Category Archives: Academic Year Programs

Your 7th-9th Graders Can Take the ACT

pexels-photo-220320.jpegYour 7th-9th graders have a unique opportunity to take the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center; this test is usually given to 11th and 12th graders during the college admissions process. Bright younger students can take it as a way of demonstrating their academic abilities, becoming eligible for academic recognition such as the Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony, and becoming eligible for educational opportunities (such as summer and weekend programs) and scholarships.

Eligible 7th-9th graders will have earned a score at the 95th percentile or above on a core subject of a grade-level test (such as the Iowa Assessments).  Those students have already demonstrated high achievement on grade-level tests and are ready to show what they have learned or are ready to learn by taking an “above-level” test, or one that is designed for older students. A disadvantage of grade-level tests is that they do not accurately measure highly-able students’ abilities; think of it like a yardstick that is too short to measure the extent of their talents. The above-level test essentially lengthens the yardstick and helps us to know more about the students’ abilities and to make sound educational recommendations for them.

The cost for ACT is $70. The next test session is April 14th, and the deadline is March 7th (a late fee is added for those who register after that date).

We encourage educators to let their students know about this unique opportunity.  For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search.

Everything You Need to Know About 2018 AP Exams

With the spring semester well underway, many AP students and teachers are beginning to count down to the big exam. This post will present information about AP Exam logistics, including the schedule, ordering and costs, and exam accommodations. Stay tuned to the blog for a future post on motivating students to take AP Exams.

The Schedule

A full AP Exam schedule is available on the College Board website. A summary of exam dates for IOAPA courses is presented below. All morning exams begin at 8:00am, and all afternoon exams begin at 12:00pm unless otherwise indicated.

AP Biology: Monday, May 14 – Morning
AP Calculus AB: Tuesday, May 15 – Morning
AP Chemistry: Monday, May 7 – Morning
AP Computer Science A: Tuesday, May 15 – Afternoon
AP Computer Science Principles: Friday, May 11 – Afternoon
AP English Language and Composition: Wednesday, May 16 – Morning
AP English Literature and Composition: Wednesday, May 9 – Morning
AP Environmental Science: Thursday, May 10 – Afternoon
AP Macroeconomics: Wednesday, May 16 – Afternoon
AP Microeconomics: Friday, May 18 – Morning
AP Psychology: Monday, May 7 – Afternoon
AP Spanish Language and Culture: Tuesday, May 8 – Morning
AP Statistics: Thursday, May 17 – Afternoon
AP US Government and Politics: Thursday, May 10 – Morning
AP US History: Friday, May 11 – Morning

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Exam Ordering and Costs

Students (generally with advice from teachers, parents, school counselors, or other school personnel) are responsible for deciding whether to take AP Exam(s) for the courses in which they enrolled. Schools are responsible for ordering those exams from the College Board for all students who indicate intent to complete exams. The priority deadline for ordering AP Exams is March 30th. All AP Exams must be ordered no later than April 20, 2018. Orders placed after April 13, 2018, will incur late fees. More information about specific procedures for ordering exams is available from the College Board.

Different states and schools handle exam fees differently. In general, for 2018 exams most students will pay the school $94 per exam. The College Board offers reduced-fee exams for students with financial need; these students generally pay the school $53 per exam. Further information can be found on the College Board website. Additional financial assistance may be available through federal and state funding. Federal funding for AP Exams has changed with the authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act, with funds previously devoted to the AP Test Fee Program now being consolidated into a new Title IV, Part A block grant. Districts and/or states can use these funds to subsidize exam fees for economically disadvantaged students; check with your school to find out what assistance is available in your district.

Exam Accommodations

Students with disabilities who wish to take AP Exams with accommodations must submit a request to the College Board’s Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD). This process changed slightly last year, and you can visit our previous post on this topic for more details. For 2018 exams, requests for accommodations must be made by February 23.

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As the AP Exams approach, keep an eye on our blog and our Twitter (@belinblankIOAPA) for helpful tips!

 

Getting Started With IOAPA Edhesive Courses

Early in the semester, it can be challenging to know how best to get started with IOAPA courses. We’ve put together step-by-step instructions to help anyone who may be struggling to get started. We’d also recommend saving this post for future reference, as it will be useful at the start of each semester.

  1. Register your students through IOAPA.
  2. Look for an email from Edhesive containing specific instructions on setting up your Teacher account and familiarizing yourself with the course materials.
    1. NOTE: If the person who registered the students is not the person who will be mentoring the course, send an email to info@edhesive.com and CC ioapa@belinblank.org explaining the situation. Be sure to include your name, email, and school name. If you know the Section Token assigned to the course(s) you intend to mentor, include that as well.
  3. After you have created and logged into your Teacher account, visit the Help section and click through the Support materials. You may especially want to look at the suggestions regarding course pacing in the “Customizing YOUR Course” section.
    1. We strongly recommend viewing all the support materials, as they are full of information that will maximize your students’ success with Edhesive courses.
  4. Visit the Teacher Forum and set up your Piazza account. See this post for more information on using the Teacher Forum.
  5. Send the step-by-step instructions for enrolling AND the Section Token (both included in the original email from Edhesive) to the registered students so they can enroll themselves in your section of the course.
  6. Verify with students that they are enrolled and can access the course. Return to your Edhesive teacher account and visit the gradebook to ensure that you can see enrolled students’ progress.

Don’t hesitate to contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org with questions. Other useful sources of information related to IOAPA Computer Science courses include the Edhesive Teacher Forum, the Edhesive blog, our IOAPA Twitter account (@belinblankIOAPA), and the Edhesive Twitter account (@TeamEdhesive). Keep following our blog to stay up to date on all things IOAPA!

 

Making Objective Decisions about Students Taking Advanced Courses

As 2017 comes to a close, you may be starting to think about planning for next year. Maybe you have students who have already mastered the classroom curriculum, and you’re not sure how to keep them challenged and engaged. Perhaps your district is trying to identify students who are ready for additional challenge. Or maybe you have students interested in taking advanced courses, but you’re not sure if they would qualify, or what classes they should take. Above-level testing can help with all of these issues.

Looking back on this year, one of our most exciting developments has been the partnership between the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS), our above-level testing program. We’ve rounded up some of the posts we’ve shared over the past several months for use in implementing BESTS and IOAPA for your high ability students.

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

Helping Iowa Teachers Discover Students Who Are Ready for Advanced Online Courses — This post summarizes the connection between BESTS and IOAPA and provides steps for implementation.

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.

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My 4th-6th Grade Students are Taking I-Excel Soon: How Do I Help Them Get Ready? — Guidelines for preparing students for an above-level test are discussed.

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.

Discovering Talented Students: Using Content-Area Scores for IOAPA Eligibility — Specific guidelines for determining eligibility for IOAPA courses are presented here.

Making Sense of Test Scores This post provides an overview of IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration.

We hope these posts are useful as you begin preparing to implement BESTS and IOAPA for the 2018-2019 school year. Feel free to visit belinblank.org/talent-search and belinblank.org/ioapa for more information on the programs, or email assessment@belinblank.org or ioapa@belinblank.org with additional questions.

ICYMI – When IOAPA Staff are Stretched Thin

As you begin to wrap up one semester and plan for the next, we hope this information, originally published in January 2016, will be useful!

In many rural schools, staff take on multiple roles in order to provide a wealth of experiences to their students. However, this often means that teachers are stretched thin in terms of time and resources available for working with students. In many instances, gifted education programs are hardest hit. Gifted coordinators in rural areas often work with students at all grade levels and may not interact with their students every day given the many tasks they have to complete. For our IOAPA schools, this sometimes presents challenges in terms of monitoring student progress, assessing for concerns or difficulties with courses or technology, and working to build relationships where students can ask for help. How can IOAPA coordinators make their program successful despite these constraints?

  • Develop a learning plan with your students. Although most students benefit from clear goals and plans to accomplish them, a learning plan or contract may be particularly useful for IOAPA coordinators filling multiple roles. The learning plan can be used not only to address content or course-specific goals, but also to ask for student input on how you as a site coordinator can best support them and help them meet their goals. Through development of a learning plan with your students, coordinators can know what student goals are for the course as well as strategies that might be useful for success.
  • Plan for check-in daily (even if not face to face). Although online courses encourage students to work independently, it is often still helpful to know that the site coordinators and mentors at their school are available for support. For teachers who many not interact with their students daily, checking in using technology or planning for a regular status update from your students can help you keep tabs on students who may be struggling.
  • Find someone to support your students on-site while they work. If you aren’t available on-site for your IOAPA students’ courses due to scheduling conflicts, make sure that they have someone available to supervise and ensure they are working on their IOAPA coursework. This can range from arranging for students to sit with other teachers during prep periods or study halls or finding teachers to act as mentors (more on that below).
  • Plan for time when students can ask questions. Another key part of supporting your students is ensuring availability for answering questions and providing support even if you do not interact with them regularly. Site coordinators might implement time before or after school for answering questions for their students on a regular basis. Another tool IOAPA site coordinators might use is setting up progress meetings at set points throughout the semester. Progress meetings will allow for face-to-face contact with your students and will help you identify areas in which they might need additional support.
  • Ask an on-site teacher to act as a mentor. Participation in IOAPA requires the establishment of a designated site coordinator and mentor to provide on-site support to your IOAPA students. Although many schools choose to have only one person in these roles, such as the TAG Coordinator, schools can choose to designate a separate mentor or mentors for their IOAPA students. The TAG Coordinator would then take on responsibilities related to the IOAPA site coordinator position while the on-the-ground work would become part of the IOAPA mentor’s duties. For IOAPA site coordinators who fill multiple roles, this can be a good way for a staff member on-site to build a relationship with your IOAPA students and aid in navigating any challenges that students might experience. We recommend considering mentors for your students who:
    • Are available in some way during your IOAPA student’s class time (this might include having students work independently in the classroom while the mentor teaches so that the mentor can check in on them)
    • Are trusted by the mentee. The student may have already developed a relationship with them from previous courses or activities, which can create a system of accountability.
    • Can contribute meaningfully to their IOAPA course due to shared experiences with the student. Although it is not a requirement that a mentor be an expert in the course subject, mentors who can relate personally to the student as well as aid in learning course material can be beneficial when students are feeling struck.
    • Provide feedback with high expectations and belief in abilities. Mentors often act as one of the primary encouragers to their students—by knowing that the mentors are part of their support network, students may be more likely to persist when coursework becomes challenging.

Other ideas and sources of support for IOAPA site coordinators and mentors can be found in the IOAPA Handbook or through participation in the IOAPA Mentor Network. For more about the IOAPA model, visit our website at belinblank.org/ioapa.

Free Fuel for Aspiring Inventors

We’re excited to announce the STEMIE Coalition, the host of the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, have developed a K-12 Youth Invention Curriculum available for use by Invent Iowa teachers!

This comprehensive online invention and entrepreneurship curriculum has been released in beta version, and will be in development for the next few months. Each week, new lesson plans including videos, alignment to standards, activities, and slideshows are added, with material ranging from lasers to a shark tank styled activity. All resources are freely available for you to adapt to meet the needs of your inventors. You can access the free curriculum here: http://www.nationalinventioncurriculum.org/.

Also, be sure to check out information about the 2018 National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE), that will be held at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in June 2018! Winners of the Invent Iowa State Invention Convention will have the opportunity to attend the National Invention Convention funded by Invent Iowa. If you have questions regarding Invent Iowa, please email them to inventiowa@belinblank.org.

Course Resources for IOAPA Mentors

The Iowa Online AP Academy consistently strives to provide the best possible support for our mentors, and we are proud to partner with course vendors who share that goal. Both Apex and Edhesive provide extensive resources to facilitate the use of the course platforms and to promote best practices in online learning. Some of these resources, including a new webinar series for AP Computer Science A, will be described below.

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Edhesive
For our computer science mentors, several course functionalities have been discussed in some detail in previous blog posts, like this one and this one. Edhesive has curated course-specific Support sections, available to each coach (a.k.a. mentor) through their Edhesive dashboard. Support materials in this section include information about teaching in blended classrooms, specific information about course tools such as Code Runner, and resources to guide course pacing to facilitate on-time completion of the material.

In addition to these materials, Edhesive recently presented a series of webinars for AP Computer Science A coaches. The three webinars in this series discuss: getting started with AP CSA; tips, tricks, and tools for using Canvas; and suggestions for maximizing use of the forums. These webinars were recorded, and can be viewed by AP Computer Science A mentors by visiting the Help section (as indicated in the screenshot below) and scrolling to the last module.

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Apex Learning
For the rest of our mentors, Apex Learning offers several methods for obtaining support. In Help Home, which can be accessed from the mentor dashboard, mentors will find Getting Started guides for staff and students, which present information on using the course platform. In addition, there are course-specific syllabi and guides to provide an overview of course content and aid in pacing. Finally, in the Help Home section, mentors can find answers to many “How To” questions concerning the course platform.

Another useful support resource through Apex is the Educator Academy. In this section, you can find video modules and webinars on using different features of the course site, as well as program resources to inform implementation of online learning options at the school level. Some aspects of implementation are guided by participation through IOAPA, but examination of these resources may help guide decisions about school-level policies and practices around IOAPA courses specifically, and online learning in general. In addition, the Educator Academy includes a Community feature in which all teachers of Apex courses can read and pose questions for other teachers and Apex staff.

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We hope the support resources highlighted here can be of assistance. We also have a wealth of support resources on our website, www.belinblank.org/ioapa. Visit the Support Materials section to view the Handbook, our infographics, and other resources for selecting and implementing IOAPA courses. Don’t forget, spring registration for IOAPA opened this week, and classes will fill up quickly. Get the registration process started today!