Category Archives: Acceleration

Computer Science Education in Iowa

At the end of April, then-Governor Branstad signed Senate File 274 into law, establishing goals for expanding computer science education opportunities for Iowa students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Read more about the bill here. These goals include: offering at least one CS course in each high school and offering basic and exploratory computer science instruction in each elementary and middle school.

The bill also created a work group to make recommendations for meeting these goals by July 1, 2019. The Computer Science Education Work Group released their final report last week. The report includes detailed recommendations for using CS courses to satisfy graduation requirements, integrating CS courses into a career and technical education (CTE) pathway, ensuring equitable access by offering courses in a number of settings, developing a scope and sequence for CS education, and using the CS professional development fund to meet goals. It will be exciting to see these recommendations turn into actions to expand CS education access to all students in Iowa.

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Through the Iowa Online AP Academy, high-ability Iowa students in 6th through 12th grades can access above-level CS coursework, and teachers can take advantage of professional development opportunities. Registration for our spring-semester Introduction to Computer Science course for students in 6th-9th grades is available now; visit our website for more on courses and registration.

An Exciting Javits-Funded New Project

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a Javits grant!  The joint project – by co-PIs Professors Susan Assouline, Saba Ali, and Megan Foley-Nicpon, and methodologist Dr. Duhita Mahatmya – consists of a five-year, $2.1 million plan to increase educators’ capacity to identify and provide talented and gifted programming to underrepresented students in Iowa.  Dr. Ali, Associate Dean for Research in the University of Iowa College of Education, and Drs. Assouline, Foley Nicpon, Mahatmya, of the Belin-Blank Center, will use a career intervention Dr. Ali developed, along with I-Excel, a Belin-Blank Center online above-level assessment, to further the goals of this project.

We are fortunate to bring talent and career development opportunities to students with disabilities and students of color living in rural Iowa communities…I look forward to the difference we will make for many students who otherwise would never have been seen or heard.

– Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon

The title of the effort is the “Culturally Responsive Talent Identification and Career Exploration (TICE).”  According to the project abstract, “[u]nderrepresented students, especially students from economically  disadvantaged backgrounds, students of color, rural students, and students with disabilities, are at risk of being overlooked for participation in talented and gifted programs. Project personnel will integrate an expanded talent development model…and a career intervention program…to maximize the identification and development of underrepresented talented and gifted students.”  The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) will also contribute to this project, broadening the courses available to these students by offering online coursework in the schools.  We look forward to this opportunity to use the experience and knowledge of the Belin-Blank Center and the College of Education from the last several decades to impact bright students who are so often overlooked.

 

Helping Iowa Teachers Discover Students Who Are Ready For Advanced Online Courses

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) are working together to help schools provide a defensible, objective, research-based method of selecting students for above-level coursework. The above-level tests administered through BESTS can yield essential information for determining whether a student is ready for additional challenge, such as that provided by an IOAPA course. Best of all, the assessments offered by BESTS are available to 5th grade students in Iowa at NO COST, thanks to IOAPA!

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Why above-level testing? Scores from 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. See our previous post for more details on how above-level testing works.

Students in grades 4-6 participate in BESTS by taking I-Excel, and this test can be administered by teachers to one or more students in their schools whenever is convenient for them. This is available to Iowa fifth grade students for free, and the cost for students in other grades is very reasonable. Students in grades 7-9 are recommended to take the ACT, and signing up through BESTS will provide detailed interpretation of test scores and information about programs and resources relevant to high ability students.

There are four basic steps to follow for participation in BESTS:

  1. Choose the semester for which you want to enroll students in IOAPA courses and begin registering for BESTS. For courses beginning in Spring 2018, begin the BESTS process by October. For courses beginning in Fall 2018, begin the BESTS process no later than January 2018.
  2. 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.
  3. Notify the students identified in Step 2 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS, and work with the Belin-Blank Center to arrange assessment sessions for interested students.
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action.

Curious about bringing BESTS to your students? Visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search for more information, and a video about talent search and above-level testing. When you’re ready to set up testing, email assessment@belinblank.org.

 

Non-Academic Supports for IOAPA Students

By this point in the semester, IOAPA students are likely familiar with the expectations of their above-level courses. Students may be feeling a little overwhelmed by a level of challenge they may never have experienced before. They may start to question their abilities, or they may be hesitant to submit projects or assignments until they’re sure there are no mistakes. These can be difficult issues to help students overcome, and it is hard to know how to best support students with these emotional struggles. Many experts have written on these topics, and below are some blog posts and resources to share or discuss with IOAPA students who are in need of non-academic supports.

For students who are expressing hesitation about continuing their coursework because it is challenging, this blog post from Byrdseed could spark a conversation about the benefits of challenge for our brains, just like for our muscles.

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“Imposter syndrome” is a common challenge for bright students, especially when they’re being exposed to a new level of challenge for the first time. In fact, it’s so common that Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page has a whole section of blogs and books about the phenomenon. (I would especially recommend this article and this blog post.) Helping students learn to challenge these thoughts now will benefit them throughout their education and careers.

An additional challenge that arises among gifted students is perfectionism. The National Association for Gifted Children published this article that includes a distinction between healthy and unhealthy manifestations of perfectionism, as well as some tips for parents and teachers to help students manage it.

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Growth mindset resources can also inform the ways in which teachers and parents change their own behavior to support students through these emotional challenges. For example, the praise students receive can influence their self-perceptions; when students consistently hear, “You’re so smart,” it can open the door for self-doubt and perfectionism. Mindset Kit offers an excellent brief lesson on using process-praise.

The challenge of IOAPA classes is incredibly beneficial for high ability students in many ways. It can also result in some new struggles for these students, especially when they’ve never encountered this type of challenge before. It is our hope that these resources will be useful in understanding and meeting students’ emotional needs.

Using Edhesive – Overview

During the inaugural year of IOAPA’s partnership with Edhesive, we extended access to Computer Science courses to more than 100 students across Iowa. We will continue to expand computer science education across the state, and continue to work to maximize student and mentor success. This “Using Edhesive” blog series will highlight Edhesive features that we feel are especially important for IOAPA students and mentors. Whether you’re brand new to Edhesive, or already have a year under your belt, this information will be useful for all IOAPA Computer Science mentors and their students.

Edhesive and IOAPA share a fundamental belief: That online learning works best when students are supported by local teachers. You know these individuals as “mentors,” but in Edhesive materials you may see the term “coach.” Both terms refer to the same person: the onsite teacher responsible for supporting IOAPA students.

IOAPA “Mentor” = Edhesive “Coach”

Edhesive provides a number of professional development and other resources to support coaches. Online PD is available for Introduction to Computer Science and AP Computer Science Principles. In addition, an extensive Help section (accessed from your course dashboard) provides articles and videos about the course curriculum, setting up your online “classroom”, and using Edhesive features. One such feature, the teacher and student forums, will be addressed in a future blog post in this series. The Help information is specific to each course, so it can help guide your planning and your Edhesive experience.

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Each Edhesive course also includes extensive resources for supporting students, including pacing guides and teacher packets with lesson plans and supplemental worksheets relevant to the course content. It is important for mentors to view these teacher packets, as students do not have access to them unless provided by their mentor. Note: Several IOAPA mentors mentioned using these materials for additional practice prior to quizzes or exams, especially in the AP courses. Additionally, mentors suggested using online exams for students to practice, as they can be repeated, and then using the provided offline exams for the students’ grades. This does require some additional figuring of the students’ grades at the end of the semester, but some mentors felt this was beneficial for students.

To keep up with Edhesive on social media, follow @TeamEdhesive on Twitter. You can also follow IOAPA on Twitter using @belinblankIOAPA. With specific questions about IOAPA or Edhesive, email us at ioapa@belinblank.org. Finally, stay tuned to the blog for more tips on using Edhesive!

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Wallace Research Symposium

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

Featured speakers include:

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

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

Important Dates and Deadlines

We know there are a lot of dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses. Keep this post handy as a convenient reminder of the most important dates for the 2017-2018 school year.

  • September 15, 2017: 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, 2017: Preferred date by which AP Computer Science Principles teachers should submit AP Course Audit materials 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, 2017: Preferred date by which AP Course Audit materials should be submitted for previously authorized courses to be renewed for the 2017-2018 school year.
  • November 1, 2017: IOAPA spring registration opens. Mark this date in bright red, as we expect spring enrollment to fill quickly!
  • December 15, 2017: IOAPA fall classes end.
  • January 8, 2018: IOAPA spring courses begin.
  • January 26, 2018: Last day to drop IOAPA spring high school courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee.
  • January 31, 2018: Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2017-2018).
  • February 23, 2018: 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 30, 2018: Priority deadline to order 2018 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2018: Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 7-18, 2018: 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.