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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.

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.

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. 

AP Exam Scholarships for IOAPA students

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to continue offering AP exam scholarships for low-income current IOAPA students from rural schools.

We are now accepting applications for AP exam scholarships for IOAPA students! IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors can apply for this funding opportunity until March 17, 2022! 

To complete the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding for this application is only available for students who are taking IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the 2021-22 school year. Funding is limited to only one AP exam per student.

Eligibility

  • Students who qualify for the free/reduced-cost lunch program will receive preference. Low-income students not meeting FRL guidelines will be considered, if funding is still available.
  • Low-income students in non-rural schools will be considered, if funding is available.
  • Students must be enrolled in an IOAPA Advanced Placement course during the 2021-2022 school year. Priority will be given to students taking one-semester spring courses.
  • Funding is to be used for the exam associated with the IOAPA course the student is taking during the 2021-2022 school year, not a different exam.

Funding is limited. Not all eligible students may receive funding.

A Person Wearing a Smart Watch while Holding a Pencil

The per-exam cost for the 2021-22 school year is $62 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools that receive funding should plan to pay the $62 per student to the College Board. These schools will then need to submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam. More information about this will be provided in the acceptance letters that are sent to site staff.

Awards will be announced by March 24, 2022. Also as a reminder, the deadline to order all one-term, spring semester AP exams is March 15, 2022.

Please email us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions!

Using BESTS for IOAPA Decisions

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) team up to provide identification and programming services 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. 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 courses. We highly recommend using the ACT to inform eligibility for older students to take IOAPA courses. Testing is not required for students registering for Spring 2022 courses, although it is recommended.

In order to use this year’s above-level testing scores to inform eligibility for next spring’s IOAPA courses, now is the time to begin the above-level testing process. (Spring registration opens November 8, and we expect seats to fill quickly.) You may also use above-level test results from this academic year to decide which students you will register for fall 2022 classes, when that registration is available. There are four basic steps for participation in BESTS.

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge; 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.
  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. We have two options for testing, one for 7th-9th graders, and one for 4th-6th graders.
  4. 7th-9th graders take the ACT. Due to the pandemic, ACT has been prioritizing testing 11th and 12th graders. We plan to offer above-level testing for our 7th-9th grade students later this academic year. If you would like to be notified when testing is available for 7th-9th graders, visit belinblank.org/talent-search for specific information and email assessment@belinblank.org to be added to the notification list. ACT testing is not required, but it is highly recommended.
  5. 4th-6th graders take I-Excel. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-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) and IOAPA spring registration. 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.
  6. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

Costs

  • The cost for ACT registration will be announced at a later time. Students testing through the Belin-Blank Center will receive access to individualized reports explaining their test results and comparing them to other talented students in the same grade.
  • 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.
  • For both I-Excel and ACT, fee reductions are available for students eligible for the free/reduced cost lunch program.

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.

Have Your 7th-9th Graders Registered to Take the ACT? — This post includes useful information about using the ACT as an above-level test for 7th through 9th grade students. Current information about fees, test session dates, and registration deadlines can be found at www.belinblank.org/talent-search.

Update on IOAPA’s Computer Science Courses

This year, there are some changes with IOAPA’s computer science (CS) courses. Our curriculum for these courses is now provided by a non-profit organization called ProjectSTEM.

So, what will this transition look like for IOAPA students and mentors?  Much of the experience will be the same as before. The course material is the same, but there are some slight differences within the platform. You can find helpful information for navigating ProjectSTEM’s website on their help center or reach their support team at info@projectstem.org.

Below are some helpful notes about this transition:

  • Be sure to keep an eye out for emails from Project STEM. This includes adding emails from the projectstem.org domain to your safe sender list.   
  • Our middle school course formerly called Introduction to Computer Science is now called CS Python Fundamentals.  
  • The CS Python Fundamentals course is only offered as a full year course. A one-semester option is not available.

A common question about our CS courses is what does “more mentor involvement” look like? Mentors do not need to have any previous CS teaching experience or knowledge to facilitate a course within ProjectSTEM. The curriculum and lessons for these courses are already prepared. Additionally, the majority of assignments are assigned grades automatically as your students submit them. This is particularly true in the CS Python Fundamentals and AP Computer Science A courses.

The AP Computer Science Principles course requires the most mentor involvement, as has always been the case. This course requires students to submit some essay questions that need to be graded by mentors. However, these assignments have a rubric in the Teacher Resource Sidebar, which gives mentors the information they will need to accurately grade the essays. Additionally, mentors and students can ask ProjectSTEM’s Teacher Assistant team questions in their forums. While teacher assistants cannot make grading decisions, they can provide guidance and answer specific questions mentors may have about the content.

For more information about ProjectSTEM, visit their help center. If you have more specific questions, contact their support team at info@projectstem.org. And as always, please feel free to reach out to the IOAPA team with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

IOAPA Registration is Open for Fall 2021

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers Iowa students free access to online advanced course offerings for students who would otherwise be unable to find these courses offered in their school district.

Additionally, the Belin-Blank Center 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.

IOAPA registration for Fall 2021 classes is now open! This includes full-year courses, as well as one-semester fall courses. Registration for Spring 2022 one-semester courses will open in November.

Visit our website for a wealth of helpful information, including our course catalog, important dates, registration, and information about getting started along with support materials designed to help you and your student make decisions about course selection.

COURSES OFFERED

  • 15 AP courses are available to high school students. 
  • 14 courses are available to middle school students. These courses are designed for high school students and made available to students in grades 6-8. While not yet required, we still recommend above-level testing as the best method in identifying students for advanced coursework. When in doubt, you can also review our guidelines here.

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 belinblank.org/ioapa and click Register.

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

  • 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 at the school.
  • Nominate the student(s) taking IOAPA course(s). Completing the school registration page sends the principal an automated email with a link in it to nominate the student. The principal either needs to complete the nomination or forward the link to the site coordinator or mentor to complete.
  • Confirm that student has self-enrolled in the course. Once the student has been nominated, an email will be automatically sent to the student to enroll himself/herself 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.

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

AP® Exam Scholarship Winners!

Congratulations to our AP Scholarship Exam recipients! The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. Funding is still available for Fall and Spring IOAPA AP students! If you have students that are eligible, please apply for this funding by the final deadline of February 26, 2021. Please click here for access to this online application.

Visual Guide to IOAPA High School Courses


To aid in decisions about spring enrollment, we are excited to share the IOAPA High School Course infographic. This infographic uses data from 2019-2020 IOAPA students. This, along with our middle school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.

Visual Guide to IOAPA Middle School Courses

To aid in decisions about spring enrollment, we are excited to share the IOAPA Middle School Course infographic. This infographic uses data from 2019-2020 IOAPA students. This, along with our high school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, in the “Being Successful” section of the page. On this page, you can also find our course catalog and more information about individual course options.