Category Archives: A Nation Empowered

Advocating for Acceleration: Suggestions for Parents

A parent recently told us about her child’s teacher, who confidently stated, “Well, you know the research tells us that it’s a really bad idea for kids to start kindergarten early.” Another parent said that the climate at his children’s school is unsupportive of acceleration. When approached about the possibility of subject acceleration or grade acceleration, the principal simply said, “Kids who accelerate don’t fit in.”

Those of us who have read (and done some of) the research want to jump into those conversations with both feet, summarize 70 years of research, and demand accelerative opportunities for the children. This isn’t necessarily the best approach. Being an advocate for our children might mean introducing information slowly or finding ways to inform educators other than forcefully giving them a list of the “Top Ten Reasons My Child Should be Allowed to Accelerate.”

One important thing to mention up front is that, in general, educators simply are uninformed about acceleration. Believe it or not, even in graduate programs in gifted education, students don’t necessarily learn about the research and tools for acceleration, let alone how to practice acceleration in schools. Regular education teachers and administrators spend very little time in their undergraduate courses learning about gifted students, and even less time studying acceleration. All of this means that you, the parent, might be better informed than the educator sitting in front of you. It also means that the educator sitting in front of you might, with every good intention, believe that certain myths about acceleration are true.

Get ready. You might have to learn the information on your own, and you might be the one teaching your teachers and administrators about acceleration. Fear not! There are lots of tools to help you with this:

Learn the facts.  Research tells us that acceleration is often the most appropriate avenue for helping academically talented students find a match between their abilities and the curriculum available at their school. The Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute gathers the important research and information about acceleration in one place. Research articles, practical advice, video stories – it’s all there. Other great places to find information include the Hoagies Gifted website and the Davidson Institute website.

Share what you have learned. Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and Volume 1 of A Nation Deceived are both very approachable resources that a busy administrator or teacher can read quickly. You can download both of those documents for free from the websites linked above. If you want even more information about the research, read Volume 2 of A Nation Empowered.

Be reassured that there are objective tools that can help us know when it is appropriate to accelerate a student. You don’t have to make the decision about a grade skip or subject acceleration based on a “gut feeling.” The Iowa Acceleration Scale was designed to help families and educators work together to gather information, discuss important factors, and make an informed decision about a grade skip. Above-level testing is the essential tool for making decisions about subject acceleration.

Advocacy might also mean helping to write policy for your school or district. First, a caution: Policy work takes a long time. If you are trying to solve a problem for your child, focus on your child and the issues that are pertinent to your child. Don’t try to solve everything for everyone. Leave the policy for another day.  However, if you are in a position to help make things better for future students, this might be the time to have those policy discussions. The Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children produced a helpful document last year on Developing Academic Acceleration Policies. This should help you get started on writing defensible policies for acceleration.

OK. It may seem like a lot but have courage. You have the tools, you have the information, and you can be an effective advocate for your child’s acceleration. Go for it!

Guidebooks for Parents and Educators

Parents and educators are often looking for useful resources in gifted education. We would like to highlight a few. The Davidson Institute’s guidebooks for parents and educators on advocacy, early entrance to college, homeschooling, mentorships, and twice exceptional students can be downloaded for free:

The Belin-Blank Center offers extensive information on academic acceleration in several publications.

  • A Nation Empowered: An update to the watershed report on acceleration, A Nation Deceived, the 2015 report provides the latest research on acceleration. A Nation Empowered: Volume 1 is written in an accessible format for parents, educators, policymakers, and the general public. A Nation Empowered: Volume 2 provides the research and an in-depth look at topics specific to acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to college, twice exceptional students, and longitudinal research.
  • A Nation Deceived, Volume 1: Published in 2004, this volume includes an overview of the issues surrounding acceleration for gifted students. The discussion of the myths is still relevant today.

Two resources on twice-exceptional students are also provided by the Belin-Blank Center:

The Hoagies Gifted website provides a somewhat overwhelming list of books in gifted education. We encourage you to visit the page again and again. Hint: start with the books that have a star next to them. Some of those are classics.

Coming soon: New Online Integrated Acceleration System

We are developing a new online system to help schools and families make decisions about various forms of acceleration described in A Nation Empowered, including early entrance to kindergarten, subject acceleration, early entrance to college/university, and grade-skipping. This will all be done in an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the appropriate information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions.

Would you like more information? Click here to be added to the email list

Challenging Learners Who Already Understand Grade Level Material

Guest post by Gerald Aungst
Adjunct lecturer at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center, and Gifted Support Teacher at the Cheltenham School District in Pennsylvania

The Belin-Blank Center moderates a Gifted Teachers’ Listserv, where educators from all over Iowa, the United States, and the world share resources, information, and support related to gifted education. This post originated on our listserv by Gerald Aungst, who graciously agreed to share his thoughts on our blog, as well. All opinions belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Belin-Blank Center or University of Iowa. 

Anyone who has had to sit through a meeting or training session about a topic which you understand well knows the feeling. You want to get on with it and move into something new and different. You want something useful. You want something meaningful.

And yet the idea persists in schools that when a student masters a skill quickly or already understands a topic we are introducing to the rest of the class, the best thing we can give that advanced learner is more of the same. “Oh, you finished the math worksheet already? Here’s another one with more problems to do.” Or “You wrote that 5-paragraph essay already? Well, then I guess your next essay needs to be 10 paragraphs.”

There is a place for honing and maintaining a difficult skill. Professional basketball players keep practicing free throws. Professional musicians keep practicing scales. But we need to ask if “more of the same” is the best option for a student with the limited time we have them in school.

Do you have colleagues or administrators who don’t see the value of giving advanced learners new, different things so they can continue to learn and grow? Here are a few resources to help you make your case.

Start with the NAGC position statements, which include references to relevant studies:

The Acceleration Institute has abundant resources on different options for acceleration. This brief policy summary, for example, has some great talking points for administrators. For more comprehensive explanations and a thorough review of extensive research on the topic, share A Nation Empowered to show why acceleration works.

Differentiation is another way to help students who may know some of the material in advance or who pick it up quickly. For quick overviews check out 7 Reasons Why Differentiated Instruction Works and What Works for Differentiating Instruction in Elementary Schools (many of these ideas are adaptable to middle and high school learners as well).

And of course Susan Winebrenner’s book Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom is full of strategies for differentiating and accelerating for advanced learners, backed up by decades of experience and research.

For more posts by Gerald Aungst, visit his website at geraldaungst.com.

If you are an educator looking for professional learning opportunities to help you better teach and understand gifted children, be sure to check out the Belin-Blank Center’s extensive list of courses and workshops on programming and curriculum. Each course corresponds to one of the educational strands necessary for the Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement and will help you develop your expertise in the new NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted and Talented Education. For more information, visit belinblank.org/educators

Subject Acceleration: A How-To List

This article expands upon some of the ideas presented in the earlier blog, Subject-Specific Gifted Services:

This is when we need to start shifting our thinking from creating one gifted program that serves the “all-around gifted student” to providing services for students with strengths in specific areas. This shift in thinking helps us to be more responsive to our students’ needs and helps ensure that they are challenged in school every day.

Subject acceleration (also called content acceleration) is useful for students who have demonstrated advanced ability in one or more academic areas. Examples include a 2nd grader moving into the 3rd grade classroom for reading, a student taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course, or grouping several advanced 6th graders for math instruction. Subject acceleration can be appropriate for a high-ability student who isn’t recommended for whole-grade acceleration, exhibits an uneven academic profile with an extreme strength area, or has already skipped a grade but needs additional challenge in one area.

Some people might be concerned that subject acceleration may cause academic harm or put students in situations that are too challenging.  Research (such as that provided in A Nation Empowered) tells us otherwise:  

  • High ability students engage in abstract thinking at a younger age than typical students.
  • Accelerated students do not have gaps in their academic backgrounds.
  • Accelerated students will not run out of courses before high school graduation. (Students never really run out of content to study, but the high school might not offer the next course that is needed. In this situation, a student might need to utilize other options, such as dual enrollment or online coursework.)
  • Accelerated students do not “burn out.” Research shows that acceleration leads to higher levels of achievement.

Others may argue that, “We already have enrichment, so why do students need content acceleration?” We agree that STEM clubs, science fairs, English festivals, and pull-out programs provide valuable enrichment. However, they do not provide a systematic progression through the curriculum.

Subject acceleration has many advantages:

  • The regular classroom teacher does not have to search for materials for the advanced student, because that student is removed during class (for example, the student moves to a different class for math).
  • It is more likely that the student will be grouped with intellectual peers.
  • The student receives credit for work completed.
  • The student is appropriately challenged and therefore remains interested in the subject (and in school).
  • Research clearly supports the use of acceleration with academically talented students.

The disadvantages of subject acceleration include:

  • Although the student is now working at a higher level, the pace may still be too slow.
  • If the student is accelerated by only one year, there may be little new content.
  • The student may not receive credit for high school courses completed before enrolling in high school due to district policies.
  • Additional planning and discussion time may be required, if subject acceleration is new in a school or to a particular group of educators.
  • Long-term planning is essential, so the student does not “run out” of coursework before graduating from high school.

Utilizing subject acceleration can be challenging, and it requires us to consider a variety of questions:

  • How are grades and credit assigned?
  • When completing the school’s regular testing, which grade-level achievement test does the student take (“age-appropriate” or new grade)?
  • What transportation is needed?
  • How do we schedule the same subject at the same time for the two grade levels? (For example, one district offers math at the same time every day across the district, so students don’t miss another subject if they are accelerated for math.)
  • What indicators of accelerated coursework are needed on the student’s transcript?
  • How is class rank determined?

Subject acceleration requires careful thought and planning. However, the time invested in thinking through some of the challenges and long-term issues presented by subject acceleration provides an important result:  students who are appropriately challenged and engaged in school.

Additional Resources

Who Needs Subject Acceleration? The Nuts and Bolts of Decision-Making

Some students are ready for subject acceleration – but which students, exactly? How do we know which students have mastered the classroom curriculum and are ready to handle more advanced work in a specific subject? Another related (and important) question is, how do we make sure they won’t have any gaps, if they move ahead?

STEM_Excellence_Hygienic_Lab_Trip_2017-4

Important tools that help us make decisions about subject acceleration include achievement testing and above-level testing.

Achievement testing includes standardized, grade-level tests such as the Iowa Assessments, TerraNova Test, and Stanford Achievement Test. These tests help us compare students to other students their own age. Typically, we recommend that students scoring at the 95th percentile or above on at least one of the main subject areas of one of those tests should be considered for further testing. (If your school uses eITP, check out this great tool for an easy way to find these students.) These students have correctly answered most of the items of the test, and we don’t really know what additional information they have mastered. For those students, the next step is above-level testing. (An important note: We do not require that students earn scores at the 95th percentile on the Composite of the test, just in a specific subject area. So, for example, we focus on finding math-talented students by looking at students’ scores on the math subtests.)

An above-level test measures a student’s aptitude. At the Belin-Blank Center (and at many university-based talent searches around the country), we use a test that was developed for older students and administer it to younger students. Some of the young students earn high scores, some earn low scores, and some earn moderate scores on that test. That information helps us to understand which students are ready for more.

Who is ready for the next step?

We have several rules of thumb for making decisions about what should happen next. One rule of thumb is the 50th percentile rule: Students earning scores at the 50th percentile or higher on an above-level test (when compared to the older group of students) are likely candidates for subject acceleration. Why the 50th percentile? The 50th percentile represents average performance for students at the grade level of the test. When a talented student earns a score at or above the 50th percentile on an above-level test, it is a good indicator that their performance is comparable to average students at that grade level. It’s a good indicator that they are ready for more challenge.

How can educators use this information?

If a group of students takes an above-level test, educators can examine the scores of the students and group them for instruction based on their test scores. For example, if 5 students scored at the 50th percentile or above when compared to older students on whom the test was normed, those 5 students could be grouped in an accelerated class in that subject area or moved up a grade in that subject. Students earning lower scores would benefit from a more enrichment-oriented approach and can be grouped accordingly. Of course, other things to consider when making decisions about subject acceleration include grades earned and specific content already mastered.

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What about gaps?

Gaps are often a concern for educators and families considering moving students ahead. We worry that a student who is advanced will miss some critical information by skipping over some content. To help with this problem, achievement testing for the class the student will skip is helpful. If a student is skipping 5th grade math, for example, it’s useful to give that student an end-of-5th-grade exam or an achievement test that measures what is typically taught in 5th grade math.  The student will likely get a very high score on that test, but the testing may point out specific areas the student has not yet mastered. A mentor or teacher can then work with the student on the concepts he or she missed in order to get the student up to speed before starting the 6th grade math class.

Summary of the steps

Step 1 is administering the grade-level standardized achievement test. Students earning scores at the 95th percentile in the relevant subject area are recommended to move on to Step 2, aptitude testing. In Step 2, students take an aptitude test, which is a test that was developed for older students. The Belin-Blank Center provides above-level testing using two different aptitude tests: I-Excel for bright 4th-6th graders or the ACT for bright 7th-9th graders. In Step 3, those students also take achievement tests on the higher level content, so we can determine if there are any gaps in the students’ backgrounds. Finally, the student is placed in an advanced class.

The outcome of participation in I-Excel or ACT testing? Students and parents who are better informed about students’ academic strengths, and educators who confidently provide curriculum tailored to those strengths.  Making data-based, objective decisions results in students who are consistently challenged in school.

For more information, see:

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.07.28 PMThe book, Developing Math Talent, by Susan Assouline & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik. See especially the chapter on the Diagnostic Testing->Prescriptive Instruction Model for detailed information about using tests to help inform decisions.

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

I’m Ready to Set Up I-Excel Testing for This Year: Where Do I Start?— 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.

Still have questions? 

Visit belinblank.org/talent-search for more information, or email assessment@belinblank.org.

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Academic Acceleration

This month, we’re bringing back some of our most popular blog posts to celebrate Gifted Education Awareness Month! Today, Dr. Ann Shoplik, Administrator for the Acceleration Institute, explains why it’s so important to advocate for academic acceleration! “Acceleration” can be an intimidating word for some, but did you know that there are at least 20 different forms of academic acceleration?

20 Forms of Acceleration

The word “acceleration” actually refers to over twenty different educational interventions! (Source: A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students*)

 


Why am I an Advocate for Academic Acceleration?

The short answer to this question is that I am tired of gifted students being under-challenged in school. They need the intellectual stimulation that comes from rigorous courses taught at a reasonably advanced level, and acceleration can provide that stimulation. The longer answer is, I am familiar with the research. No educational option for gifted students has the research support that academic acceleration has. In other words, the research is clear and unambiguous: Acceleration works. Gifted students benefit from acceleration. Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject. Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.  So why wouldn’t I be an advocate for academic acceleration?

Now that we have the information that is summarized so clearly and succinctly in the comprehensive 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered, it’s time to put that information to work.  There are at least 20 different types of acceleration, including grade-skipping, subject matter acceleration, distance learning, and dual enrollment in high school and college. There are many forms of acceleration, and that means that we can tailor accelerative opportunities to the needs of individual gifted students. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups.  Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Educators and parents do not have to be afraid of implementing acceleration. Tools are available to help them make well-informed decisions. These tools include the book already mentioned, A Nation Empowered, and they also include the Iowa Acceleration Scale (developed to help the team consider all aspects of acceleration, including academic development, social development, physical development, and school and parental support for the decision), IDEAL Solutions (developed to assist educators and parents as they consider subject matter acceleration in STEM subjects), and university-based talent search programs, which help identify students and give them challenging courses they can take in the summer or via online learning opportunities.

If you are interested in advocating for acceleration for an individual student or you’re attempting to change policies in your school or district, consider starting with the information found at the Acceleration Institute website. It includes the tools already mentioned in this article, and many more. Don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation on acceleration, which you can download and share with other educators and families.

We have the research and we have the tools to help us make good decisions about implementing acceleration for academically talented students. Now, we need the courage to act.

Originally posted by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik on March 22, 2016

*Southern, W.T. and Jones, E.D. (2015) Types of Acceleration: Dimensions and Issues. In S.A. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, and A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (pp. 9-18). Cedar Rapids, IA: Colorweb Printing

Responding to the Arguments Against Acceleration (Again)

1 Acceleration works green

Question from a gifted coordinator:

My principal found 3 articles indicating that students in mixed ability math courses perform well in later math courses. She is using these as an argument NOT to group our math-talented students for mathematics. How do I respond?

My response:  

I would like to respond with an entire body of research evidence rather than selecting a handful of studies to cite. Educational researchers use a technique called “meta-analysis,” in which they look at hundreds of studies, thousands of students, and many different school situations to address important questions such as this one. Some of those meta-analyses are listed below.  My focus is on what is best for high-ability students.

An important question to ask is, “How do accelerated high-ability students compare to non-accelerated students who are equally able?”  In other words, what is lost if we do not allow academically talented students to move ahead as their abilities and motivations would allow?

What we have learned from meta-analyses is that acceleration is a positive, powerful option for talented students. Many of the research studies focused on math-talented students, but many others include accelerated students who are talented in other subjects:

  • These students benefit in significant ways from participating in classes that challenge them at the right level.
  • Math-talented students who are allowed to accelerate retain what they have learned, tend to continue pursuing studies in math and science, pursue more challenging majors and more prestigious careers, and earn more money than comparison students.
  • Accelerated students also tend to generate more creative products such as patents and research articles than non-accelerated equally-able peers.
  • Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject.
  • Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.

In my opinion, not allowing academically talented students to move ahead appropriately is educational malpractice, because the evidence is so clear and so positive supporting acceleration.

Resources

Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., VanTassel-Baska, J., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2015). A nation empowered: Evidence trumps the excuses holding back America’s brightest students. Iowa City, IA: Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. www.nationempowered.org

Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2011). Developing Math Talent (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Colangelo, N., Assouline, S. G., & Gross, M. U. (2004). A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. The Templeton National Report on Acceleration. Volume 2. Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (NJ1).  See especially the chapter by James Kulik: http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Nation_Deceived/ND_v2.pdf#page=22

Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. L. C. (1984). Effects of accelerated instruction on students. Review of educational research, 54(3), 409-425.

Rogers, K. B. (2007). Lessons learned about educating the gifted and talented: A synthesis of the research on educational practice. Gifted child quarterly, 51(4), 382-396.

See www.accelerationinstitute.org for more evidence.

Talent searches help us to learn more about academically talented students and to decide who might benefit from acceleration:  https://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/students/bests/whybests.aspx

 

Wallace Research Symposium

Wallace postcard 2017Registration is open for the Wallace Research Symposium on Talent Development, to be held April 29-May 1, 2018 at the Mt. Washington Conference Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.  The Wallace Research Symposium is the premiere scholarly conference for the latest research findings in gifted education and talent development.  The call for papers is open until September 15th.

Featured speakers include:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Camilla Benbow
  • Linda Brody
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Elaine Hansen
  • David Lubinski
  • Matt Makel
  • Besty McCoach
  • Paula Olszewski-Kubilius
  • Jonathan Plucker
  • Sally Reis
  • Joseph Renzulli
  • Ann Robinson
  • Nancy Robinson
  • Robert Root-Bernstein
  • Michele Root-Bernstein
  • Del Siegle
  • Amy Shelton
  • Rena Subotnik
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Frank Worrell

The Wallace Research Symposium for Talent Development is co-hosted by the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, and the Vanderbilt University Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. For more information, please visit belinblank.org/wallace. For questions, please contact wallace@belinblank.org.

Dr. Susan Assouline Receives NAGC Distinguished Scholar Award

Susan Assouline director Belin-Blank Center

Dr. Susan Assouline, Director, Belin-Blank Center

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Susan Assouline has been awarded the 2016 Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). She will receive the recognition at the NAGC convention in Orlando on November 5th.  NAGC annually presents the Distinguished Scholar Award to an individual who has made significant contributions to the field of gifted education and demonstrates a continuous record of distinguished scholarship and ongoing scholarly productivity as recognized by experts in the field.

Dr. Assouline is the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, Director of the Belin-Blank Center, and Professor of School Psychology at the University of Iowa. Her areas of expertise within gifted education include acceleration, mathematical talent, and twice-exceptionality.  Her most seminal contributions are A Nation Deceived, published in 2004, and A Nation Empowered, published in 2015. These books have changed the way the nation perceives acceleration as an option for gifted learners. Dr. Assouline is also the lead author of the Iowa Acceleration Scale, which is used by educational professionals nationwide in making evidence-based decisions about grade skipping.

Quite notably, Dr. Assouline is incredibly successful at securing funding for her research and professional activities; both independently and as part of a team, she has received over 37 million dollars in grant funding and private gifts. This is remarkable, given the limited funding afforded to scholars in gifted education. A recent grant, for 10 million dollars, initiated The Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy, an early-entrance-to-college program, which allows students to enter the University of Iowa after completing 10th or 11th grade.

Dr. Assouline’s work has had a broad and deep impact on gifted scholars and educators and has shaped the gifted education field both nationally and internationally.  Not only does Dr. Assouline’s work exemplify the highest level of scholarship, but it also has a practical impact on the lives of gifted students. For example, her publications and presentations on academic acceleration have influenced state and local policies and activities affecting gifted students. Dr. Assouline has mastered the art of connecting scholarship to practical applications in the field, securing her standing as a positive catalyst for gifted education.

Dr. Assouline has guided the Belin-Blank Center’s research and service to reach gifted and talented students and their educators throughout the nation and around the world. She played a central role in the development of the Assessment and Counseling Clinic and the Acceleration Institute, both housed at the Belin-Blank Center. These two unique and nationally respected programs have changed the path of gifted education research in many positive ways.

Dr. Assouline’s multiple contributions have not gone unnoticed by her peers. Most especially, in 2015, she became the first female Endowed Chair in the College of Education at the University of Iowa. In 2012, she was elected into the Iowa Academy of Education, and twice was awarded the MENSA Award for Excellence in Research. The University of Iowa community has also recognized her contributions through the Distinguished Service Award, Award for Staff Excellence, and the Honors Program Award for Recognition of Outstanding Service.

Can I-Excel Be Used to Screen Students for a Gifted Program?

BBC students outside

I-Excel is a new test offered by the Belin-Blank Center. Its purpose is to assist educators in discovering academically talented 4th-6th grade students who need additional challenges in school.  One of the teachers with whom we work asked, “Could I-Excel be used to screen students for a gifted program, or would you recommend using other methods for screening?”

This is an excellent question.  The short answer is “Yes!”  We recommend the following steps for educators:

  1. Look at the results from the standardized testing routinely administered at your school (for example, the Iowa Assessments, Stanford Achievement Tests, Terra Nova, etc.).
  2. Select the 4th, 5th, or 6th graders scoring at or around the 95th percentile or above on at least one of the core content areas (such as reading, math, language, science, etc.).
  3. Invite those students to participate in I-Excel testing. We suggest that the students take all four subtests of I-Excel (Math, Science, English, and Reading) to get the most comprehensive information.
  4. Use the I-Excel information in combination with other information you have available to select students for your gifted program and/or other appropriately challenging programming.
    1. You might choose to focus on only one area; for example, if you are seeking students in need of additional opportunities in math, you’ll want to look most closely at the Math subtest of I-Excel to identify high-performing math students.
    2. IDEAL Solutions is the platform for understanding I-Excel test scores. Once your students test using I-Excel, educators will have access to an individualized interpretation of the test scores as well as a group interpretation (if 10 or more students tested). This information is designed to help you make informed decisions about the types of programs to provide for challenging your students.
    3. For example, in a given school with a comprehensive TAG program, educators might decide to use all four subtests of I-Excel to identify students for the gifted program. In another school, where the TAG program is more focused on advanced science and mathematics, educators might use only the Science and Math subtests of I-Excel as part of their larger identification process. Students with very high scores on the English or Reading subtests may be ready for more advanced material in language arts.

I-Excel is useful for helping educators determine which students have specific talents in one area (for example, Science), and which students demonstrate high ability across the board (Math, Science, English, and Reading). Gifted programs and other advanced opportunities can be designed with the students’ varying strengths in mind, and different schools will choose different approaches to challenge their students.

Because I-Excel is an above-level test, it can be used as an indicator of specific aptitude when completing the Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS).  The IAS was designed to help make decisions about whether or not a student is ready for a grade skip.

Always be sure to check your local and state policies for gifted program identification, to be sure your process is consistent with requirements.

We welcome opportunities to work with educators to ensure the I-Excel test results are presented in ways that are useful to you. Have other questions?  Visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search for more details.

Lessons Learned: One School District’s Experience with Acceleration Practices

Special thanks to Dr. Keri Guilbault, guest writer for this blog!

A few years ago I worked as a district coordinator of gifted and talented programs in a large school district. New to the state and county, I was surprised to learn that there was no written policy for academic acceleration of students in grades K-12 even though the state supported acceleration. Leaving policy decisions up to local districts led to a hodgepodge of guidelines and practices, and very few written policies beyond early entrance to Kindergarten and dual enrollment in high school.  From time to time, elementary or middle school principals would contact me and tell me about a unique student who was recognized as working years beyond grade level, often frustrated with the pace in the general education setting, and certainly missing out on the opportunity to learn something new.  I appointed an ad-hoc committee to develop acceleration guidelines for our elementary school learners using the Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy as a guide. We implemented a process that began with a referral to a student study team led by each school’s gifted and talented resource teacher who took the lead in completing the Iowa Acceleration Scales for the candidate.  We monitored the students’ academic growth and affective adjustment and in following up with parents, teachers, and administrators I learned some valuable tips to guide future policy and improve practices:

  • Provide additional training on the IAS and acceleration for all members of the student study team, including a school administrator who will have the final decision.
  • Be sure that there is an appeals process in place and that it is made public and available to all parents. Transparency and communication are key.
  • Provide parents/caregivers with a formal notification letter even if they are notified of the acceleration decision face to face. The IAS has a great planning guide at the end that can be used as a template for the acceleration plan and meeting notes.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting during the acceleration decision conference for all stakeholders to discuss the student’s progress and adjustment within 4-6 weeks after any change in placement. Do not skip this meeting even if you think things are going well!
  • Train the gifted and talented resource teachers or at least one staff member at each school on the acceleration process, IAS, and data mining to pro-actively look for possible candidates for acceleration using data that is already collected in the district. For our district, all second graders take the CogAT and any student scoring at the 99th percentile in any subtest was automatically considered. Waiting for teacher or parent requests often leads to inequity in student selection.
  • Provide parent and community information sessions on the acceleration process and policy and establish parent networking and support groups for families of accelerants and potential accelerants. Being able to ask questions and share concerns with other families who have gone through the process can be extremely helpful!

Keri M. Guilbault, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Gifted and Talented Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore and a former district supervisor of Gifted and Talented programs.

kguilbault@ndm.edu

Twitter: @drkerig

Why Accelerate? A Roadmap

Aug16_JVTDr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska gave a riveting talk at the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI) earlier this summer 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.

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; 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.

13 Policy blueIf 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.

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 Iowa Acceleration Scale is a useful tool for making decisions about a grade skip.

 

An Iowa Acceleration Scale “Booster Shot”

Iowa Acceleration Scale

The Belin-Blank Center recently hosted the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute. The theme this year was, “A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students.” During the Pre-Institute, we spent a whole afternoon talking about the Iowa Acceleration Scale. Many of the people attending the session had already used the IAS, and they were looking for answers to specific questions or they simply wanted a “booster shot” of best practices concerning the scale. Some of the major points made in the session include:

  • Become informed about the research. We have over 60 years of research on acceleration, and it is consistently positive. Knowing the research helps us to make well-informed, data-driven decisions for students.
  • Prepare your team for the meeting. Nobody likes surprises. Help them to understand the purpose of the meeting and the information you would like them to bring to the meeting.
  • Provide information about acceleration. It’s helpful to give team members some basic information about grade skipping (see resources listed below).
  • Collect all profile information before the meeting to use everyone’s time well at the meeting.
  • Talk with the student about the acceleration. The student plays a critical role in making the acceleration experience successful or unsuccessful. Find out if the student is on board and if he or she has any questions or concerns.
  • Schedule enough time for the meeting. This is an important decision worthy of thoughtful discussion.
  • Pre-plan other options. For example, if there is a possibility that the student might be subject accelerated (rather than skip a grade), it would be helpful to think through issues such as transportation and scheduling before the meeting so the team doesn’t get sidetracked with related issues or questions.
  • Select a receiving teacher. This person is critical to the success of an acceleration.
  • Support the receiving teacher. Some teachers feel a little bit intimidated by the fact that they will have a younger student in their class, and they might have questions about how best to support the student and to help the other students in the class welcome the young student.
  • Follow-up with parents, teachers, and student. It is very helpful to schedule a specific time period that serves as a “trial period” for the acceleration. The team should take the time to meet again about the accelerated student and discuss what is working well and how they can make things go more smoothly.

Resources

The Iowa Acceleration Scale is an instrument designed to guide the discussion about academic acceleration. The IAS is not a test; it is designed to help the child study team members think about the various aspects of acceleration (for example, academic development, social development, physical development, etc.). http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/IAS.aspx

A Nation Deceived:  This 2-volume set published in 2004 provides research and practical information about acceleration. Volume 1 includes some of the myths (and responses) relevant to acceleration.  Volume 2 includes research findings. www.nationdeceived.org

A Nation Empowered:  Published in 2015. Volume 1 includes stories about acceleration and is a “quick read” for busy administrators and others looking for an introduction to the topic of acceleration. Volume 2 provides the updated research. www.nationempowered.org

 

A Nation Empowered: Empower Yourself with Information about Academic Acceleration, July 24-26

Invent IA footerThere’s still time to register: The early bird discount is available until July 8th!

We are looking forward to seeing you at the July 2016 conference on academic acceleration (www.belinblank.org/bbali). Our aim is to present attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.

All participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

The Pre-Institute (July 24th) focuses on the important tool for making decisions about a grade skip, the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  The Institute (July 25 and 26) provides the opportunity to learn from researchers as well as educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration, including subject-matter acceleration, early entrance to college, dual enrollment, and grade-skipping. In the portion of the conference focused on policy, participants will have the opportunity to hear from schools, districts, and states with successful acceleration policies. They will share their stories of how they were able to put successful policies in place, as well as what participants should consider as they advocate for acceleration in their region.  Participation in the Advanced Leadership Institute on Monday and Tuesday is NOT required for participation in the Pre-Institute.

We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks at this exciting institute.  Speakers include nationally-recognized experts in gifted education research and policy, as well as administrators and educators.  Participants will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of individuals reflecting on the local impact of acceleration policies and practical implications of the research.  We encourage you to register by July 8th, to take advantage of the early bird discount!  See www.belinblank.org/bbali.

Everyone Loves an Early Bird Discount!

Register by July 8th for the early bird discount for the conference on academic acceleration!

The SeTypes of accelerationventh Biennial Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute is focusing on Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students in July 2016.  The institute will provide attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.  Participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration—and from students or parents who have personally experienced the benefits of appropriate programming.
All Institute participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

Speakers who plan to participate include:

Editors of A Nation Empowered:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Ann Lupkowski Shoplik

Authors of Chapters in A Nation Empowered:

  • Linda Brody
  • Laurie Croft
  • Megan Foley Nicpon
  • Lori Ihrig
  • Katie McClarty
  • Michelle Muratori
  • Susannah Wood

Additional expert speakers:

  • Wendy Behrens
  • Jane Clarenbach
  • Beth Hahn
  • René Islas
  • Maureen Marron
  • Jaquelin Medina
  • Panel of students who have accelerated

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Institute! For more information and to register, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.

 

 

Discovering Talented Students

BBC students outside

As you are thinking about ways to challenge your students next year, consider investigating above-level testing with the Belin-Blank Center’s new online test, I-Excel. I-Excel is an above-level test for high-ability 4th – 6th graders and assesses in the areas of math, science, English, and reading.

What is different and exciting about this?

  1. I-Excel assesses in science, which is not always addressed in above-level testing.
  2. I-Excel is online and can be delivered in your school at a time convenient for you and your students (weekdays or weekends).
  3. The Belin-Blank Center provides an extensive interpretation of scores allowing educators to make data-driven decisions and differentiate for their students through curricular intervention and enrichment. Educators receive a group report plus an individual report for each student.
  4. I-Excel licenses content developed by ACT that was designed to measure academic progress of junior high students. From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.
  5. I-Excel helps educators discover exceptionally talented students.

Learn more at:  www.i-excel.org

Or contact ann-shoplik@uiowa.edu with any questions.

Tools for Advocating for Gifted Students

Effective Advocacy for Gifted Students

Both parents and teachers may find themselves advocating for gifted students. Many resources for effective advocacy can be found online. For example,

  • The Hoagies’ Gifted website is one of the best places to look for information on “all things gifted.”  The portion of the site dedicated to advocacy is http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/advocacy.htm
  • Some of our favorite blogs are gathered together on the Hoagies’ Gifted site under the umbrella, Blog Hop on Gifted Advocacy: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_advocacy.htm. Some tips include:
    • Don’t focus on the past,
    • Take the other person’s perspective, and
    • Try to make the teacher’s life easier while advocating for your child.
  • The National Association for Gifted Children has developed an Advocacy Toolkit (https://www.nagc.org/get-involved/advocate-high-ability-learners/advocacy-toolkit) for individuals and groups working to improve gifted education programs and services. They recommend (1) know your information, (2) maximize your impact, and (3) work with the media. They provide detailed information for each of those three steps.
  • The Davidson Institute provides recommended readings about educational advocacy: http://www.davidsongifted.org/db/Articles_id_10291.aspx
  • If you would like to learn more about advocating for academic acceleration, the best-researched method for challenging gifted students, consider attending the Belin-Blank Center Advanced Leadership Institute July 24-26, 2016. A portion of the conference will be devoted to effective advocacy as well as policy issues.  The conference will
    • Provide the talking points for your work with administrators
    • Give you the opportunity to talk to people who have “been there,” and
    • Help you to learn about the tools that others have used successfully in their advocacy.

For more information and to register, see: www.belinblank.org/bbali

A One-Day Training Session on Using the Iowa Acceleration Scale

Iowa Acceleration Scale

How do educators and parents make objective, well-thought-out decisions about academic acceleration?  On Sunday, July 24th, you can attend a pre-institute explaining just how to do that!  Learn how to maximize the value of the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd edition), a tool designed to help educators and parents make data-driven decisions about academic acceleration. This session will be provided from 2-5 p.m., July 24, on the University of Iowa campus.  Cost = $75.

The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a tool designed to help educators and parents make informed decisions about a grade skip. It helps to move the conversation away from a selective biased recall of specific acceleration stories to a focus on each aspect of students’ development that should be considered. The focus is on:

  • Student ability, aptitude, and achievement
  • School and Academic factors
  • Developmental factors
  • Interpersonal skills

All of these areas receive consideration in the discussion. The Iowa Acceleration Scale is not a test – it is a tool that guides the conversation of the child study team around the topic.

Using an instrument such as the IAS when making this decision helps us to:

  • Separate the people from the problem,
  • Focus on interests, not positions,
  • Generate possibilities before making decisions, and
  • Base results upon objective criteria.

Pre-institute participants are invited to attend the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute Speakers Reception, Sunday evening, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Starting the next day, the Belin-Blank Center will provide a two-day Institute (July 25 and 26) focused on the new publication on academic acceleration research and practice, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students.

For more information and to register for these events, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.

Looking Forward to Discussion and Dessert with the Editors of A Nation Empowered!

Nation Empowered Cover

In July, the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute at the University of Iowa will focus on academic acceleration, the most under-utilized, yet best-researched educational option for gifted students. The four editors of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students together have over a century of experience teaching, counseling, researching, and providing programs for gifted students. This two-volume book provides the latest research on academic acceleration as well as stories about individuals who have accelerated and teachers, parents, and others who have been involved with acceleration decisions.

Why are the editors, Drs. Susan Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, and Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, such passionate advocates for acceleration? At the Institute, you will hear the answer directly from them.  Bring your questions about acceleration, policy, and gifted education, and learn from an interactive session while enjoying a delicious dessert!

For more information and to register, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.

Message from the Director: What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

An appealing refrain plus a catchy tune find their way into our heads and often stick.  This is exactly what happened to me during a recent Zumba class when the refrain, “What’s wrong with being confident” from Demi Lovato’s song “Confident” started. During Zumba, my thoughts are typically absorbed with upcoming Belin-Blank Center programs or events, the director’s message, or a research project.  These thoughts often flit from one to the next and back and forth like a moth in a room with lights on opposite sides of the space.  It’s no big surprise that these simple words, with the subtle, yet profound message, infiltrated my mind.

First I thought about two special events hosted in March.  The month started with the highly successful, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), at which 13 high school students confidently presented their research findings to an audience of nearly 200 teachers and students from around Iowa and 5 were selected to attend the National JSHS.  We finished March with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Recognition Ceremony, where Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mentions from Iowa were recognized for their creativity.

How wonderful to meet these young, talented, creative, and confident students and – for both programs — to have the support from the national offices of these long-running, prestigious recognition programs.

Everything that we do at the Belin-Blank Center is designed to nurture potential and inspire excellence and thereby support the development of self-confidence. We live up to our tagline through well-established programs and service as well as through new, innovative programming:

“Confidence” is a longish song, one reason it’s good for a Zumba warm up!  My thoughts jumped to a current research project, based upon previous Belin-Blank Center research findings that investigated the differences in the attributions boys make for success in math or science compared to girls.

The answer to the research question “What attributions do gifted boys and girls make for success – and failure—in math and science?” was juxtaposed with Lovato’s words and appealing tune: “What’s wrong with being confident?”

The respondents in the study were asked to choose among ability, effort, luck, or task difficulty as attributions for success and failure. Ability and effort were overwhelmingly the two categories selected (these two attributional choices accounted for 75% or more of the responses for success in math or science). However, the two choices with the highest percentages for ability for both math and science varied significantly for boys and girls: 44% of the boys chose ability as their reason for their success in math and 42.5% made the same choice for their success in science. The next highest choice for boys was effort, 32% and 37%, respectively. Girls’ choices, however, varied significantly from boys: 26% of girls chose ability as the attribution for their success in math and 23% chose ability as their attribution for success in science. Nearly twice as many girls (50%) chose effort as their attribution for success in math and more than twice as many (55%) chose effort as their attribution for success in science.

Attributional research is but one facet of the complex topic known broadly as motivation, an area that is extremely important to our understanding of patterns that could impact, positively or negatively, the performance of students. Attribution theory represents a well-researched cognitive model. However, despite its relevance to our understanding of gifted students, attributional research specifically investigating the beliefs that gifted students have for their academic successes and failures has not been thoroughly researched.  Results from the study mentioned above are much more extensive than reported here; however, they are the foundation for a new investigation of attributional choice regarding success and failure from a current generation of students.

For educators and psychologists to be effective in designing curricular or counseling interventions, it is important to know an individual’s motivational mindset. It is also important for society to recognize these mindsets. As we concluded a decade ago, “We see potential negatives for girls [or boys] who do not accurately recognize their academic abilities. They may be more tentative about undertaking challenges or putting themselves in competitive situations” (Assouline et al., 2006, p. 293).

These findings, along with our new research, lead back to the question: What’s wrong with being confident?

Belin-Blank Chautauqua – Back by Popular Demand!

In July, the Belin-Blank Center is hosting another Chautauqua series in Iowa City.  Chautauqua I (July 11-16, including class on Saturday) and Chautauqua II (July 18 – 23, including class on Saturday) will feature six separate one-semester hour classes on campus with additional online components.

Participants may enroll in any one of these workshops. Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three classes in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three classes for the cost of two; six for the cost of four).

Limited housing will be available at Burge Hall, adjacent to Blank Honors Center, for those enrolling in all three workshops during either Chautauqua. Contact Rachelle Blackwell by email or at 800-336-6463 for registration information.  Single rooms are available for $342 for each week (additional charge of $57 for those staying Sunday between the two weeks) . Reservations, including payment, are due by Monday, June 13, 2016 at 9:00am CDT.

Free music performances are available in downtown Iowa City every Friday evening!  Other extracurricular opportunities will be available for Chautauqua participants.

The following courses are offered during the two Chautauqua weeks:

Chautauqua I

  • RCE:4119:0WKA Family Issues and Giftedness
  • EDTL:4021:0WKA Science for High Ability Students
  • EDTL:4065:0WKA Social Studies for High Ability

Chautauqua II

  • EDTL:4096:0WKB Topics in Teaching and Learning: Bibliotherapy for the Gifted
  • EDTL:4025:0WKA Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted
  • EPLS:5240:0WKA Topics in Education: Coordinating Gifted and Talented Programs

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua is a part of the extensive opportunities to learn more about gifted education during the summer.  In addition to the six Chautauqua classes, the Center, in collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Education, is offering eight different online classes; all classes apply to one of the strands required for the Talented and Gifted Endorsement.

Credit is also available for the practicum experience in gifted education; the practicum, an individualized experience, requires prior approval before enrollment. Contact Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development, for more information.

The Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute, A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students, offers an optional semester hour of credit, as well as a 50% tuition scholarship for those who enroll.

The Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute also offers an optional two-semester hour credit, and a 50% tuition scholarship. Iowa Licensure Renewal Units are also possible for either institute.

Do You Want to Know the Ins and Outs of Developing an Acceleration Policy?

If you haven’t already decided to attend the Belin-Blank conference on academic acceleration in July, we have even more compelling reasons for you to register!

One portion of the conference will focus on academic acceleration policies. You’ll have the opportunity to hear from schools, districts, and states with successful acceleration policies. They will share their stories of how they were able to put successful policies in place, as well as what you should consider as you advocate for acceleration in your region.

Speakers include nationally-recognized experts in gifted education policy, including Joyce VanTassel-Baska, as well as state-level experts (Beth Hahn of Ohio, Wendy Behrens of Minnesota, and others).  Other administrators will participate in the discussion, so participants will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of individuals considering the impact of acceleration policies.

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Institute! For more information and to register, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.

13 Policy blue

Learn All About Academic Acceleration at the Belin-Blank Conference in July!

The Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute is focusing on Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students in July 2016.  The institute will provide attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.  Participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration.

All Institute participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

Speakers who plan to participate include:

Editors of A Nation Empowered:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Ann Lupkowski Shoplik

Authors of Chapters in A Nation Empowered:

  • Linda Brody
  • Laurie Croft
  • Megan Foley Nicpon
  • Lori Ihrig
  • Katie McClarty
  • Michelle Muratori
  • Paula Olszewski-Kubilius
  • Susannah Wood

Additional expert speakers:

  • Wendy Behrens
  • Jane Clarenbach
  • Beth Hahn

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Institute! For more information and to register, visit:  www.belinblank.org/bbali.

Get Your Crash Course in Academic Acceleration

The Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa is offering a conference focused on academic acceleration. The target audience is gifted education teachers, administrators, and school counselors. Parents are also welcome to attend. The goal is to present attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.

At the Pre-Institute (Sunday, July 24 from 2-5 p.m., $75), participants will learn specific information about how to use the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd edition) a tool designed to help educators and parents make decisions about grade skipping for K-8 students. Individuals may register for only this session, if desired.

The focus of the Two-Day Institute is A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students. (July 25, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., plus optional evening activities and July 26, 8:30 a.m. to noon, $250).  Participants will meet the editors and authors of A Nation Empowered; interact with others who have successfully implemented acceleration in their schools; choose from multiple sessions focusing on practical applications of how to implement acceleration in schools; and create their own plan for next steps!

Released last spring, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration. In spite of the strong research base supporting the implementation of the many forms of acceleration, many schools do not routinely utilize any of the options, and educators often express concerns about accelerating students, assuming that doing nothing is better than taking a “risk” with acceleration.

All Institute participants will receive a copy of A Nation Empowered. The Institute will include a strong focus on applying the research in practical settings, and participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration.  Discounts are available for students and groups, and a credit option is also available.  For more information and to register, see http://belinblank.org/bbali.

Why am I an Advocate for Academic Acceleration?

The short answer to this question is that I am tired of gifted students being under-challenged in school. They need the intellectual stimulation that comes from rigorous courses taught at a reasonably advanced level, and acceleration can provide that stimulation. The longer answer is, I am familiar with the research. No educational option for gifted students has the research support that academic acceleration has. In other words, the research is clear and unambiguous: Acceleration works. Gifted students benefit from acceleration. Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject. Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.  So why wouldn’t I be an advocate for academic acceleration?

Now that we have the information that is summarized so clearly and succinctly in the comprehensive 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered, it’s time to put that information to work.  There are at least 20 different types of acceleration, including grade-skipping, subject matter acceleration, distance learning, and dual enrollment in high school and college. There are many forms of acceleration, and that means that we can tailor accelerative opportunities to the needs of individual gifted students. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups.  Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Educators and parents do not have to be afraid of implementing acceleration. Tools are available to help them make well-informed decisions. These tools include the book already mentioned, A Nation Empowered, and they also include the Iowa Acceleration Scale (developed to help the team consider all aspects of acceleration, including academic development, social development, physical development, and school and parental support for the decision), IDEAL Solutions (developed to assist educators and parents as they consider subject matter acceleration in STEM subjects), and university-based talent search programs, which help identify students and give them challenging courses they can take in the summer or via online learning opportunities.

If you are interested in advocating for acceleration for an individual student or you’re attempting to change policies in your school or district, consider starting with the information found at the Acceleration Institute website. It includes the tools already mentioned in this article, and many more. Don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation on acceleration, which you can download and share with other educators and families.

We have the research and we have the tools to help us make good decisions about implementing acceleration for academically talented students. Now, we need the courage to act.

Posted by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik

Professional Development Is Always Available

The Belin-Blank Center still has opportunities for professional learning experiences this spring. Two new classes are available, including a two-semester-hour extension class about Cluster Grouping for Gifted Students (EDTL:4096:0EXW) and a one-semester-hour workshop about Personal Learning Plans and the Gifted Student (EDTL:4096:0WKA). Both focus on specific strategies for gifted learners that have strong research support, and both apply to the “Programming” strand for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement. More information is available at belinblank.org/educators, following the links to “Coursework” and to “Schedule”. Those who are interested in enrolling in these classes should be registered as University of Iowa Continuing Education students (no cost to register); information about registration is is available on the same page, following the links to “Coursework” and to “Register”.

As well, information about summer coursework will be available by March 21. A wide variety of one-semester-hour workshops will be available online, and six classes will have face-to-face meetings on campus during the Belin-Blank Chautauqua on campus the weeks of July 11 and July 18. Participants will have access to university housing during Chautauqua; those who enroll in all three workshops during a Chautauqua week will receive an automatic tuition scholarship for one of the three graduate courses (or two of the six if participating in both weeks). The Belin-Blank Chautauqua takes its name from the adult education experiences of the early 20th century and features the sense of community common in those events. Information about summer will be available at belinblank.org/educators.

Immediately following the Belin-Blank Chautauqua series, the Center will host the Seventh Biennial Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute, showcasing A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students.

Whatever your schedule, the Belin-Blank Center has an opportunity for professional development to match!

Conference on Academic Acceleration

Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute at the University of Iowa

July 24-26, 2016

Registration Now Open

Pre-Institute: The Iowa Acceleration Scale, Sunday, July 24, 2016, (2-5 p.m.), $75.

Learn how to maximize the value of the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd edition), a tool designed to help educators and parents make data-driven decisions about academic acceleration.

Participants are invited to attend the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute Speakers Reception, Sunday evening, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Two-Day Institute: A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students. Sunday, July 24, 2016: Speakers Reception 5:30 – 7 p.m. Institute is on Monday, July 25 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m., plus optional evening activities) and July 26 (8:30 a.m. to noon), $250, early registration fee.  Bring a friend!  Group registrations (2 or more registrations submitted together) are discounted, $225 per person, early registration fee.

Meet the editors and authors of A Nation Empowered; interact with others who have successfully implemented acceleration in their schools; choose from multiple sessions focusing on practical applications of how to implement acceleration in schools; and create your own plan for next steps!

Released last spring, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration. In spite of the strong research base supporting the implementation of the many forms of acceleration, many schools do not routinely utilize any of the options, and educators often express concerns about accelerating students, assuming that doing nothing is better than taking a “risk” with acceleration.

All Institute participants will receive a copy of A Nation Empowered. The Institute will include a strong focus on applying the research in practical settings, and participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration, as well as hear from parents and from students who have benefited from one or more accelerative options.  Audience: gifted education teachers, administrators, school counselors, parents.

Discounts are available for students and groups, and an academic credit option is also available (50% tuition scholarship provided by the Belin-Blank Center).

Registration Now Open

Get the Latest News from the Belin-Blank Center

Our December newsletter is out, featuring everything from bunny slippers to webinars!

December newsletter

Message from the Director: Thanks a Million x 10!!

Question: What is the result of juxtaposing generosity and inspiration with excellence in programming and collaboration?

Answer: Educational leadership and innovation designed to create outstanding educational experiences for some of the world’s most capable high-school-aged students, all supported through an endowed program made possible with a $10 million dollar commitment to the Belin-Blank Center.

 

In the February newsletter, we’ll have additional details regarding the program and the people who inspired philanthropist Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan to create an endowment for this unique and highly specialized program (formal naming subject to Board of Regents, State of Iowa approval). The endowment will include merit scholarships to students admitted to this specialized program and comprehensive programming to support the scholarship recipients.  Learn more at belinblank.org/academy.

This exciting news is an indescribably incredible welcome to 2016.  While the calendar year is just winding down, 2016 has been a major presence at the Belin-Blank Center since August, when we commenced planning for summer. In fact, it’s not too early for professionals and students to think about this coming summer.

At the same time, it’s not too late for parents to register students for spring 2016 opportunities, including above-level testing through BESTS and enrichment experiences through the Weekend Institute for Gifted Students (WINGS). Likewise, professionals have myriad options for spring professional development, including a webinar on twice-exceptionality and several courses offering from one to three semester hours of credit.

An end-of-year edition of a newsletter would not be complete without an acknowledgement of the highlights from the past 12 months and an expression of gratitude to the people responsible for the highlights as well as the every-day activities, which form the foundation of the center’s programming. My thanks to the Belin-Blank Center’s staff of 14 administrators, 5 secretaries, 19 students (including graduate, practicum, and undergraduate students), 2 faculty partners, and 2 resource staff members. Through our collaborations, we made possible the two-volume publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students; summer programming for 743 pre-college students; the installation of the Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan Gallery; the launch of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program for middle-school students; professional development courses and workshops that resulted in 852 credit hours earned by 572 educators; the creation of I-Excel, an online above-level test for advanced 4th-6th grade students; specialized social-skills groups for high-ability students; and at least 15 paper, poster, round-table, special sessions at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) conference in Phoenix.

Our founders and benefactors continue to inspire our work with the students and professionals we serve. We look forward to continuing this work into the next year! Happy New Year!!

Save the Date!

The Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI) is back. On July 25 – 26, 2016, at the Iowa Memorial Union, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, the Belin-Blank Center will focus on A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students. On Sunday afternoon, July 24, before the Seventh Biennial B-BALI begins, an optional pre-institute will focus on using the Iowa Acceleration Scale.

A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, released a few months ago, updates the 2004 watershed publication, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students. A Nation Empowered includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration. In spite of the strong research base supporting the implementation of the many forms of acceleration, many schools do not routinely utilize any of the options, and educators often express concerns about accelerating students, assuming that doing nothing is better than taking a “risk” with acceleration.

All participants will receive a copy of A Nation Empowered and will have the opportunity to learn more about implementing and advocating for acceleration.

Message from the Director: Overcoming Inertia

Among the many definitions of inertia, I prefer “lack of movement or activity, especially when activity is warranted or needed” [emphasis added]. What does inertia have to do with a center for gifted education and talent development that literally buzzes with intellectualism, innovation, and insight?   Answer: Very little – except we try to avoid inertia by proactively determining when activity is warranted or needed.

Two recent publications have brought home this point.  Tom Clymes’s book, The Boy Who Played with Fusion, tells the story of Taylor Wilson (check out the TED Talks); the book emphasizes what can happen with bright children when parents and educators with an entrepreneurial spirit find ways to match learning experiences with curiosity and intellect.  Taylor Wilson likely would have achieved a nuclear-fusion reaction – but he might not have done it just as he was turning 14 and he might not have been the 32nd person on earth to do so – were it not for Jan and Bob Davidson who created, in 2006, the Davidson Academy on the University of Nevada-Reno campus.  Taylor’s parents enrolled him in this free, public high school when Taylor was 13.  There, he attended classes in the mornings and spent his afternoons in a corner of a physics lab.  And the rest is history.

As I read Clyme’s compelling volume, I was filled with gratitude for my friends and colleagues, Jan and Bob Davidson, who had the remarkable foresight to build an academic institution for the very brightest students and locate the program on a university campus.  Their phenomenal generosity matches their far-reaching vision, which inspires the entire field of gifted educators to find ways to meet the extraordinary needs of outstanding students.

The second publication, hot-off-the-press, is Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students by Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright.  Finn and Wright offer a compelling analysis of American education (institutions such as the Davidson Academy notwithstanding) that challenges anyone who cares about America’s bright, highly-able students to ask questions about the current status of gifted education in the U.S. and around the world.  The next issue of our newsletter will focus more on this volume.  Meanwhile, I ask you: do you care?

If your answer is yes, then I hope you will continue to become informed – with these two books and with the Belin-Blank Center’s new, two-volume publication, A Nation Empowered.  The reason to enroll students in above-level testing and specialized programming, register for professional development, or review the extensive information on our websites is simple enough:  activity is warranted and needed.

Coming to ITAG? Check Out Our IOAPA Presentations!

Governor Branstad has declared October 18-24 Gifted Education Week in Iowa in conjunction with the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association Annual Conference. This year’s ITAG conference will be held in Des Moines, Iowa on October 19-20, 2015 and is focused on the theme of “The Core Challenge: Building Options and Breaking Barriers”. IOAPA and the Belin-Blank Center are excited to share ways that the Belin-Blank Center rises up to the Core Challenge, and have several presentations related to this theme. Check out our presentation topics below (IOAPA presentations are marked with an *). We hope to see you there!

Monday, 10:00-10:50:

  • *Comparing Advanced Placement, Concurrent Enrollment, and PSEO for Iowa Students (Iowa C)
  • Academic Acceleration: Influencing Perceptions through Exposure (Boardroom 1 & 2)

Monday, 11:05-11:55:

  • Building Options with the Belin-Blank Center (Ballroom South)

Monday, 2:35-3:25:

  • *I Have an IOAPA Student…Now What? (Iowa C)
  • A Teacher’s Guide to Twice Exceptionality (Ballroom South)

Tuesday, 2:30-3:20:

  • Acceleration and STEM: Evidence Trumps Excuses for Holding Students Back (Iowa E)

Interested in all the options ITAG has to offer? View more information about the conference here. For more information about IOAPA, visit belinblank.org/ioapa.

Back to School: STEM and Acceleration

This post was originally posted in May, but with the beginning of the school year, we thought it might be helpful to those struggling with placement decisions, particularly in STEM subjects.

Some of the most powerful evidence we have concerning the success of acceleration comes from research done in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas.  For example, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth has conducted many research studies since the 1970’s on exceptionally math talented students who have moved ahead in school at a faster rate than is typical. Other researchers, such as those working with early entrance to college programs and STEM schools, have documented the high level of achievement of students taking advantage of accelerative opportunities.

The picture is positive and clear; students who skip a grade, move ahead in a particular subject, take challenging courses including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program courses, or take advantage of other accelerative opportunities do very well both short- and long-term. As a group, these students are more likely to continue studying advanced math and science throughout their schooling, pursue careers in STEM, and to achieve at higher levels in college and beyond.

Katie McClarty has added to the longitudinal evidence on acceleration with her studies of the impact of acceleration on careers. She examined the careers of people who were in their 40’s.  Those individuals who had been accelerated in school years earlier were more successful, had higher productivity rates, more prestigious occupations, and earned more and increased earnings faster when compared to older students who entered the workforce at the same time (http://researchnetwork.pearson.com/college-career-success/gifted-talented).

Lori Ihrig and Kate Degner contributed to the discussion on acceleration and STEM education with their chapter in the new report, A Nation Empowered (now available as a free download at www.nationempowered.org).  They discuss four common excuses for not accelerating students in STEM subjects and provide parents and educators with evidence to refute those excuses. The bottom line? “Accelerative options are not rushing, they are a means of matching the curriculum to the needs of the student, and they should be thoughtfully selected from the menu of available options…. If developing STEM leadership by mentally engaging and challenging top students in STEM is also an educational goal, then acceleration is critical.” (Ihrig & Degner, 2015, A Nation Empowered).

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Twitter Chat on Acceleration Friday!

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If you’ve never tried to follow a chat on Twitter, here’s your chance!  7 p.m. Eastern 6 p.m. Central on Friday, Sept. 11th. Dr. Ann Shoplik will share information about advocating for acceleration. Suitable for educators and parents. Use #gtchat to follow the conversation live!

Tweet chats are live discussions that take place on Twitter about a pre-determined topic. Tweets related to the discussion are marked with a “hashtag” (a word or phrase preceded by the # sign).

How Do You Decide to Accelerate?

AnnShoplik4b_croppedJoin Belin-Blank Center administrator Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik for a webinar on making decisions about academic acceleration September 16th, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET.  The webinar is free to NAGC members and $29 to non-members.  To register, visit the Webinars on Wednesday page and scroll down to “Acceleration: Making Informed Decisions.”

Have You Seen Our August Newsletter?

It’s hot off the (virtual) presses and full of updates from the Belin-Blank Center: belinblank.org/newsletter

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Graduate Courses in Gifted Education: Online!

NE two booksIt’s time to start thinking about back to school – for you! The Belin-Blank Center offers a variety of courses for teachers, principals, administrators, and others interested in learning more about gifted students.

I am looking forward to teaching the course, Academic Acceleration (course number PSQF:4123:0EXZ) this fall!  It is offered online and is self-paced, so you can work it into your busy schedule.  I encourage you to learn a little bit more about the course and to consider taking it this fall.

About the course. Academic acceleration moves gifted students through an educational program at a faster rate or at a younger age 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 so that the student receives an appropriate education. Appropriate acceleration helps to tailor the educational program to the student.

Academic acceleration has been one of the most debated and misunderstood issues in gifted education. With the publication of recent reports such as A Nation Deceived (2004) and A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (2015) there is increased attention to acceleration, but there is still a resistance to accelerating high ability students.

The underlying philosophy of this course is that all children have the right to learn something new every day. This course will review the scientific basis for when and for whom academic acceleration is appropriate. Different types of academic acceleration and different patterns of intellectual precocity will be reviewed, so consumers of educational and psychological research can make informed decisions about best practices for intellectually talented youth.

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 will include the 20 different 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.

Course format. The course will be taught entirely online. Textbooks and other readings for the course will be provided in an electronic format. There is no additional charge for these materials, although students may choose to purchase a bound copy of the textbook.  Videos and PowerPoint presentations will also be used to deliver course content. Students may choose to complete the course in one or two semesters.

About the professor. Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik is one of the co-authors of the Iowa Acceleration Scale and a co-editor of A Nation Empowered.  She is the Administrator of the Acceleration Institute at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education.

Other online courses offered through the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education include:

  • EDTL:4137 Introduction to Educating Gifted Students
  • PSQF/RCE:4120 Psychology of Giftedness
  • EDTL:4096:0EXW Topics in Teaching and Learning: Educating Gifted Students in Middle School
  • EDTL:4096:0WKA Topics in Teaching and Learning: Gifted and General Education Collaboration

Additional courses are offered.  See http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/educators/Courses/Schedule.aspx for more details and to begin the registration process.

Also, see information about registration as a University of Iowa Continuing Education student, for those who haven’t been enrolled recently:  http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/educators/Courses/Register.aspx

I hope to see you in class!

Best regards,

Ann Shoplik

What About Early Entrance to Kindergarten?

Portal to Another World

Parents who are considering early entrance to kindergarten for their children have a lot of questions! They are certainly concerned whether or not this is the right decision for their child, and they wonder how to make the decision.

1. One of the myths we hear is that precocious preschoolers no longer stand out a few years after they enter school. People might say that the other students “catch up” once they reach 1st or 2nd grade. Do talented 4-year-olds actually plateau in their learning and end up not being that far ahead of their peers?

This question comes up frequently, especially with younger students who are just entering school. In a nutshell, the answer is “no.” Gifted students tend to perform better than average students all the way through school. The caveat here is that they thrive when they are consistently challenged. If left to languish in an under-stimulating classroom, they don’t do as well. Gifted students need a challenging environment, and early entrance to kindergarten might provide just the challenge needed.

2. What types of schools are most receptive to having students skip grades or enter kindergarten early?

 Schools differ remarkably on this, and, unless there is a specific written policy on early entrance to school or grade-skipping in general, the response might depend on the administrator. For example, a school may not have a policy specifically supporting early entrance to kindergarten, but a given principal might be very receptive to the idea and work carefully with families that might need that option.  A huge public school system might have the resources to challenge students effectively, but it might have a policy in place that prevents students from entering school early. A small, under-resourced school with an innovative principal and small classrooms might provide exactly what a student needs. Parents need to spend some time researching the schools in their area and asking questions concerning early entrance to school.  Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered (www.nationempowered.org) is a quick read and provides a lot of information supporting various types of acceleration and is an ideal resource to provide to a busy principal or administrator.

3. How do we figure out if my child should enter kindergarten early?

 There are lots of great resources that can help you with this important decision. First, see the Acceleration Institute website:  www.accelerationinstitute.org. Look for the section for parents (http://accelerationinstitute.org/parents.aspx) and Questions and Answers (http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/QA/).  Also, look at the chapter on whole-grade acceleration and early entrance to kindergarten in Volume 2 of A Nation Empowered (www.nationempowered.org). The book is available for purchase, and it is also available as a free download from the website. There is also a tool specifically designed to help families and schools make good decisions about grade-skipping and early entrance to school, the Iowa Acceleration Scale (http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/IAS.aspx).

4. Is it possible to find schools who will provide a more customized education while allowing my child to be surrounded by age-peers?

 Yes. They might be public, private, or parochial schools. Again, you’ll need to do some research in your area to find the best fit.  Additionally, take a look at acceleration policy information provided here:  http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Resources/Policy/By_State/Default.aspx. It will help to be informed about policies in your state, if you are going to approach a public school with your questions. This article presents data about state cutoff dates for kindergarten entry: http://ecs.force.com/mbdata/mbquestRT?rep=Kq1402

5. What types of questions should we be asking when looking for schools that are the right fit and can accommodate a precocious preschooler?

This website is helpful:  http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/choose_school.htm

In fact, I encourage you to explore the Hoagies gifted website in general. It’s chock-full of information!  See:  Info about early entrance to kindergarten: http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/kindergarten.htm and the Blog Hop on acceleration (the individual stories from families are great!): http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_acceleration.htm

You might also enjoy reading one parent’s experience with early entrance to kindergarten: http://tinyurl.com/kgzlwbo. The author discusses concerns such as physical development and social development. The last paragraph concludes, “One principal I spoke with was honest about this.  ‘We used to test children for kindergarten readiness, but there were too many problems when a child didn’t qualify for kindergarten.  Now we just use a cutoff date.’  Our children deserve better than this.”

Additional Resources

STEM and Acceleration

Some of the most powerful evidence we have concerning the success of acceleration comes from research done in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) areas.  For example, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth has conducted many research studies since the 1970’s on exceptionally math talented students who have moved ahead in school at a faster rate than is typical. Other researchers, such as those working with early entrance to college programs and STEM schools, have documented the high level of achievement of students taking advantage of accelerative opportunities.

The picture is positive and clear; students who skip a grade, move ahead in a particular subject, take challenging courses including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate program courses, or take advantage of other accelerative opportunities do very well both short- and long-term. As a group, these students are more likely to continue studying advanced math and science throughout their schooling, pursue careers in STEM, and to achieve at higher levels in college and beyond.

Katie McClarty has added to the longitudinal evidence on acceleration with her studies of the impact of acceleration on careers. She examined the careers of people who were in their 40’s.  Those individuals who had been accelerated in school years earlier were more successful, had higher productivity rates, more prestigious occupations, and earned more and increased earnings faster when compared to older students who entered the workforce at the same time (http://researchnetwork.pearson.com/college-career-success/gifted-talented).

Lori Ihrig and Kate Degner contributed to the discussion on acceleration and STEM education with their chapter in the new report, A Nation Empowered (now available as a free download at www.nationempowered.org).  They discuss four common excuses for not accelerating students in STEM subjects and provide parents and educators with evidence to refute those excuses. The bottom line? “Accelerative options are not rushing, they are a means of matching the curriculum to the needs of the student, and they should be thoughtfully selected from the menu of available options…. If developing STEM leadership by mentally engaging and challenging top students in STEM is also an educational goal, then acceleration is critical.” (Ihrig & Degner, 2015, A Nation Empowered).

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What Have We Learned from A Nation Empowered?

The goal of A Nation Empowered is to provide parents, educators, and administrators with the evidence and tools needed to make informed decisions about allowing gifted students to move ahead in school. It is a follow-up to the watershed report on acceleration, A Nation Deceived. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups. The focus is on the individual child, and the important question to ask is, “What is best for that student?”

Acceleration comes in at least 20 forms, including grade-skipping, moving ahead in only one subject, Advanced Placement courses, concurrent enrollment in high school and college, distance learning, and curriculum compacting.  For very capable students, no educational intervention is as effective as one of these 20 types of acceleration. Each type of acceleration moves students through an educational program at a faster pace or younger age than is typical. Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Acceleration helps level the playing field between students from schools that have extensive economic resources and schools that are economically disadvantaged. Acceleration is a low-cost intervention that can be implemented in any school.  A Nation Empowered aims to empower readers through evidence and tools to implement a variety of accelerative strategies. These tools are readily available to educators and families.

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!

A Nation Empowered…In Chicago!

Thank you to everyone who celebrated the launch of A Nation Empowered with us at the American Education Research Association Conference in Chicago!

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Celebrating A Nation Empowered

Last week, we held a small celebration at the Belin-Blank Center in honor of the publication of A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students.  The new report is an update to the watershed work initiated by A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students.

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We’ll officially launch A Nation Empowered this weekend at the American Educational Research Association conference in Chicago.  If you’ll be in the area, please join us for our A Nation Empowered reception!

  • Saturday, April 18th, 4-5:30 PM
  • Water Tower, West Tower – Bronze Level
  • Hyatt Regency Chicago, 151 E Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

 

 

A Nation Empowered Goes to Washington

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Susan Assouline and Ann Lupkowski Shoplik presented “From a Nation Deceived to a Nation Empowered” at the annual state affiliate conference sponsored by the National Association for Gifted Children in Washington, DC.  Attendees from 28 states (Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and Hawaii, to name a few) were excited to hear about the new publication, A Nation Empowered, which is due out in just a few weeks!

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They were already familiar with the important information about academic acceleration shared in A Nation Deceived (published in 2004) and were eager for an update.

Susan and Ann explained some of the research findings, including longitudinal studies documenting how successful accelerated students were compared to equally-able non-accelerants.  They shared some of the details about how to make good decisions about accelerating a specific student and described the resources found on the Acceleration Institute website. Participants were especially interested in the resources found in the Educators section and the Policymakers section.

Are you excited for the new report?  Sign up to be notified when the report is available at nationempowered.org!

Message from the Director: Whose Fault Is It?

 

It’s not one person’s fault, but it is everyone’s responsibility.

This was my response to EduTalk radio host Larry Jacobs’s question during a December 2014 interview about A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students. We (Vol. 2 chapter author Dr. Katie McClarty, Mr. Larry Jacobs, and I) were discussing the abundance of evidence supporting the high rate of effectiveness – both short-term and long-term – for the forms of academic intervention broadly known as acceleration and the low rate of implementation when he spontaneously asked: whose fault is it?

My response: it’s no one person’s fault that our brightest students are under-served, which makes it everybody’s responsibility to implement interventions based on evidence.

My response was intended to capture the dedication and commitment of a wonderful team of authors, editors, and contributors who have been working for more than a year on A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students. The wait is almost over! In mid-April, the publication will be out.

Here’s A Nation Empowered by the numbers:

  • 1 original publication: A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students (Colangelo, Assouline, & Gross)
  • 1 team of Belin-Blank Center Staff including administrators, graduate students, and secretaries who pulled together to make this project a reality
  • 1 website: The Acceleration Institute
  • 2 volumes: Volume 1 synthesizes the evidence provided in Volume 2
  • 2 editorial assistants: doctoral students and Belin-Blank Center graduate assistants, Staci Fosenburg and Katherine Schabilion
  • 2 design teams: Benson & Hepker Design and FusionFarm
  • 3 generous gifts that made the publication possible, from Belin-Blank Center Advisory Board members: The Perry Family; The Belin Family; Chuck Peters, CEO of The Gazette Company
  • 4 authors (Nation Empowered, Vol. 1): Susan Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, and Mary Sharp
  • 4 editors (Nation Empowered, Vol. 2): Susan Assouline, Nicholas Colangelo, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, and Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
  • 8 new topics in Nation Empowered, Vol. 2
  • 10 chapters in Nation Empowered, Vol. 1
  • 12 vignettes in Nation Empowered Vol. 1
  • 18 chapters in Nation Empowered Vol. 2
  • 20 forms of acceleration defined Nation Empowered, Vol. 2
  • 30 contributors to Volume 2
  • endless: hours writing, formatting, proofing
  • countless: the number of lives affected by meeting the needs of highly able students

Then – and now – we felt a sense of urgency regarding the value of this intervention and the many excuses for not implementing it. This exact situation is captured beautifully by a comment from the parent of a student in a Vol. 1 vignette:

As intimidating and time-consuming as [advocacy on behalf of our son] was, we were more scared to do nothing.

We agree and that’s why we’ve worked so hard to update the conversation that started in September 2004 with A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students by providing new evidence to trump old excuses. Continue to view the progress of the forthcoming publication, scheduled for mid-April 2015, and tune in to EduTalk in late April for another stimulating discussion.

Meanwhile, check out all of the Belin-Blank Center activities for spring and summer. There can be no doubt that gifted students and their teachers have extensive options through the Belin-Blank Center.