Category Archives: Advanced Placement

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 – The Forums

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.

One of the most common questions we get about Edhesive is: “How do I get content questions answered?” Unlike our Apex courses, where each course is assigned a specific instructor, Edhesive courses are developed by a team of instructors and facilitated by the on-site mentors. Therefore, there is no assigned instructor for the Edhesive courses.

However, Edhesive offers online forums for teachers and students to ask and answer questions about course access, content, and logistics. The forums are course specific, so you will be connected to teachers or students across the country participating in your computer science course, whether it’s AP Computer Science A, AP Computer Science Principles, or Introduction to Computer Science. Additionally, the student and teacher forums are separate; IOAPA mentors have access to both forums, while students can only access the Student Forum.

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The forums are monitored seven days a week by Edhesive staff and teaching assistants who can provide support for both content and technical issues. Before we offer some tips for making the most of these forums, watch this short video to learn the basics of navigating and using it: Using the Edhesive Teacher Forum.

As promised, here are some tips for using the forum, based on Edhesive instructor input and IOAPA mentor feedback.

Ask questions! Just as you would email a question to an Apex instructor, you can post your question on the forum to get answers from Edhesive instructors (and other mentors/AP teachers). Plus, other teachers can benefit from the answer to your question, too! I know what you’re thinking: “What if my question is silly, or has a very simple solution? Everyone else on the forum will judge me.” Well, as I’m sure you have told your students over and over, there are no stupid questions. Our IOAPA mentors, just like our IOAPA students, are resourceful and independent; however, your time is valuable and it’s not realistic to expect to be able to solve every problem that arises without help. Posting a question on the forum is guaranteed to receive an answer, often within a couple of hours at most.

Ask anonymously or individually. If you’re still not sure about posting on the forum, there are a couple of options. If you don’t want your name attached to your question, you can post anonymously. The question would still be posted to the entire forum, it just would not include your name. If you have specific questions about your course or your students, Edhesive staff may ask you to follow up via email to get more details, but this can be a good way to get those “silly” questions addressed without any fear of judgment. You can also post your question to the instructors only, so it functions basically like an email to an instructor would. If there is a particular instructor with whom you wish to correspond, you can send it to them only, or you could send it to the whole Edhesive support team.

Keep up with the pinned messages. Edhesive staff will periodically “pin” answers to frequently asked questions to the top of the discussion list so they’re easy to find. If you have a question about how to access teacher materials or how to unlock tests or assignments, check the pinned messages – the answer is probably available there.

As always, please feel free to contact us by email at ioapa@belinblank.org — but for content questions, we’ll probably refer you to the forums. Also see last week’s post about general Edhesive resources. Keep up with IOAPA and Edhesive on Twitter: @TeamEdhesive and @belinblankIOAPA.

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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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.

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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 2016-2017 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. Use this information to guide registration decisions for fall (before August 17th) and spring (opening November 1).

2016-2017 IOAPA Middle School Infographic

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Visual Guide to IOAPA High School Courses

We are excited to share the new IOAPA High School Course infographic using data and feedback from 2016-2017 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. Use this information to guide registration decisions for fall (before August 17th) and spring (opening November 1).

2016-2017 IOAPA High School Infographic