Category Archives: Acceleration

Acceleration During a Pandemic?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since many students were working remotely from home this spring, parents had the unique opportunity for an up-close view of what happens in school on a regular basis. Perhaps you are one of those parents who was surprised by how quickly your child grasped new material being taught, and now you have a nagging question in the back of your mind:  “Will my child be adequately challenged by his or her school placement in the upcoming school year?”

If you suspect the answer may be “No,” the next question is what would challenge your child appropriately?  Does he or she need to skip a grade?  Move ahead in math?  One of the best tools for gathering evidence for acceleration decisions like these is above-level testing.  We’ve shared the secret of above-level testing here before; briefly, it involves administering a test designed for older students to bright young students in an effort to discover exceptional academic talent. This information helps us to understand what a student is ready to learn and if he or she is ready for the academic challenges presented by a grade skip or subject acceleration.

How do we get started? The Belin-Blank Center and many other university-based talent searches provide above-level testing. Students in 4th-6th grade take I-Excel. Even if your school isn’t currently offering group testing, your child could participate in individual testing using I-Excel. Details about this option are found here. Parents first identify a teacher who is willing to proctor the test, and begins the registration process using this form.  The Belin-Blank Center also provides ACT testing for 7th-9th graders in a group setting. Once the above-level testing is completed, families receive a detailed eight-page report from the Belin-Blank Center explaining the test results and providing additional resources useful in making acceleration decisions.

We understand that these are challenging times, so we want to add that we aren’t trying to put additional stress on families or educators. Instead, we wanted to make sure that those of you who are ready to think about these issues have the tools you need to help inform your decisions. Our goal is to support you.  

You will find much more information and links to decision-making tools and research about acceleration on the Acceleration Institute website, which is provided by the Belin-Blank Center.  The Belin-Blank Center has been a catalyst for research and programming on academic acceleration for the past 30 years. We’re currently working on a new product, the Integrated Acceleration System, which will assist educators and families in working through the process of making decisions about grade-skipping, subject acceleration, early entrance to kindergarten, and early entrance to college. Sign up here if you would like more information about the Integrated Acceleration System as it becomes available.

IOAPA Classes 2020-2021

Welcome to the fall semester for IOAPA courses! During this busy time of year, we don’t want you to forget about some important information related to your IOAPA courses. Here are a few upcoming items for IOAPA.

  • If your students decide the class is not for them, not a problem! Just make sure to drop the course before September 14th to prevent the $350 drop fee. For more information about our drop policies, check out the IOAPA handbook on our website.
  • Check your email for messages from ioapa@belinblank.org. These emails contain important information and deadlines about the upcoming year. If you did not receive these emails, make sure to check your spam / junk folder.
  • Don’t forget: AP Coordinators need to order AP Exams by November 15, 2020! (Click here for instructions and check here for additional deadlines).
  • November 1, 2020: IOAPA spring registration opens. Keep this date in mind, we expect spring enrollment to fill quickly!
  • December 11, 2020: IOAPA fall classes end.

Helpful Tips to Start the Semester

Textbooks: Recommended textbooks for courses on APEX can be found by clicking “Learn more” on the relevant course(s) from the IOAPA course catalog. Edhesive courses do not require textbooks.

Online Support: APEX and Edhesive offer support guides and videos on their websites! Reach out to their customer service with technical questions.

IOAPA & COVID-19: Updated Information about AP Exams

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone. We have created a number of blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one provides updated and key information on how the College Board is navigating the 2020 AP exams. Another blog post provides resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive.  This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources.

As a reminder, the College Board is providing free, remote learning resources and a new at-home testing option for this year’s AP Exams. Also, see Trevor Packer’s presentation regarding the 2020 AP Exam updates and for rationale behind the exam content. Please see below for more details. 

Exam Dates

The College Board surveyed many AP teachers and students, and a majority preferred to test earlier, while the content is still fresh.

  • Exams will be given from May 11–22.
  • Makeup test dates will be available for each subject from June 1–5.
  • Students can take exams at home or in schools, if they reopen.
  • Each subject’s exam will be taken on the same day at the same time, worldwide.
  • View the full testing schedule.

We encourage you to remind your students about exam dates for their courses.

Exam Format

Most exams will have one or two free-response questions, and each question will be timed separately. Students will need to write and submit their responses within the allotted time for each question.

  • Students will be able to take exams on any device they have access to—computer, tablet, or smartphone. They’ll be able to type and upload their responses or write responses by hand and submit a photo via their cell phones.
  • For most subjects, the exams will be 45 minutes long, plus an additional 5 minutes for uploading. Students will need to access the online testing system 30 minutes early to get set up.
  • Certain courses—Art and Design: 2D; Art and Design: 3D; Computer Science Principles; Drawing; Research; and Seminar—will use portfolio submissions and will not have a separate online exam. All deadlines for these submissions have been extended to May 26, 2020, 11:59 p.m. ET. Teachers and students may receive separate course-specific communications.
  • Students taking world language and culture exams will complete two spoken tasks consistent with free-response questions 3 and 4 on the current AP Exam. Written responses will not be required. The College Board will provide additional details in the coming weeks to help students prepare.

Tips for testing on specific devices will be available in late April.

Confronting the Digital Divide

The College Board recognizes that the digital divide could prevent some low-income and rural students from participating. Working with partners, the College Board is investing so these students have the tools and connectivity they need to review AP content online and take the exam. If your students need mobile tools or connectivity, you can contact the College Board directly to let them know by April 24.

Exam Scores and College Credit

As usual, students’ work will be scored by our network of college faculty and AP teachers, and will be reported on a 1–5 scale. The College Board anticipates releasing scores as close to the usual July timeframe as possible.

The College Board is confident that the vast majority of higher ed institutions will award college credit as they have in the past. The College Board has spoken with hundreds of institutions across the country that support our solution for this year’s AP Exams.

Special Benefit for Teachers

To help support teachers and schools that are struggling to collect and score student work for course grades, the College Board will provide every AP teacher with their students’ responses from the online exams by May 26. Administrators and teachers can individually determine whether they’d like to use these results locally as part of a course grade or as a final exam.

Exam Security

Like many college-level exams, this year’s AP Exams will be open book/open note. The exam format and questions are being designed specifically for an at-home administration, so points will not be earned from content that can be found in textbooks or online. However, students taking the exams may not consult with any other individuals during the testing period. The College Board will take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of each exam administration, as they do every year.

The College Board is confident that the vast majority of AP students will follow the rules for taking the exams. For the small number of students who may try to gain an unfair advantage, the College Board have a comprehensive and strict set of protocols in place to prevent and detect cheating. While some of these practices are confidential to maximize their effectiveness, students and education professionals can learn more about our security measures.

At a minimum, test takers should understand that those attempting to gain an unfair advantage will either be blocked from testing or their AP scores will be canceled, and their high school will be notified as will colleges or other organizations to which the student has already sent any College Board scores (including SAT® scores). And they may be prohibited from taking a future Advanced Placement® Exam as well as the SAT, SAT Subject Tests™, or CLEP® assessments.

Remote Instruction and Practice

On March 25, the College Board began offering free live AP review courses, delivered by AP teachers from across the country. The courses have been viewed more than 3.2 million times since they became available. On-demand lessons are now available for Art and Design, AP Capstone™, and Computer Science Principles.

In addition to sharing information about these classes with students, teachers who are providing remote instruction can use AP Classroom for most subjects. The College Board has now unlocked secure free-response questions in AP Classroom so teachers can digitally assign relevant practice questions students can take at home. Additional tips for helping your students practice are available.

Professional Development Opportunities

The College Board will be providing webinars, videos, and other resources to help AP teachers and coordinators leading up to exam day. Coordinators can register for live training on April 10 to learn more about exams.

Additional Information

The College Board has added frequently asked questions to the site so you can find answers to important topics, including information for students with accommodations, details about exam fees and cancellations, credit and placement, calculator policies, and more. The College Board will continue to make updates on the site and share them with you through email, online educator communities, and social media.

Your support is critical to ensuring students have the opportunity to earn college credit and placement. Thank you for all you’re doing during this unprecedented time.

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

IOAPA & COVID-19: Resources

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

APEX Resources

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

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

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

Edhesive Resources

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

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

IOAPA & COVID-19: AP Exams

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

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

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

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

IOAPA: Funding for Spring Course AP Exams

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to continue offering scholarships to pay for the cost of Advanced Placement exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses.

We are now accepting applications for AP exam scholarships for students enrolled in one-term, spring semester courses! As a reminder, the deadline to order all one-term, spring semester AP exams in March 13, 2020.

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors can apply for this funding opportunity by February 21, 2020! For more information and for access to the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding for this application is only available for students who are taking a one-term, spring semester IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) course in the 2019-20 school year.

The per-exam cost for the 2019-20 school year is $64 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools should pay the $64 per student to the College Board. Schools should submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam.

Awards will be announced by March 1, 2020.

As a reminder, the College Board’s new deadline to order one-term, spring semester AP exams is March 13, 2020.

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

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

AP® vs. Concurrent Enrollment

Finding advanced coursework for gifted and high-achieving students is important. You may find yourself questioning where to begin and also wondering what is most beneficial for your student. This post helps to explain the similarities and differences between Advanced Placement® (AP®) and Concurrent / Dual Enrollment.

What is Advanced Placement® and Dual Enrollment?

  • Advanced Placement®  (AP®) is a nationally standardized program administered by the College Board. Students have the option to enroll in a wide range of different courses and take an exam in May. In Iowa, schools also have the opportunity to participate in the Iowa Online AP® Academy, which allows high school students to enroll in online AP® coursework for courses their school may not offer.
  • Concurrent Enrollment is an initiative offered by the state of Iowa that allows high school students to enroll in community college courses while still in high school.

How do credits transfer?

  • Advanced Placement®: Passing an AP® exam with a score of 3 or higher generally allows students to earn either advanced standing or course credit for entry-level college courses, depending on the university’s requirements. That is, students may obtain required elective credits or course credits (as if the student had taken and passed the course at the university) for entry-level college courses. For example, at the University of Iowa, receiving a 4 or higher on the AP® Biology exam gives you credit for a specific entry-level biology course (BIOL:1140 Human Biology) that might apply towards your degree.
  • Concurrent Enrollment: Generally, if students pass their class with a C- or higher, they receive college credit. However, this credit may or may not transfer to their post-secondary institution of choice. For example, per University of Iowa policy: Course work earned at a two-year college may be applied toward up to one-half the credits required for a bachelor’s degree. Excess credit and grades will be used in computing your grade-point average (GPA) and may be used to satisfy course requirements, but they will not count toward the total hours needed for graduation from the university.

What does the research say?

A body of research has consistently demonstrated that taking AP® exams and achieving at least a 3 or higher is correlated with greater success in various ways in college. Specifically, a recent study (Wyatt, Patterson, & Giacomo, 2015) found that AP® students who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP® exam had more positive college outcomes than dual enrollment students affiliated with a 2- or 4-year institution.

There is also much research suggesting that participation in AP® courses alone, without taking/passing AP® exams, is still beneficial for students attending college. This speaks to the concept of “college prep” and coincides with anecdotal responses from Iowa teachers that students were prepared for college courses and the students felt that college expectations were below the expectations for AP® courses!

For more information about the history of AP® and future initiatives, check out this podcast.

What does the Iowa Online AP® Academy offer?

The IOAPA framework works with your high school curriculum so that you can take advanced classes (i.e. Advanced Placement® courses) that are of interest to you. In addition, AP® courses are nationally recognized as a way to earn college course credit at many colleges and universities across the nation. Finally, as an online program, IOAPA also offers flexibility that traditional courses may not in terms of scheduling, as well as practice with online course formats.

Will Iowa Online AP® Academy courses prepare students in the same ways as traditional AP® courses?

IOAPA students who take the AP® exam generally perform just as well as, if not better than, students who participate in traditional AP® courses.  Students who enroll in IOAPA courses also tend to successfully complete them—during the 2018-2019 school year, the completion rate for IOAPA high school courses was 93.3%, and of those students, 89.5% successfully passed their course.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about IOAPA by visiting our website. The University of Iowa’s AP® credit policy is here, or you can visit the College Board’s AP® Credit Policy database for the policies of other colleges and universities. You can also read about the state of Iowa’s Senior Year Plus initiative for more specifics on earning college credit in high school.

IOAPA: Semester Check-In

We are now over half way through the fall semester! We wanted to take the time to provide the IOAPA community with some resources that may be helpful for finishing the semester, as well as provide you with reminders and upcoming dates and deadlines.

There have many changes and added resources to AP® courses. Are you aware of all of these?

These changes have been implemented to make your role more streamlined from registration, to exam ordering, to test day.

  1. Click here to access a handout is quick guide to the new changes to AP® for AP® Coordinators.
  2. Click here for access to the AP® Coordinators Manual Part I (Part II will come out in March). This manual includes:
    1. What is new for 2019-2020
    2. 2020 AP® Exam schedule
    3. Exam ordering policies and deadlines
    4. Instructions about new exam registration and ordering processes

AP® Exam Registration and Ordering

Do you have questions with the new AP® Exam ordering process?

You will use your AP® student roster to update exam ordering information, including SSD accommodations, for each student. For more information, click here to watch a quick and helpful video from the College Board and click here for more detailed instructions.

What about my students who will only enroll in a one-term, spring semester course?
  • When students get enrolled into their spring semester courses with IOAPA, the AP® Coordinator will create the exam only sections for those students. There should not be a need to denote those sections as “second semester.”
  • APEX and Edhesive will enroll those students into “second semester” AP® Classroom sections on the College Board site.
  • When the school’s AP® Coordinator orders the exams for the one-term, spring semester students, the AP® Exam registration deadline is March 13, 2020.

Why did the College Board switch to ordering AP® Exams in the fall semester?

The College Board implemented a pilot program for fall AP® exam registration that included more than 800 schools and 180,000 AP® students in the fall of the 2018-2019 school year. Below is what the College Board noticed:

  • Students and teachers reported the students were more invested, committed, engaged, and focused.
  • When students register for the AP® Exam in the fall, 15% more students completed the exam.
  • Students’ chances of earning a 3 or higher increase when compared to students in schools with spring registration.
  • There was a 12% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by minority students, and a 20% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by low-income students.
AP® Exams Taken by Low-Income Students: Scores of 3+

For more information on the pilot study, click here, and click here to watch a short video to hear the experiences of teachers and students in the pilot study.

Reminder: The final deadline to order AP® Exams for fall registration is November 15th, 2019!

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!

IOAPA: Continued Funding for AP Exams

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce the availability of scholarships to pay for the cost of Advanced Placement exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses.

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors: Make sure to apply for this funding opportunity by October 15! For more information and for access to the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding is only available for students who are taking or have taken an IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) course in the 2019-20 school year.

The per-exam cost for the 2019-20 school year is $64 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools should pay the $64 per student to the College Board. Schools should submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam.

Awards will be announced by November 1, 2019.

As a reminder, the College Board’s new deadline to order AP exams is November 15, 2019.

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

2019: IOAPA + Edhesive

IOAPA has been providing computer science courses to students across Iowa since 2015! We are able to offer these opportunities because of our partnership with Edhesive, an online curriculum provider. Whether you are new to using Edhesive or have a few years of experience, it is always helpful to refresh with important tips and information, as well as changes within the online course provider! We hope this blog post serves as a resource for teachers mentoring for computer science IOAPA courses.

IOAPA Mentors’ Role:

Since Edhesive is not a credit-bearing institution, mentors will serve as the teacher of record at each school. Mentors and schools also decide how involved they want to be when offering Edhesive courses. However, mentors are responsible for the following six items:

  1. Setting up your course: Follow this link to learn how you can divide your course into grading periods and change/update student names in your gradebook.
  2. Helping students enroll: Follow this link to assist your students in enrollment, add/remove students, and adding a second course for a student.
  3. Provide access codes to students: Follow this link to know where all the quiz and exam access codes can be found.
  4. Monitor student performance and progress: Follow this link to learn how you can view the “Course Access Report” to see what course items your student has viewed, participated, along with when these were viewed or completed, and to view overall activity, assignment submissions, grades, and quiz and exam statistics!
  5. Transfer students’ grades in Edhesive to your school’s transcript: Follow this link to learn how to download the grades from your online Edhesive gradebook to your computer as a CSV file.
  6. Complete the AP Course Audit with the College Board: Follow this link to learn how to complete the AP Course Audit for AP Computer Science A and AP CS Principles. AP Computer Science Principles mentors must also create a Digital Portfolio with the College Board.

Supports & Resources

Edhesive has recently created new onboarding videos for Edhesive teachers! These serve to provide a short introduction to getting started on and using the Edhesive platform. There are 25 short videos, totaling only 30 minutes to show you everything you need to know about getting started with your Edhesive courses. Click here to access the Edhesive Onboarding Videos. For additional tutorials and guides, mentors can visit the Help Center or email support@edhesive.com.

The teachers listed in the course (Rebecca Dovi and Becky Stacey) do not interact with students. If students have questions, they should ask their IOAPA mentor or utilize the Student Forums for additional support with their coursework.

Similarly, if mentors need support you can connect to Edhesive teaching assistants (TAs) and other teachers through the Teacher Forums.

IOAPA Classes 2019-2020

We are just over a week into the fall semester! During this busy time of year, we don’t want you to forget about some important information related to your IOAPA courses. To keep you in the loop, here are a few upcoming items for IOAPA.

  • If your students decide the class is not for them, not a problem! Just make sure to drop the course before September 13th to prevent the $350 drop fee. For more information about our drop policies, check out the IOAPA handbook on our website.
  • Check your previous emails from ioapa@belinblank.org, as these emails contain important information and deadlines about the upcoming year. If you did not receive these emails, make sure to check your spam / junk folder.
  • Don’t forget: New to Fall 2019, AP Coordinators need to order AP Exams by November 15, 2019! (Click here for instructions and check here for additional deadlines).

Helpful Tips to Start the Semester

Textbooks: Recommended textbooks for courses on APEX can be found by clicking “Learn more” on the relevant course(s) from the IOAPA course catalog. Edhesive courses do not require textbooks.

Online Support: APEX and Edhesive offer support guides and videos on their websites! Also, feel free to reach out to their customer service with technical questions.

Make Your Time Spent Testing More Meaningful

“We spend too much time testing!”

This is a refrain we’ve often heard. Parents and teachers are frustrated by the amount of instructional time “wasted” on standardized testing, especially if they can’t see how the information can be used to plan instruction. Why would we recommend adding more testing to your busy schedule?

Above-level testing provides an opportunity for academically talented students to showcase what they can do. Picture the typical gifted student: he or she takes the grade-level test and gets extremely high scores. The student gets everything right, or almost everything right. Those scores are more likely to elicit a response of “good job!” rather than specific educational recommendations tailored to the student.

Imagine, though, that our student is given the opportunity to take a harder test, one that offers the chance to show his or her extensive level of knowledge… a test that results in a detailed report specifying the types of educational opportunities that would benefit this student.  This opportunity is available through above-level testing.

The Belin-Blank Center (and other university-based talent search centers) offers above-level testing using I-Excel for 4th-6th graders and the ACT for 7th-9th graders. It’s easy to get started with this process, and the Belin-Blank Center staff is available to help you through it.

 What can you do with the test results? Discover the students who need additional challenge in school, highlight the students who might benefit from being grouped together for instruction in math (for example), and determine which students might benefit from subject acceleration or grade skipping.

Ready to get started? Email assessment@belinblank.org, and we’ll walk you through the process!

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

I Think My Child Needs to Skip a Grade

Recently, we received this email:

My son just finished second grade. I think he needs to skip a grade and start fourth grade in the fall.  We are looking for help in requesting a whole grade skip.  I have learned that acceleration is not mandated in my state. How should we start? Is there a formal way of putting in my application?

The Belin-Blank Center doesn’t provide a formal application for acceleration that will work in every state, but we can give you some direction to get you started.

First, learn about the policies in your state and your school or district. Are there policies regarding acceleration on the state or local level?  A good place to begin is the policy page on the Acceleration Institute website.

Gather some information about acceleration, so you have an understanding of the research and how acceleration can be used with gifted students. Over the last 70 years, an impressive body of research has been built up that demonstrates that acceleration is an effective tool for challenging gifted students. An excellent place to start learning about that is A Nation Empowered. Volume 1 includes an overview of acceleration and is suitable for sharing with busy administrators and others who might be looking for a summary on acceleration. Volume 2 includes the research behind this option.  This research demonstrates that acceleration helps gifted students to maximize their academic potential; it also shows that acceleration does not cause a negative impact on social/emotional development.

Keep the lines of communication open. Meet with your child’s teacher, gifted coordinator, and/or principal. Learn about the options in your school. Share with them your concerns about ensuring your child is challenged in school. Understand that these professionals might not have been exposed to much information about acceleration in their training, so some of the information you have discovered might be new to them.

Go through the decision-making process. If a student is a candidate for a whole-grade skip, we advocate using the Iowa Acceleration Scale. This tool was developed specifically to address this question and helps families and educators to work together to consider aspects of development that are important in a decision about grade skipping. These include the student’s ability, aptitude, and achievement, as well as developmental factors, physical and social development, and support from the school and family.

Alternatively, or perhaps in addition to a conversation about a whole grade skip, you might think about subject acceleration. Moving ahead in one or more subjects might be the best alternative for a student who isn’t ready for a whole grade skip or has already skipped a grade, but needs additional challenge in a particular subject. An important tool for this discussion is above-level testing.

No discussion of acceleration is complete without considering social development—this is typically the first concern people mention when we start discussing any type of acceleration, especially grade-skipping.  Research shows that carefully selected students who accelerate do just fine socially. There might be a short adjustment period for the student, but the students typically adjust just as well socially or somewhat better socially than their chronologically older grade-mates. These students fit in just fine.

After collecting the appropriate data and participating in thorough discussions with educators and administrators, you should come to a consensus about what is the best decision for your child. Whatever the decision is now, remember that you might need to revisit it again in the future. A student who skips a grade now might need additional acceleration at some later point, or a student who isn’t accelerated now might need acceleration in the future. Also, remember that acceleration doesn’t solve all issues around challenging talented students.  Your child might still benefit from academic summer programs, additional enrichment in school, concurrent enrollment, individually-paced instruction in a strength area, etc. The goal is to challenge the student systematically throughout the school years.

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.

See www.accelerationinstitute.org for more evidence. 

The 2019 Iowa AP Index

The Belin-Blank Center is excited to announce the release of the 2019 Iowa AP Index!

The Iowa AP Index was developed in 2005 by the University of Iowa College of Education’s Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. The Iowa AP Index serves to recognize the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities to Iowa’s high school students.

The Iowa AP Index provides a measure of AP opportunities. The AP Index is the ratio of AP Exams taken by students to the number of graduating seniors. A high AP Index indicates a school has developed a culture that encourages students to take AP courses and exams. Schools with index scores in the top 50 are publicly recognized for their commitment to providing AP opportunities. Schools that are not in the top 50 are notified separately regarding their index ranking. 

This year, Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf is the top Advanced Placement school in Iowa, according to the Iowa AP Index.

In previous years, Rivermont Collegiate was classified as a Specially Accredited College Preparatory School in the Iowa AP Index. However, Rivermont Collegiate is accredited by the Iowa Department of Education, and therefore is no longer considered specially accredited. Rivermont Collegiate is now recognized with the accredited public and nonpublic schools in the Iowa AP Index.

The top 10 schools in the 2019 Iowa AP Index behind first-place Rivermont (index of 4.71) are:

2. Valley High School (West Des Moines, index of 2.70)

3. Valley Lutheran High School (Cedar Falls, index of 2.55)

4. Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, index of 2.48)

5. West Senior High School (Iowa City, index of 2.26)

6. John F. Kennedy High School (Cedar Rapids, index of 2.23)

7. George Washington High School (Cedar Rapids, index of 2.10)

8. Wahlert Catholic High School (Dubuque, index of 1.91)

9. Muscatine High School (Muscatine, index of 1.88)

10. Iowa City High School (Iowa City, index of 1.86)

Magnet Schools: We also want to give a special recognition to Des Moines Central Academy (index of 2.63), which is not ranked with the Iowa public and nonpublic schools.

To view the top 50 AP schools in Iowa, visit www.iowaapindex.org.

Are You Thinking about Early Entrance to College? This May Be the Time to Take the ACT

The Belin-Blank Center frequently recommends above-level testing for academically talented students because it gives students the opportunity to “show what they can do” and demonstrate their abilities on a test that was developed for older students. This is a common-sense approach to discovering academically talented students. These students have already performed very well on grade-level tests, and they need a greater challenge to demonstrate their aptitudes fully.

Using a grade-level achievement test to measure the aptitudes of an academically talented student is kind of like using a 3-foot yardstick to measure someone who is 5 feet tall. The grade-level yardstick isn’t long enough to measure the student’s height accurately. By giving a student a test that was developed for older students (an above-level test), we are making our yardstick longer and helping to learn more precise information about the student’s capabilities.

The ACT, the test that many students take in 11th or 12th grade as part of the college admissions process, has been used since the 1980s to discover students who are ready for greater academic challenges. We recommend that 7th-9th grade students who have already performed very well on grade-level achievement tests (such as the Iowa Assessments) be encouraged to take the ACT. They can take this test through any one of the university-based talent searches, including the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.

What can you do with the information? Scores on the ACT can be used to qualify students for a wide variety of programs, including programs offered by the Belin-Blank Center. An important opportunity selected students might also consider is early entrance to college. The Belin-Blank Center hosts the Bucksbaum Academy, which is an early entrance to college program for students who have completed 10th or 11th grade. We recommend that 9th graders who are interested in considering early entrance to college take the ACT in June or in the fall of 10th grade.

If your student is a 9th grader this year, it’s not too early to think about taking the ACT. Students can take the test in June and receive their scores during the summer. This information can then be included in the admissions packet submitted to the University of Iowa. It’s important to note that applicants to the Bucksbaum Academy must take the ACT or SAT by November of their 10th grade year in order to be considered for some University of Iowa scholarships.

Even if your academically talented 7th-9th grade students aren’t thinking that early entrance to college is in their future, we still encourage them to take the ACT. Taking this test at a young age provides bright students with many advantages: (1) more information about their aptitudes, (2) opportunities to qualify for a variety of summer and school-year programs, (3) the chance to try out a fun challenge, and (4) for students earning outstanding scores, the opportunity to be recognized in a formal recognition ceremony at the University of Iowa.

Introducing the Iowa AP Index Archive

It’s officially spring, which means we are getting closer to releasing the 2019 Iowa AP Index! The Iowa AP Index serves to recognize the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities to Iowa’s high school students.

The Iowa AP Index provides a measure of AP opportunities. The AP Index is the ratio of AP Exams taken by students to the number of graduating seniors. A high AP Index indicates a school has developed a culture that encourages students to take AP courses and exams. Schools with index scores in the top 50 are publicly recognized for their commitment to providing AP opportunities. Schools that are not in the top 50 are notified separately regarding their index ranking. 

Do you ever wonder about the history of your school’s participation in AP, or the history of AP in Iowa? The Belin-Blank Center has released the Iowa AP Index since 2005, which means there is quite a collection of data of how AP opportunities have evolved in various schools throughout the state!

This year, were are introducing an updated Iowa AP Index Archive.  This archive shares data from the last 12 years. The Iowa AP Index Archive provides information about Iowa’s average AP Index, and also provides a directory of the schools who ranked in the Top 50 from 2005 to 2017.

Check out the AP Index Index Archive, here! Also, keep an eye on this page for the 2019 AP Index to be released later this spring.

Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute (APTTI)

Are you starting to make summer plans? Don’t forget to add the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute (APTTI) into your summer schedule! This professional development opportunity takes place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019. Registration is now open!

APTTI is a College Board approved Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also support current teachers of AP courses seeking to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course.

“It [APTTI] not only provided me the opportunity to gain an understanding of AP-teaching, but I gained resources and new ideas that I now apply to all of my classes. “

“The training was invaluable…I find myself continually going back to my notes, looking at the resources I obtained at the training, and even emailing the facilitator who still quickly responds to me even though it has now been 2.5 years. I would not be as successful in my classroom had it not been for this training.”

Funding

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI. (Participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 (more than 80%) of the $550 registration fee.  Click here to learn more and click here to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2019. 

Academic Credit

Teachers who register for APTTI may pursue additional opportunities for graduate-level academic credit and/or Iowa licensure renewal units (additional fees and registration required). University credit is NOT included in the cost of APTTI. Click here to learn more about academic credit options!

Apply today here, and email us at aptti@belinblank.org with any questions or concerns.

Changes to AP: Beginning Fall 2019

The College Board is implementing some changes and new resources for Advanced Placement (AP) courses! These changes and resources are to provide better support throughout the school year, and to give students the best opportunity to succeed on AP exams. For more information on these changes, click here.

Beginning August 1 2019, AP teachers and students will have access to a variety of new online classroom resources.

What’s new:
  1. AP teachers and students will complete a short digital activation at the start of the year. Students and teachers will then have access to new online classroom resources!
  2. Schools will need to order AP exams by new deadlines in October and November. The College Board hopes that once students commit to the exam, they will more readily invest themselves in their classes.
  3. Classroom resources such as AP question banks, a performance dashboard, and unit guides will be available online.
What will stay the same:
  1. Exams administration during the first two full weeks in May
  2. Exam fee and exam fee reduction
  3. Scores will be reported on usual timelines

Follow us on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA to stay updated on all Iowa Online AP Academy and AP news!

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

IOAPA: Funding for AP Exams

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce the availability of scholarships to pay for the cost of Advanced Placement exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses.

sar printmaking 2018-8

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors: make sure to apply for this funding opportunity by February 15th! For more information and for access to the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding is only available for students who are taking or have taken an IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) course in the 2018-19 school year.

The per-exam cost for the 2018-19 school year is $53 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools should pay the $53 per student to the College Board. Schools should submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam.

Awards will be announced by March 1, 2019.

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

Discovering Students Who Are Ready for IOAPA Courses

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities.

With the frigid cold and many snow days, it may be difficult to think about this fall. However, right NOW is a great time set up above level testing with I-Excel. Your students’ above-level testing scores are needed to inform eligibility for fall 2019 IOAPA courses.

 There are four basic steps for participation in BESTS:
  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90th percentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing.
  • Notify the students identified in Step 2 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  • Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. Note that if you have 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing, they will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/talent-search for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s).
  • Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

Email assessment@belinblank.org or ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions.

IOAPA: Spring Dates & Deadlines!

We want to help you keep on track for 2019! Here are all of the important dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses for the spring semester.

  • January 25, 2019: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee. (Note: Per the IOAPA drop policy, these fees are waived for students in middle school and computer science courses.)
  • January 31, 2019: Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2018-2019).
  • February 22, 2019: Deadline for submitting testing accommodations requests for students with disabilities who plan to take AP Exams. See our post about the changes to this process that took effect in January 2017.
  • March 13, 2019: Deadline for pre-administration materials for AP Computer Science Principles.
  • March 29, 2019: Deadline to order 2019 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2019: Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 10, 2019: IOAPA spring courses end.
  • May 6-17, 2019: AP Exams are administered. A complete schedule of exam dates is available on the College Board website.

Ordering AP Exams

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. 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 2019 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.

The Belin Blank Center is pleased to announce that we are offering a new funding opportunity to pay for the cost of AP exams for low-income students in rural schools.  Stay tuned for more information, coming soon!

Follow IOAPA on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA for reminders about deadlines, as well as other useful information to support mentors and students.

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

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

The new publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Whole Grade, Early Entrance, and Single Subject is now available online. This publication, a project of the Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children and also endorsed by The Association for the Gifted, is an update of the Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy, which was published in 2009.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies uses current research and practical considerations of school-based issues to guide decision-making. It includes recommended elements of whole-grade acceleration policies, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade policies, and subject-acceleration policies. Each section includes a checklist of items to consider while developing those specific policies. The information provided is supported by recent research.  Lists of resources are also included.  Download your copy of the publication from the Acceleration Institute website.

Additionally, if your school, district, or state has an acceleration policy that you would like to share with others (via the Acceleration Institute website), be sure to share your acceleration policy here. Thank you!

Subject-Specific Gifted Services?

An individual recently posted on the Belin-Blank Center teachers’ listserv:

“I’m wondering if anyone identifies and provides services based on specific subjects instead of just overall scores? I am hoping to figure out how to best serve our students.”

If you’re a teacher, you can probably think of several examples. Perhaps “Luisa” shows high potential in math but not in language arts (e.g., Iowa Assessments scores in the 99th percentile in math, but in the 70th-85th percentiles in reading and vocabulary).  In contrast, perhaps “Elizabeth” demonstrates strengths in language arts (reading at the 98th percentile, vocabulary 95th percentile), but not in math (math total 65th percentile).

These two students demonstrate strengths compared to other students in their respective grade levels and would likely benefit from some additional challenges during the school day. When the gifted program in a school is developed for the “all-around” gifted student, however, students like Luisa and Elizabeth might be overlooked and might not receive any differentiated services. Maybe these students don’t need all of the services provided by a traditional gifted program, but they would certainly benefit from being challenged in their strength areas.

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.

How do we go about this? You might start by thinking of gifted education as a continuum of services or a smorgasbord of opportunities available to your students. These services might include pull-out classes in specific subjects (reading groups or math groups, for example), subject acceleration, ability grouping for part of the day, honors classes, etc. Other services that may offer appropriate challenges might include participation in contests or competitions as well as doing independent study projects.

Thinking about gifted education in this way helps us to shift our focus from “Who are the gifted students in our school?” to “Which students demonstrate talent in specific areas and how might we help develop those talents?”  It’s all about trying to find the best ways to serve our students.

If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy reading Beyond Gifted Education: Designing and Implementing Advanced Academic Programs by Peters, Matthews, McBee, &McCoach (2014, published by Prufrock Press).

IOAPA for Middle School: It’s Time to Prepare for Above-Level Testing!

We are nearing the end of 2018! Although there are many fun and stressful end-of-year activities and holidays approaching, we encourage you to think about planning for 2019 Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) coursework. The best way to do so for middle school students is to start with above-level testing. Above-level tests can provide essential information for determining whether a student is ready for additional challenge. If you have students in your classroom who have mastered the curriculum, or you are unsure of how to keep some students challenged and engaged, you may want to consider above-level testing.

For instance, IOAPA is partnered with the Belin-Blank Exceptional Students Talent Search (BESTS), our above-level testing program. This partnership helps connect students with appropriate assessment and educational opportunities. Check out this blog post for instructions on getting started with above-level testing, or this one for recommendations on using scores to inform eligibility for advanced coursework.

PRSI Classroom 2018-2

As always, contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions!

IOAPA: Helping Students’ Stress

If you can believe it, we are nearing the end of the semester! Students may feel pressure from upcoming or past due assignments, projects and tests for their IOAPA courses. Helping students to recognize and manage their stress is an important skill that will continue to help them in their education path and future career. 

Identifying stressed students is important, particularly because in 2013, teens reported their stress level to be higher than levels reported by adults.  Students’ stress often looks different from a typical adult’s stress. The American Psychological Association (APA) released an article to help adults identify signs of stress in children and teenagers.  Some helpful tips to identify their stress include:

Watch for negative changes in behavior, as adolescents may have a difficult time recognizing when they are experiencing stress and verbalizing it . Understand that “feeling sick” may be caused by stress, because stress can appear as physical symptoms such as stomachaches and headaches. Be aware of how your child or teen interacts with others, as children may act out in other settings when they do not feel like themselves. Therefore, communicating with teachers or parents can provide a better understanding and more context of your child’s interactions. Listen to what the student is saying, as increased negative self-talk may be a sign of stress, and always seek additional support if necessary. 

BSI Global & Cultural Studies 2018-6

In 2013, teens reported increased stress when they did not get enough sleep. Further, 20% of teens reported exercising less than once a week or not at all, and 39% reported skipping a meal due to stress. Parents and teachers can model healthy coping strategies to manage stress, and encourage students to exercise, eat well, and sleep!

For additional resources, see:

7 Tips for Helping Your Child Manage Stress

12 Tips to Reduce your Child’s Stress and Anxiety

Bethune, S. (2014). American Psychological Association survey shows teen stress rivals that of adults. American Psychological Association (202), 336-343.

 

 

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Governor Reynolds declared the month of October to be Gifted Education Awareness Month. The Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) proposed many activities to celebrate giftedness in your school and district! Here on our blog, we revisited some of your all-time favorite posts all month long. 

First, we encouraged you to think about who your talented students are and what they need to stay challenged and engaged at school. Then, we gave away the best-kept secret in gifted education and shared why we should all be advocates for academic acceleration. Finally, we discussed educational assessments, including twice-exceptional assessments, and explained when and for whom they might be helpful.

Although October is coming to a close, we know that for advanced learners, and their families and educators, every month is gifted education awareness month. To carry you forward from here, we are sharing some of our most helpful resources. We hope you can return to these again and again as you continue to advocate for your own gifted students. 


Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 1.25.34 PMA Nation Deceived, published in 2004, is still relevant today. It highlights disparities between the research on acceleration and the educational beliefs and practices that often run contrary to the research. We highly recommend Volume 1, which contains responses to common myths about acceleration.

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The update to that publication, A Nation Empowered, came out in 2015. You can download the free pdf here or obtain a paper copy or Kindle version here. Volume 1 contains many stories about acceleration, and those seem to resonate with people. Volume 2 contains the up-to-date research supporting acceleration.

The Acceleration Institute website has many, many resources on academic acceleration for parents, educators, policy makers, and researchers.

20 Forms of AccelerationWhen most people think of acceleration, they think of either skipping a grade or moving ahead in a particular subject. But did you know there are at least 20 different types of acceleration within the broad categories of grade skipping and subject acceleration?

Thinking about early entrance to kindergarten? These resources will be helpful.

What about early entrance to college? Start here and then head over to the Bucksbaum Academy website.

How do you make an informed decision about skipping a grade? The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a highly recommended tool.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.07.28 PM.pngDo you have a talented math learner? Be sure to check out the book, Developing Math Talent, by Susan Assouline & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik (published by Prufrock Press, 2011). Build student success in math with the only comprehensive parent and teacher guide for developing math talent among advanced learners of elementary or middle school age. The authors offer a focused look at educating gifted and talented students for success in math.

To help answer questions about which students are ready for subject acceleration, consider investigating I-Excel, an online, above-level test for high-ability 4th-6th graders. I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format.

If you’re wondering whether your child is ready to be accelerated, these tips for parents can help guide you. This Tip Sheet from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) will also be helpful.

Does your school need to create or update its policy on academic acceleration? Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy are available in a free download. This document supports schools in creating a comprehensive and research-based acceleration policy that is compatible with local policies. (And be sure to keep an eye out for an update to this publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Single Subject and Whole Grade, in late 2018!)

If you’re a fan of podcasts, you can listen to Dr. Ann Shoplik talking about acceleration on Mind Matters, and Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon discussing twice exceptionality on Bright Now by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY). Or check out our own podcast, The Window, and listen to our founder, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, engage thought leaders on issues relating to maximizing human potential and directing talent toward a larger social good.Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.08.59 PM

We know that TAG educators can sometimes feel a bit isolated from their other colleagues in gifted education. If you are looking for a group of like-minded professionals and experts to connect with and share ideas, be sure to subscribe to the Gifted Teachers’ Listserv.

Connect with your state and national organizations, the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). The Iowa Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented webpage also has helpful resources and information about important legislation affecting gifted education. Not in Iowa? Find information about your state gifted association, statistics, and policies concerning gifted education here.

For a comprehensive look at all things gifted education, grab a cup of coffee and settle down to peruse Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development’s database.  The Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop on acceleration was so excellent, it was offered a second time (with fresh content) in “Acceleration, Again.”

Follow our own @AnnShoplik and @LCroft57 on Twitter, who often tweet about topics related to acceleration and gifted education, and read through the hashtags, #nationempowered#gtchat, and #gifteded.

And finally, be sure to connect with the Belin-Blank Center on social media (you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated all year long!

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?

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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.

IOAPA: Spring Registration Opens Soon

Spring registration for Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) courses open November 1st and will close December 7th, 2018, or when seats fill, whichever comes first. There are limited seats in each course, and we expect them to fill up fast. Be sure to register as soon as you can! 

As a reminder, IOAPA courses are intended for cases in which the course can not currently be offered through the school district (or, in the case of middle school students, the course is not offered at the student’s grade level). Schools that offer a course on-site are not eligible to offer that course through IOAPA.

Available courses for high school students for spring 2019 include: AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, and AP US Government. 

Available courses for middle school students for spring 2019 include: Creative Writing, Introduction to Computer Science, Probability and Statistics, Psychology, and Honors U.S. History to the Civil War.

SSTP Musselman Lab 2018-5

For guidance in making course selection decisions, check out our high school and middle school course infographics here!

To register on November 1st, visit our website! 

Specifics: 

  • If your school registered with IOAPA in the fall, there is no need to re-register the school. Just click “Enroll Your School” on our website, and you will be redirected to the student nomination step.
  • Students enrolled in year-long classes will be automatically enrolled in the second semester of their course, unless they inform us that they would like to drop, or receive a failing grade for the fall term. For a step-by-step registration guide, check out this post.
  • Middle school students interested in enrolling in IOAPA courses should take an above-level test to determine eligibility: 6th graders can take I-Excel; 7th and 8th graders can take the ACT. For eligibility guidelines, see the Requirements page. For more on above-level testing in general, see this page and this post.
  • Our website includes helpful information about IOAPA courses and registration. Visit the Getting Started page first, and click around to find the IOAPA handbook, information about how to talk to administrators and students about IOAPA. 

Stay connected with us!

  • Subscribe to our blog for more on IOAPA courses and other topics relevant to IOAPA teachers, parents, and students.
  • Follow us on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA
  • Email us at ioapa@belinblank.org 

How Do I Develop an Academic Acceleration Policy?

Oct18_guidelinesWe are excited to report that the new publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Whole Grade, Early Entrance, and Single Subject will be available in mid-November. This publication, a project of the Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children and also endorsed by The Association for the Gifted and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted, is an update of the Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy, which was published in 2009.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies uses current research and practical considerations of school-based issues to guide decision-making. It includes recommended elements of whole-grade acceleration policies, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade policies, and subject-acceleration policies. Each section includes a checklist of items to consider while developing those specific policies. The information provided is supported by recent research.  Lists of resources are also included.

If you attend the National Association for Gifted Children annual conference in Minneapolis in November 2018, you will receive a hard copy of the publication. It will also be available on the Acceleration Institute website soon after the conference.

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

Scholarships for AP Teachers

The season may be changing, but it is never too late to think of summer! Make sure to save the date for the 2019 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019.

APTTI Calculus 2017-4

APTTI is a College Board-approved Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with updates to the course.

As deadlines always seem to quickly approach, we want to inform you of the available scholarships that support teachers in attending an APSI. Scholarships offered by the College Board include:

  • AP Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving minority or low-income students
  • AP Rural Fellows Program: For teachers at rural schools

Additional details and application materials are available on the College Board’s website. The deadline to apply for these scholarships is typically in February, so if you’re considering attending an AP Summer Institute, apply today!

The Iowa Online AP Academy also offers a grant for Iowa teachers to help offset the cost of APTTI registration and attendance. Click here to learn more.

Gifted Education Awareness Month: We’re Sharing the Best-Kept Secret!

In Iowa, October has been declared Gifted Education Awareness Month! To celebrate, we’ll be sharing some of your favorite posts from the blog all month long. Today, we’re sharing the time our own Dr. Ann Shoplik spilled the beans about the best-kept secret in gifted education!

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(Spoiler: It’s above-level testing, and we can help with that.)


The Best-Kept Secret in Gifted Education: Above-Level Testing

The secret of above-level testing is really not much of a secret. It’s used extensively at universities that have centers for gifted education.  Unfortunately, it’s not used much by schools. This secret is hiding in plain sight!

What is above-level testing and how can it be used?  Let’s answer the second question first. Above-level testing is useful for decisions about:

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

“Above-level testing” is exactly what it sounds like:  Give a younger student a test that was developed for older students.  This idea was pioneered over one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth, sometimes called the “mother” of gifted education.  This concept was fully developed by Dr. Julian Stanley in the 1970s when he devised the “Talent Search” in which 7th and 8th graders took the college admissions exam, the SAT.  Fast forward to the present day, and above-level testing is used extensively in outside-of-school programs for gifted students. In fact, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of university-based talent searches, such as the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.  Some of these tests used are the SAT, ACT, Explore (recently discontinued), and I-Excel. Unfortunately, above-level tests are not used extensively in typical school gifted programs; we would like to change that!

Academically talented students tend to perform extremely well on tests developed for their own age group. They do so well that they get everything (or almost everything) right, and we don’t really know what the extent of their talents might be.  Psychologists call this “hitting the ceiling” of the test. Think of it like a yardstick: The grade-level “yardstick” measures only 36 inches. If the student is 40 inches tall, we can’t measure that accurately using only the grade-level yardstick. What we need is a longer yardstick, and a harder test. An above-level test, one that is developed for older students, provides that longer yardstick and successfully raises the ceiling for that talented student.

above-level testingThe advantages of above-level testing include differentiating between “talented” and “exceptionally talented” students. In the figure above, the bell curve on the left shows a typical group of students. A few students earn very high scores (at the 95th percentile or above when compared to their age-mates). These are the students who “hit the ceiling” of the grade-level test.  If we give that group of students a harder test, an above-level test that was developed for older students, voila! we see a new bell curve (the one on the right). The harder test spreads out the scores of the talented students and helps us to differentiate the talented from the exceptionally talented students.

What does this matter? Knowing how students performed on an above-level test helps us to give the students, their families and their educators better advice about the kinds of educational options the students might need. For example, does this student need educational enrichment? Would that student benefit from moving up a grade level or two in math? Would another student benefit from grade-skipping? Organizations such as the Belin-Blank Center who have used above-level testing for years have developed rubrics to help educators and parents understand the student’s above-level test scores and relate them to appropriately challenging educational options. In just one or two hours of testing, we are able to get important information about the student’s aptitudes, which allows us to make good recommendations about the types of educational challenges the student needs.

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

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

Originally posted by Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik on October 6, 2016

IOAPA: Annual Report

Each year, IOAPA staff develop a report demonstrating the progress we’ve made toward our goal of making advanced learning opportunities available for all Iowa students. If you’re curious about what we achieved in 2017-2018, check out this infographic for an overview. You can also find many more details in the public annual report posted on our website.

2018 Annual Report Infographic

IOAPA: Supporting your Students

As we are about a month into the school-year, IOAPA students are learning of the expectations, requirements, and commitments to their above-level courses. Balancing high school activities with coursework can be overwhelming, especially because the new level of challenge may be an adjustment to many students. This new challenge can generate worries about their abilities and may threaten their status of being a “smart” student. This blog post explains how referring to a student as “smart” may be harmful — when students don’t feel “smart” (i.e. when taking a challenging course) they may not seek out advanced coursework in the future, fail on purpose, overextend themselves, or (hopefully) ask for help. However, bright students may be unaccustomed to reaching out to ask for help, or discussing their worries about course content and grades. It is important for parents and teachers to support students through this process in order to encourage the continuation of challenging coursework.

SWR 2018-1

Taking IOAPA’s advanced courses may be the first time your students have felt “stressed” about schoolwork! If previous course content came naturally, students may be learning how to study for the first time.  On the other end, students that are successful in a variety of courses (multipotentiality), may be stressed about picking just one interest or career goal. Bright students may also experience stress related to perfectionist qualities, striving for excellence, and having high expectations of themselves.  This blog post discusses what stress may look like in gifted students.

Overall, the challenge presented by IOAPA classes is very beneficial for high ability students. Although the advanced coursework may bring about some worries and new struggles, they also present the opportunity for students to realize the benefits of the challenge, and to continue to seek out stimulating content.

IOAPA: Time to Start Planning for Spring Semester

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. For more on how BESTS and IOAPA work together, check out our IOAPA-BESTS blog roundup.

In order to use this year’s above-level testing scores to inform eligibility for next spring’s IOAPA courses, now is the time to begin the above-level testing process. (IOAPA spring registration opens November 1, and we expect seats to fill quickly). There are four basic steps for participation in BESTS.

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90thpercentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing. The Iowa Testing Program (ITP) provides a tool you can use for identifying those students.
  2. Notify the students identified and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS. Letters you can use for that purpose are found here for the ACT and here for I-Excel.
  3. Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. Note that if you have 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing, they will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit org/talent-search for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA spring registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand.
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

Costs. The cost for I-Excel for the upcoming school year is $45 per student for group testing; this fee is discounted to $22 per student for students residing in Iowa.  Please note, the Belin-Blank Center no longer has grant funding to provide I-Excel testing at no cost to Iowa 5th graders.  However, Iowa schools using I-Excel for the first time in 3 years can request up to 20 free student test registrations so they can try out I-Excel with their students.

Individual ACT registration is $70.  This includes both the testing fee and the talent search fee, and students are provided with the individualized report mentioned above. The group rate is $60, if the teacher registers the students.

For both I-Excel and ACT, fee reductions are provided for students eligible for the free/reduced cost lunch program.

For more information, see:

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.

Continuing Support for AP Programs in Iowa

Students who participate in AP programs (1) stand out to college admissions, (2) earn academic scholarships and awards from colleges and universities, (3) perform as well or better in upper-level courses in the content area of their AP course(s), (4) earn higher GPAs in college, and (5) have higher college graduation rates, and are more likely to graduate college in four years or fewer (IOAPA Annual Report, 2018).

Even with the well-researched benefits of enrolling in AP courses, recent news reveals that 8 private schools in the Washington D.C. area are choosing to no longer offer AP programs. AP courses were introduced in the 1950s to offer opportunities for ambitious students to enroll in and receive credit for college-level work. The schools in the D.C. area argue that since approximately 40% of high school students enroll in AP courses, it is no longer true that AP courses are only for the exceptional students. These schools collectively investigated the potential impact of not offering AP courses on their students’ college applications, and stated that colleges simply care that the applicant took their high school’s most demanding course, and that the “AP designation itself is irrelevant.” Therefore, these schools are implementing their own system of advanced coursework.

However,

this new curriculum method by no means is a “one size fits all,” especially for our Iowa schools. Districts with small enrollment sizes (<1000 students) comprises 67% of Iowa school districts2. Rural schools are often under resourced and unable to provide opportunities beyond the traditional curriculum. Because inequities in opportunities exist between rural and urban/suburban students, IOAPA serves to fill this gap.  IOAPA offers advanced courses and equal learning opportunities to all schools in Iowa. For many Iowa schools, AP programs are how motivated students are able to be challenged, and in other words, are able to enroll in the most demanding course offered. For Iowa students, IOAPA is a promising avenue for students’ educational future, as engaging in challenging high school curriculum is one of the best predictors of college completion.1

Referring to AP courses as a “diminished utility” is inaccurate because it “ignores the past 30 years in which public high schools have found AP, International Baccalaureate, and Cambridge, to be robust tools to challenge more students — about 2.7 million in 2017, including many exceptional ones who couldn’t afford private school. Enrollment officials from 13 universities including Yale, Michigan, Stanford and UCLA have rejected the eight schools’ contention that AP courses are of “diminished significance.” – Jay Matthews, an education columnist for the Washington Post.

1Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the Tool Box. Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor’s Degree Attainment.
2Iowa Department of Education. (2017). The Annual Condition of Education Report. https://educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2017ConditionOfEducation_2.pdf Accessed on: August 29, 2018.

IOAPA: Important Dates & Deadlines

Keeping track of dates and deadlines can be overwhelming. This post includes all the important dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses. Make sure to bookmark this blogpost to have these dates handy throughout the 2018-2019 school year.calender

  • September 14, 2018: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee. (Note: Per the IOAPA drop policy, these fees are waived for students in middle school and computer science courses.)
  • October 1, 2018: AP Computer Science Principles teachers are strongly encouraged to submit AP Course Audit materials by this date to ensure access to the Digital Portfolio. Visit the College Board website for more information on the AP Course Audit as it applies to AP Computer Science Principles.
  • October 15, 2018: Preferred date by which AP Course Audit materials should be submitted for previously authorized courses to be renewed for the 2018-2019 school year.
  • November 1, 2018: IOAPA spring registration opens. Keep this date in mind, we expect spring enrollment to fill quickly!
  • December 14, 2018: IOAPA fall classes end.
  • January 7, 2019:IOAPA spring courses begin.
  • January 25, 2019:Last day to drop IOAPA spring high school courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee.
  • January 31, 2019:Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2018-2019).
  • February 22, 2019:Deadline for submitting testing accommodations requests for students with disabilities who plan to take AP Exams. See our post about the changes to this process that took effect in January 2017.
  • March 13, 2019: Suggested deadline for that pre-administration materials for AP Computer Science Principles
  • March 29, 2019:Priority deadline to order 2019 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2019:Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 10, 2019: IOAPA spring courses end.
  • May 6-17, 2019:AP Exams are administered. A complete schedule of exam dates is available on the College Board website.

Important College Board deadlines can be found on the AP Central website, and important IOAPA dates can be found on our website.

Follow IOAPA on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA for reminders about deadlines, as well as other useful information to support mentors and students.

Visual Guide to IOAPA High School Courses

We are excited to share the new IOAPA High School Course infographic using data and feedback from 2017-2018 IOAPA students and mentors! This, along with our middle school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, on the Support Materials page.

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Visual Guide to IOAPA Middle School Courses

We are excited to share the new IOAPA Middle School Course infographic using data and feedback from 2017-2018 IOAPA students and mentors! This, along with our high school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, on the Support Materials page. 2017-18 IOAPA Infographics - MS

IOAPA and Above-Level Testing: Important Announcement

Above-level testing is used extensively in gifted education. It can be useful for making decisions about (1) identifying a student for a gifted program, (2) determining what a student is ready to learn next, (3) deciding whether or not a student is ready for subject-matter acceleration, and (4) deciding whether or not a student is ready to skip a grade. (For a detailed explanation, check out this blog post.)

IOAPA schools use above-level testing to determine which middle school students might be eligible for IOAPA (or other above-grade-level) courses. Traditionally, the Belin-Blank Center provided above-level testing for Iowa 5th graders (I-Excel for BESTS In-School) at no cost.  However, due to changes in the University of Iowa’s budget, the Belin-Blank Center is no longer able to provide these testing opportunities free of charge. The good news is, we are still able to offer a significant discount to students in the state of Iowa. For the 2018-2019 school year, the standard fee for students throughout the nation is $45 per student for group testing. For Iowa students, the fee is discounted substantially to $22.  This cost may be covered by the schools, parents, or a combination of the two.

We understand that the fact that the Belin-Blank Center is no longer covering the entire cost of above-level testing for Iowa 5th graders is unfortunate and may cause some difficulty for schools. However, we do not want to discourage future above-level testing for 5th graders, and for all grades! Our goal has always been to reduce barriers that stand in the way of Iowa’s students having access to advanced coursework. To that end, Iowa schools that have not used above-level testing in the last three years can contact us at assessment@belinblank.org to get up to 20 free I-Excel tests during the 2018-2019 school year.

For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/testing or email assessment@belinblank.org.

Making Defensible Decisions About Subject Acceleration

Blast Electric Art 2018-4.jpgThe school year is just getting started, and it’s a good time to think about opportunities for your academically talented students.  Maybe some of your students 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. Maybe some students are 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 scenarios. It is a defensible, objective, research-based method of identifying students for academically challenging opportunities.

Above-level testing occurs when a bright young student takes a test developed for older students. Taking a test above level gives the young student an opportunity to showcase his or her aptitudes and provides a better assessment of the student’s readiness to learn advanced material. Thus, above-level testing is useful for making placement decisions, such as accelerating into an advanced math or science course.

Why above-level testing? High scores on grade-level tests demonstrate that students have mastered grade-level material, but they don’t tell us how much additional challenge the students need. Above-level tests can help us identify the extent and types of challenge each student requires.

Which Students Benefit from Above-Level Testing?

The Belin-Blank Center provides above-level testing using I-Excel for bright 4th-6th graders or the ACT for bright 7th-9th graders. We recommend nominating students who earn scores at or above the 95th percentile on grade-level standardized tests for above-level testing.  (If your school uses eITP, check out this great tool for an easy way to find these students!)  Students do not need to be labeled “gifted” in order to participate in above-level testing. In fact, research shows that about half of the students who participate in this type of testing are not in their school’s gifted program.

Using the Results

What can we learn from the results of above-level testing?  Some students earn low scores on the test, some earn scores in the middle of the range, and some earn very high scores. The Belin-Blank Center developed guidelines that help educators and parents determine what educational options might be most appropriate for the student, based on their performance on the above-level test. For I-Excel, educators receive an Aggregate Report summarizing students’ performance, which helps educators make decisions about placement changes and adjustments to curriculum.  The detailed Individual Report (provided for both I-Excel and the ACT) can be shared with parents and provides detailed information about students’ strengths in math, science, English and reading and helps support data-driven decisions about individual students’ academic needs.

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.

Costs

The cost for I-Excel for the upcoming school year is $45 per student for group testing; this fee is discounted to $22 per student for students residing in Iowa.  Please note, the Belin-Blank Center no longer has grant funding to provide I-Excel testing at no cost to Iowa 5th graders.  However, Iowa schools using I-Excel for the first time in 3 years can request up to 20 free student test registrations so they can try out I-Excel with their students.

Individual ACT registration is $70.  This includes both the testing fee and the talent search fee, and students are provided with the individualized report mentioned above.

For both I-Excel and ACT, fee reductions are provided for students eligible for the free/reduced cost lunch program.

For more information, see:

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.

 

 

 

Back to School: IOAPA

Summer is ending and its back-to-school time! While you are settling into the new fall semester, don’t forget to get ready for IOAPA courses.

Here are a few things to consider for IOAPA courses:

  • IOAPA classes are starting! The first day is Monday, August 27th.
  • If you join the class late or decide the class is not for you, don’t worry! The first week is often considered an ‘orientation week’ to get used to the course, log-in, etc.
  • Watch for an email at the beginning of the semester from ioapa@belinblank.org. It will include important information about the upcoming year. If you do not receive an email, make sure to check your spam / junk folder.
  • Reminder: The last day to drop a course is September 16th. For more information about our drop policies, check out the IOAPA handbook on our website.

More helpful information:

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For additional information, please visit our website for information about courses, support materials, and more. For questions, email ioapa@belinblank.org.

Have a great start to the semester!

Message From the Director: How Did We Get From 1988-2018? Phase IV (2003-2008)

Phase IV of this retrospective collection of director’s messages began a mere 15 years ago – halfway into the 30 years we are commemorating – yet the closer we get to “now” the more nostalgic I feel.  This is especially true as I reflect upon this five-year period.

The Belin-Blank Center has always been a part of the College of Education, but our home is in a building named in honor of Myron and Jacqueline Blank, who provided the lead gift for the building.  We had a wonderful ribbon-cutting ceremony in the fall of 2003 and moved into the Blank Honors Center on one of the coldest days in January of 2004.

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It was joy to have Myron Blank participate in this important milestone. Indeed, we honor our founding families each day through our programs and service for young students and their educators.

What an eventful year 2004 was!  In addition to the move into a brand new building, we published the watershed report, A Nation Deceived:  How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, which Time magazine launched with a major story about academic acceleration as the most effective but least used academic intervention.

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The momentum from 2004 resulted in the next several years being similarly active.  However, one of those years, 2005, was also a year of significant loss.  Myron Blank passed away in early 2005.  He and Jacqueline left an indelible imprint on gifted  education through their generosity and vision.

A few months later, Julian Stanley, founder of the Talent Search Model, passed away.  At the 2018 Wallace Research Symposium, we honored Professor Stanley’s legacy.  You can learn more about Dr. Stanley’s seven-decade career and the impact on the center and around the world by watching the video created for the occasion.

The Phase IV years, 2003-2008, flew by with special events for students and teachers.

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By 2008, we were well on our way to Phases V and VI.

The Power of One: Lessons Learned from a Mentor

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The Belin-Blank Center is proud to organize the Wallace Research Symposium on Talent Development every two to four years.  This year’s April symposium was in Baltimore and co-hosted by the University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, and Vanderbilt University Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth.  It was truly remarkable to gather with 200 other individuals, many of them renowned researchers in gifted education, creativity, and related areas.  The conversations that occurred at the dinner table were impressive!

One of the purposes of the Wallace Research Symposium this year was to honor the legacy of Julian Stanley. His ideas and his scholarly example can inspire all of us.

Stanley’s creative ideas and hard work planted the seeds for many of the activities and programs we provide in gifted education today. Millions of students have benefitted from Talent Searches, in which bright students take an above-level test (one that was developed for older students). This simple concept, which is still considered somewhat revolutionary, has given us a way to discover high-ability students. Once discovered, it is possible to provide these students with appropriate challenges.

Perhaps most important is the work Stanley did documenting the characteristics and educational and career trajectories of exceptionally talented youth. Dr. Stanley began a 50-year study on talented youth in the 1970s, which continues today. This is an almost unheard-of accomplishment in educational research.

Lessons learned from Julian Stanley:

  1. Mentors are important. Academically talented students benefit from mentors who not only teach them content, but also guide them through educational decisions, inspire them to work hard, and point out challenging opportunities.
  2. Objective tools, such as standardized tests, provide valuable information to discover and guide talented students.
  3. It is useful to look at specific domains of talent. Instead of searching for the all-around gifted student, focusing on specific subjects, such as mathematics or science, helps us to discover students who are ready for additional challenges.
  4. Acceleration is one of the best-researched methods for challenging talented students. Stanley’s Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth contributed a great deal to this work and shows us that academic acceleration and appropriate educational placement can have a profound effect on talented students, even many years later.

Julian Stanley changed the landscape of gifted education. It all started with the power of one.

Watch the video about the legacy of Julian Stanley.