEM Acceleration report that provides an extensive interpretation of your child’s scores.

The ACT test dates are less flexible than I-Excel testing dates. Below are the available test dates through May 2020 (Note: we do not offer the July or September ACT test date through our registration system).

Test DateInitial Deadline (Late fee after this date)Final Deadline
Saturday, April 4, 2020Wednesday, February 26, 2020Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Saturday, June 13, 2020Wednesday, May 6, 2020Wednesday, May 20, 2020

ACT Cost

The fee for ACT testing is $70 ($35 for students who qualify for Free/Reduced-Cost Lunch). If the reduced fee for qualifying students is still too great a financial burden, the Belin-Blank Center will work with the family to make a financial arrangement that allows the student to participate. Registrations not paid as of the initial deadline will incur an additional $30 fee.

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

For more detailed information about this new requirement of above-level testing for IOAPA middle school courses, check out our recent IOAPA-BESTS blog that highlights the most common FAQs. Please do not hesitate to contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org if you have any questions.

FAQs about the IOAPA + BESTS Partnership

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) are teamed up to provide identification and programming services to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. This partnership helps (1) students remain challenged and engaged after they master the classroom curriculum, and (2) assists teachers school districts in identifying students who are ready for additional challenge. Above-level testing and the implementation of advanced coursework can help with these issues.

This partnership has been around for many years. In this blogpost, we discuss and respond to the most frequently asked questions related to how IOAPA and BESTS work together.

What is above-level testing?

In short, above-level testing is giving a younger student a test that is developed for older students.

Is above-level testing a new concept?

No! It is extensively used at universities with centers for gifted education, but unfortunately it is often not used by schools. The idea of above-level testing was pioneered over one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth. This concept was fully developed by Dr. Julian Stanley in the 1970s when he devised the “Talent Search” in which 7th and 8th graders took the college admissions exam, the SAT. Currently, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of a university-based talent search (including the Belin-Blank Center)!

Why above-level testing?

Scores from grade level tests demonstrate that students have mastered grade-level material, but they don’t tell us how much additional challenge the students need.  If students do so well that they get everything (or almost everything) right, then we don’t really know what the extent of their talents might be.  Psychologists call this “hitting the ceiling” of the test.

In just one or two hours of testing, we are able to get important information about the student’s aptitudes, which allows us to make good recommendations about the types of educational challenges the student needs.

How can above-level testing be used?

  1. Identifying a student for a gifted program
  2. Determining what a student is ready to learn next
  3. Deciding whether or not a student is ready for subject-matter acceleration
  4. Deciding whether or not a student is ready to skip a grade

What is the cost of I-Excel?

The cost of I-Excel in Iowa is $45 per student if groups of 4 or more students are tested. The cost is $22 if student is eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. For students testing individually, the cost is $90 ($45 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch). If students test on campus in June at the testing session (this year, June 11 2020), we sponsor $70 of the fee ($35 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch).

I’m ready to set up I-Excel testing – Where do I start?

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge. 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.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA fall registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand. (Note: that if you have 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing, they will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/talent-search for specific information).
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

How do I help students prepare for the I-Excel?

The best preparation for taking a standardized test such as I-Excel is to get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast. This helps to set the student up for success.

Before taking I-Excel, we recommend that students try the sample items so they become comfortable with the format of the test. Beyond that, we do not recommend that students study for the test. The most useful scores result when students understand the format but do not study for the test.  Families receive a link to the sample test in their confirmation email. Registered students can use the email address associated with the registration to access the sample items, or contact assessment@belinblank.org to receive the link and a temporary access code.

If the test is not during a regular school day, make sure they know what time to arrive and where to meet.  They should bring:

  • A simple calculator for use during the Mathematics test.
  • A snack to eat during a break. We recommend something healthy, such as an apple.
  • Two pencils.
  • Scrap paper will be provided.

What is the outcome of I-Excel testing?

I-Excel test results will better equip teachers and students to make decisions about which students would benefit from advanced coursework, specifically through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA). Scores at or above the 50th percentile on an above-level test are indicative of a need for additional challenge, such as that provided by IOAPA courses.

Content Area Scores for IOAPA Eligibility

Above-level assessments can provide individual domain scores specific to each content area measured, and an overall composite score reflecting performance across areas. IOAPA recommends using these content-area scores, rather than overall scores, to ensure the advanced learning opportunities are available to all talented students in their area(s) of strength. The table below details the relevant content area score(s) for each of our IOAPA middle school course.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are thrilled to be able to provide educators with specific information about your students via I-Excel, an above-level testing option for talented 4th – 6th graders. For more information about how this could work in your school, visit  www.belinblank.org/talent-search, or contact assessment@belinblank.org.

Students in 7th – 9th grade also have an opportunity for above-level testing by taking the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center. We encourage educators to let their students know about this unique opportunity.  For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search.