Category Archives: Academic Year Programs

Best Practices for IOAPA Mentors

Mentors are a key component of the Iowa Online AP Academy model. These individuals may or may not have expertise in the content areas their students are studying, and in most of our courses, mentors are not expected to provide instruction on the course content. (The mentor’s role for AP Computer Science Principles is slightly different; future posts will address this, or you can contact IOAPA staff with questions.) Instead, IOAPA mentors provide support and encouragement for students, assist them in determining where and how to seek help, and monitor progress in course materials and intervene when necessary.

What should I do to be an effective mentor?

  • Build positive relationships with students. According to the University of Minnesota’s mentoring model, checking in with students frequently can promote strong relationships.
    • One study cited in a research synthesis found that “facilitators that are directly working with students day by day are key to the success of the program” and that the physical presence of mentors can motivate students to engage (cited in Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Connect students with resources. Mentors are not expected to have all the answers for students’ questions, but helping them determine where to find support, or how to ask for help, can be beneficial. Check out our blog post on supporting struggling students for more info.
    • This may include serving as a “communication link” between students and their course instructors (Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Communicate with other mentors. Whether for emotional support or professional guidance, your fellow IOAPA mentors are a great resource for new and veteran mentors alike. Check out the IOAPA mentor support network information in the IOAPA Handbook.
  • Encourage healthy work habits. We all need occasional reminders to take breaks and prioritize, and IOAPA students are no exception. Mentors can help students set priorities, schedule time for relaxation, and promote stress management. The University Counseling Service at the University of Iowa developed a list of stress management strategies that may be useful.


Do you have suggestions for other IOAPA mentors? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter using #IOAPA. Also, look out for our mentor survey at the end of the semester to share your thoughts!

IOAPA Spring Dates and Deadlines

Welcome back to another semester of IOAPA! As we all get settled back in for the semester, we wanted to share some important dates and deadlines relevant to IOAPA students and teachers.

  • January 27, 2017: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without a fee.
  • January 31, 2017: Last day to add online/distance learning courses (including IOAPA courses) to your school’s Course Audit.
  • February 17, 2017: Last day to submit disability documentation for students with disabilities seeking accommodations for AP Exams. See this recent post for more on that process.
  • Mid-Spring: Registration for AP Exam Review through IOAPA opens. See our website for more information on available courses and registration.
  • April 14, 2017: Last day to order AP Exams.
  • May 1-15, 2017: AP Exams occur. See the AP Exam Dates page for specific information about your courses.
  • May 6, 2017: IOAPA spring courses end.

Stay tuned for more information about AP Exams, including study strategies and our AP Exam Reviews (available to all Iowa students taking AP courses). o-calendar-facebook

End of the Semester Celebrations

We have made it to the end of another great IOAPA semester! Now is the time to rest, recover, and celebrate accomplishments. Whether your student is new to IOAPA this year, or has participated before, accepting the challenge of above-level coursework and putting forth the effort required to complete it is a huge achievement, and deserves to be recognized.

These celebrations do not have to be large-scale. Something as simple as a note to the student or a message to parents about how hard their child has worked this semester can encourage students to continue seeking the challenge that IOAPA provides and working to achieve success. Note that while getting a high grade is valuable and important, many students benefit more from hearing specific praise about things within their control, like their behavior and effort, than from vague compliments about their grade or their “smarts.”

Often, students taking IOAPA courses are experiencing work that is more challenging than anything else they have encountered. It’s important to talk with students about how they handled any challenges they faced, and how we can support them moving forward. Recognizing their accomplishments is one way to support students on their educational journey.

Don’t forget to celebrate your own hard work, too! Our students couldn’t succeed without the support of the important adults in their lives. Thank you for providing that support!

What If You Started College Next Year?

It’s not too late…but the clock is ticking!

Applications are still being accepted for the Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for students beginning their studies this fall.  If you are a 10th or 11th grader looking to leap forward into the excitement of university life, go to or visit our blog at .


Send Us Your Inventions!

Register your invention to be considered for the State Invention Convention! Registration opens January 16 at


Questions? Email Ashlee at

Accommodations for AP Exams


If you have IOAPA students who receive accommodations at school through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan and are planning to take AP exams, now is the time to start thinking about requesting accommodations through the College Board. The deadline for submitting requests is February 17th, 2017, because the approval process could take up to 7 weeks. (Ugh.)

Good news! The College Board is making this process a lot simpler beginning in January 2017, which means that many students with existing school-based testing accommodations will be automatically approved for AP exam (and other College Board test) accommodations this year. Check out their press release or this Education Week blog post for more information. The tests to which this applies include: all AP® exams, the PSAT™ 10 and PSAT/NMSQT®, and the SAT® and SAT Subject Tests™. In the future, the College Board is also planning to expand accommodations for English learners.

This change also means that now is a great time to consider reevaluating students’ existing accommodations to ensure that they are still appropriate.

To find out more about eligibility, requesting accommodations, and steps to take after approval, visit the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities website. According to their website, most students work with their school counselors to submit these requests, but now is the time to start discussing the process at your school so that everyone is prepared to submit requests after returning from winter break.

Stay tuned for more on motivating students to take AP exams and preparing for exams. Are there other topics you’d like us to blog about? Let us know! Email us at and/or

What Kind of Test Should My Child Take?

Often, we hear from parents and educators who are seeing the signs that children aren’t being challenged, and they’re looking for a way to assess their current level of knowledge so they can make appropriate curricular adjustments.

The Belin-Blank Center offers two major kinds of assessment: above-level testing, and individualized educational assessment.

Above-level testing means giving a test designed for older students to younger students.  For instance, I-Excel consists of 8th grade content, but we administer it to high-ability 4th-6th graders.  Some reasons to consider above-level testing:

  • Parents and/or teachers suspect that the student isn’t being challenged.
  • Parents and/or teachers are looking to understand what level of content the student is ready to learn.
  • The student would like to participate in programs (IOAPA, some summer programs) that require the scores.

And the student should meet the following criteria:

  • Scoring at the 95th percentile or higher on any main subject of a standardized grade-level test.
  • Able to sit still and concentrate for 2 1/2 hours with a short break halfway through.

Learn more about above-level testing through the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS).

Individualized educational assessments are conducted to assist with academic planning.  They involve individual assessment of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant in academic planning decisions.  These assessments are not diagnostic in nature; therefore, they cannot be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.  The results are more detailed than above-level testing, and the cost to complete them is higher.  Some initial reasons to consider an individualized educational assessment include:

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

Individualized educational assessments are available through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.  You can request an appointment with the Clinic using this form.