Category Archives: Acceleration

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.