Category Archives: Policy

Acceleration: An Equitable Approach

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Access and opportunity are pillars of an equitable school experience. We know that acceleration is a research-supported method of challenging academically talented students, so we need to provide talented students access to accelerative opportunities. Research confirms that talented students who are allowed to move ahead tend to perform better academically both in the short- and the long-term. How do we make access to acceleration equitable, so that all students who are ready can take advantage of the opportunities that acceleration can provide?

The answer is policy. Acceleration policies can make educational opportunities more equitable for talented students. So, let’s examine our current acceleration policies and practices and see what might be getting in the way of student opportunity.

Some examples of inequitable practices and procedures include:

  • a teacher-initiated review process,
  • unclear information or information that is not adequately publicized on accelerative options,
  • school-sponsored testing scheduled for weekends when students would need transportation,
  • requiring families to pay for individual testing that might be needed for acceleration decisions,
  • information available only in English,
  • rigid criteria for identification that does not allow for alternate assessment data,
  • and single-entry date admission.

School systems need individuals within them to serve advocates for acceleration. Are you an advocate for acceleration in your school?

Resources for Acceleration Policy

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

National Association for Gifted Children Position Statement about Acceleration

With thanks to Randy Lange for providing this content.

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).

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

Message from the Director: Who Are the Gatekeepers for Talent Development?

That was the question roaming through my thoughts with each opening and closing session of our summer pre-college student programs.  For the nearly 1,000 students who attended one or more of our summer programs, each opening session exudes anticipation as the staff and faculty describe the amazing classes and opportunities awaiting the students.  The closings are similarly fulfilling, yet also different, because students, faculty, and summer program staff have spent an intensive week engaged in learning.  The closing sessions are bursting with energy as the students, teachers, and residential staff share their week-long experiences with each other as well as with parents.  The bonds that are formed during the student programs in the summer are unique.  One of the high school students captured the sentiment:

THANK YOU! I have spent 6 of the last 8 summers at Belin-Blank camps and I am so going to miss them. Thank you for all the opportunities, friends, and experiences you have provided me with. I will forever treasure these summers. Thanks again for everything. I love your programs and what you do here.

I never tire of the thrill of being part of a team of professionals that open the talent development gates to young, highly capable students eagerly seeking ways to develop their talents. I also can’t help but wonder about the bright students whose families and schools don’t know about programs like this and thus miss out on the “opportunities, friends, and experiences … [to] forever treasure.”  How can we make programming accessible to them?  Who are the gatekeepers for these students?

Similarly rewarding is the annual experience of opening the talent development gates to educators pursuing professional development.  Over the summer, 183 teachers enrolled in 249 credit hours.  The Center’s concluding on-campus professional development opportunity, the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI), was truly an opportunity for all attendees to reflect on their role as gatekeepers for talent development in their respective schools, districts, and states.

B-BALI featured expert presentations by several of the A Nation Empowered authors and all of four of the editors (S. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, & A. Lupkowski-Shoplik).  Professor Emerita Joyce VanTassel-Baska’s final keynote presentation, “The Individual and Societal Value of Acceleration:  Research, Practice, and Policy,” was as engaging as it was comprehensive.  Professor VanTassel-Baska wove the three strands of the title into an elegant finale that referred to Julian Stanley’s Talent Search Model as the genesis for the various types of accelerative practices that should be available to high-potential students who are ready to learn more advanced material at a faster pace and at a younger age than typically-developing students.

As Professor VanTassel-Baska’s keynote concluded, I realized that the question about gate-keepers really needs to be not “who are the gatekeepers,” but rather, “Are you a gatekeeper for talent development?”  This is a perfect question for the beginning of a new school year.  Educators, now is your chance to open those talent development gates for your students and to support them walking through the gates to the myriad opportunities for developing their talents.

Although developing the talents of our young people is a lifelong journey, the starting point – the gateway activity – for many who are talented in academics starts with participating in the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS).  BESTS incorporates the Talent Search Model.  As models go, the Talent Search Model is elegant in its simplicity.  BESTS is a system of above-level testing that produces results designed to inform high-potential students and their parents and teachers how much acceleration and enrichment students need.

Despite its potency, the Talent Search Model is not widely used in schools.  There are multiple reasons for this, not the least of which is that traditionally the process occurred outside of the school setting.  Although this is still true for 7th – 9th graders, the Belin-Blank Center is expanding the model for 4th – 6th graders.  Now, teachers and parents of high-potential 4th – 6th graders can access  above-level testing through BESTS in their schools, which we call BESTS In-School.

Educators, especially the teachers of 4th – 6th graders in gifted and talented programs, can become the champions of talent development by opening the gates through appropriate acceleration and enrichment opportunities in subject-specific areas (math, science, English/language arts).  It can start with BESTS In-School.

We hope this year is the year that educators and parents will partner with us to open the gates and support high-potential students though this robust model of talent development and/or through one of the myriad opportunities offered by the Belin-Blank Center.

Lessons Learned: One School District’s Experience with Acceleration Practices

Special thanks to Dr. Keri Guilbault, guest writer for this blog!

A few years ago I worked as a district coordinator of gifted and talented programs in a large school district. New to the state and county, I was surprised to learn that there was no written policy for academic acceleration of students in grades K-12 even though the state supported acceleration. Leaving policy decisions up to local districts led to a hodgepodge of guidelines and practices, and very few written policies beyond early entrance to Kindergarten and dual enrollment in high school.  From time to time, elementary or middle school principals would contact me and tell me about a unique student who was recognized as working years beyond grade level, often frustrated with the pace in the general education setting, and certainly missing out on the opportunity to learn something new.  I appointed an ad-hoc committee to develop acceleration guidelines for our elementary school learners using the Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy as a guide. We implemented a process that began with a referral to a student study team led by each school’s gifted and talented resource teacher who took the lead in completing the Iowa Acceleration Scales for the candidate.  We monitored the students’ academic growth and affective adjustment and in following up with parents, teachers, and administrators I learned some valuable tips to guide future policy and improve practices:

  • Provide additional training on the IAS and acceleration for all members of the student study team, including a school administrator who will have the final decision.
  • Be sure that there is an appeals process in place and that it is made public and available to all parents. Transparency and communication are key.
  • Provide parents/caregivers with a formal notification letter even if they are notified of the acceleration decision face to face. The IAS has a great planning guide at the end that can be used as a template for the acceleration plan and meeting notes.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting during the acceleration decision conference for all stakeholders to discuss the student’s progress and adjustment within 4-6 weeks after any change in placement. Do not skip this meeting even if you think things are going well!
  • Train the gifted and talented resource teachers or at least one staff member at each school on the acceleration process, IAS, and data mining to pro-actively look for possible candidates for acceleration using data that is already collected in the district. For our district, all second graders take the CogAT and any student scoring at the 99th percentile in any subtest was automatically considered. Waiting for teacher or parent requests often leads to inequity in student selection.
  • Provide parent and community information sessions on the acceleration process and policy and establish parent networking and support groups for families of accelerants and potential accelerants. Being able to ask questions and share concerns with other families who have gone through the process can be extremely helpful!

Keri M. Guilbault, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor of Gifted and Talented Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore and a former district supervisor of Gifted and Talented programs.

Twitter: @drkerig

Why Accelerate? A Roadmap

Aug16_JVTDr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska gave a riveting talk at the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute (B-BALI) earlier this summer on “The Research and Practice of Acceleration for Gifted Students: Toward Policy Development.” She explained that acceleration policy is needed:

  1. To ensure that it happens consistently across districts, individual students, and time;
  2. To provide guidance for educational decisions about acceleration options; and
  3. To ensure that it is presented as one of the basic provisions for gifted students at all stages of development.

The research on academic acceleration is the strongest research and the best practice we have in gifted education. Nothing else comes close.  Both short-term and longitudinal studies consistently demonstrate the power of acceleration for gifted students; in one study of students who had accelerated 38 years prior, researchers found accelerated students earned terminal degrees (e.g., Ph.D., J.D., or M.D.) at a rate substantially higher than in the general population (37-43% in the accelerated group compared to only 1% in the general population), performed at a high level in their careers, demonstrated a higher rate of patents and publications, earned higher salaries, etc.

Acceleration can be used as the catalyst for talent development in schools.  Schools should provide:

  1. Advanced opportunities as early as possible in identified areas of aptitude;
  2. Sustained practice of the progressive development of skills under the guidance of a coach, tutor, or mentor;
  3. Competitions in the area of strength, so students can see what excellence looks like; and
  4. Collaboration on expert teams for performance.

The above recommendations are consistent with those provided by the National Science Foundation (2010), which calls for more use of inquiry through project-based learning, more research preparation, and more emphasis on career development.

13 Policy blueIf we accelerate gifted students, what does that look like at each stage?  Dr. VanTassel-Baska recommends using acceleration as the first intervention, then providing enrichment and other services. By using acceleration as the first intervention, we are starting with the evidence-based provision. Higher levels of functioning demand that we raise the level of curricular challenge; this ensures a good match with the student’s readiness for learning.  In short, gifted students who are ready for more advanced curriculum need acceleration.

Acceleration is flexible. It can be provided in different ways, from content acceleration to grade skipping (20 different types of acceleration are listed in A Nation Empowered). Acceleration can be provided at different times during a student’s development, it can be provided for a group or individually, and the types of acceleration can be used alone or in combination.

Content acceleration options at all stages of development should be a core for acceleration policy.  Policymakers and practitioners should consider utilizing existing practices. For example, if an option for testing out of high school courses is available for students who have difficulties, this option should be made available for gifted students as well.

Both research and effective practice demonstrate the power of acceleration with high-ability learners. Acceleration is the first and most important differentiation tool for instruction for gifted students and needs to be acknowledged as such. Our gifted programs would be far more effective if strong acceleration policies were enacted.

We thank Dr. VanTassel-Baska for presenting this important talk.

Additional notes from the Belin-Blank Center

  • See the 2-volume book, A Nation Empowered (, which provides the latest information on research and practice in acceleration.
  • The Acceleration Institute ( contains many resources for making decisions about acceleration and implementing acceleration policies.
  •  The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a useful tool for making decisions about a grade skip.


A Nation Empowered: Empower Yourself with Information about Academic Acceleration, July 24-26

Invent IA footerThere’s still time to register: The early bird discount is available until July 8th!

We are looking forward to seeing you at the July 2016 conference on academic acceleration ( Our aim is to present attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.

All participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

The Pre-Institute (July 24th) focuses on the important tool for making decisions about a grade skip, the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  The Institute (July 25 and 26) provides the opportunity to learn from researchers as well as educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration, including subject-matter acceleration, early entrance to college, dual enrollment, and grade-skipping. In the portion of the conference focused on policy, participants will have the opportunity to hear from schools, districts, and states with successful acceleration policies. They will share their stories of how they were able to put successful policies in place, as well as what participants should consider as they advocate for acceleration in their region.  Participation in the Advanced Leadership Institute on Monday and Tuesday is NOT required for participation in the Pre-Institute.

We look forward to seeing you in a few weeks at this exciting institute.  Speakers include nationally-recognized experts in gifted education research and policy, as well as administrators and educators.  Participants will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of individuals reflecting on the local impact of acceleration policies and practical implications of the research.  We encourage you to register by July 8th, to take advantage of the early bird discount!  See

Everyone Loves an Early Bird Discount!

Register by July 8th for the early bird discount for the conference on academic acceleration!

The SeTypes of accelerationventh Biennial Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute is focusing on Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students in July 2016.  The institute will provide attendees with practical information about acceleration, using existing research and tools to help make data-driven decisions.  Participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration—and from students or parents who have personally experienced the benefits of appropriate programming.
All Institute participants will receive a copy of the two-volume book, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, which includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration.

Speakers who plan to participate include:

Editors of A Nation Empowered:

  • Susan Assouline
  • Nicholas Colangelo
  • Joyce VanTassel-Baska
  • Ann Lupkowski Shoplik

Authors of Chapters in A Nation Empowered:

  • Linda Brody
  • Laurie Croft
  • Megan Foley Nicpon
  • Lori Ihrig
  • Katie McClarty
  • Michelle Muratori
  • Susannah Wood

Additional expert speakers:

  • Wendy Behrens
  • Jane Clarenbach
  • Beth Hahn
  • René Islas
  • Maureen Marron
  • Jaquelin Medina
  • Panel of students who have accelerated

We are looking forward to seeing you at the Institute! For more information and to register, visit:



A One-Day Training Session on Using the Iowa Acceleration Scale

Iowa Acceleration Scale

How do educators and parents make objective, well-thought-out decisions about academic acceleration?  On Sunday, July 24th, you can attend a pre-institute explaining just how to do that!  Learn how to maximize the value of the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd edition), a tool designed to help educators and parents make data-driven decisions about academic acceleration. This session will be provided from 2-5 p.m., July 24, on the University of Iowa campus.  Cost = $75.

The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a tool designed to help educators and parents make informed decisions about a grade skip. It helps to move the conversation away from a selective biased recall of specific acceleration stories to a focus on each aspect of students’ development that should be considered. The focus is on:

  • Student ability, aptitude, and achievement
  • School and Academic factors
  • Developmental factors
  • Interpersonal skills

All of these areas receive consideration in the discussion. The Iowa Acceleration Scale is not a test – it is a tool that guides the conversation of the child study team around the topic.

Using an instrument such as the IAS when making this decision helps us to:

  • Separate the people from the problem,
  • Focus on interests, not positions,
  • Generate possibilities before making decisions, and
  • Base results upon objective criteria.

Pre-institute participants are invited to attend the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute Speakers Reception, Sunday evening, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Starting the next day, the Belin-Blank Center will provide a two-day Institute (July 25 and 26) focused on the new publication on academic acceleration research and practice, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students.

For more information and to register for these events, visit:

Get the Latest From the College Board

In February, IOAPA staff attended the 2016 College Board Midwestern Regional Forum to connect with and learn about all things College Board, including STEM, Advanced Placement, the new SAT, college preparation, and computer science. Read on for details and resources from #MWForum!

See more of the highlights in Belin-Blank Administer Kristin Flanary’s Storify of the event.


Middle School IOAPA: Working Through Challenges

This is the final part of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  Read the first post here and the second post here.

To continue our discussion on middle school IOAPA implementation, we’ve been exploring various concerns and issues that schools might experience and possible ways that middle school IOAPA courses can still be effective. This week, we’ll discuss how to address possible concerns related to administration and credit issues.

  • Students cannot take advanced coursework because they cannot skip required courses. For many schools, a specific sequence of courses helps ensure that students are learning all that they need to know at an appropriate time. Generally speaking, middle school IOAPA courses should be offered in place of typical courses, which can often lead to concerns about filling all requirements. Teachers can prepare for this by determining what constitutes mastery of course concepts, and documenting how students demonstrate mastery through the IOAPA courses. As we discussed last week, any gaps can then be addressed via independent projects or other assignments to ensure students have attained mastery of all content required.
  • No, students absolutely cannot skip required courses. If students are unable to take middle school IOAPA courses in place of typical courses, we still encourage the use of these courses as part of gifted programming, independent study opportunities, or other available times in their schedules. Even if students are not obtaining course credit by completing courses in this way, they are still gaining valuable experience by gaining access to advanced materials.
  • How can students get credit for advanced classes? We encourage schools to consider these classes as an upper-level alternative to a traditionally available class. Again, teachers may need to work creatively to demonstrate that students are meeting the requirements necessary to pass both courses and providing additional educational experiences to fill in any gaps. For example, at Laurie’s school, middle school IOAPA students completed a portfolio of their work to demonstrate mastery of course topics to the faculty.
  • These courses are not aligned with our standards. Are there steps you can take to better align the courses with existing standards through the use of additional projects, portfolios, or other examinations?  If your school adheres to the Common Core, some courses are also aligned to the Common Core.
  • Where can I learn more about providing opportunities to high-ability students? The Belin-Blank Center website has many great resources related to acceleration and opportunities for high-ability students, including our new publication, A Nation Empowered. We also encourage schools considering these courses to check out our recommendations for assessing student eligibility to determine whether these courses would be a good fit.


Middle School IOAPA: Working Through Challenges

This is part two of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  Read the first post here.

Last month, we explored how one teacher at a pilot school navigated our middle school IOAPA courses with her students. Laurie Wyatt and her team at Southeast Polk have worked hard at collaborating and developing ways to integrate these new opportunities into existing curriculum for high-ability students. What other things might be helpful for teachers and administrators who are considering middle school IOAPA for next year?

  • Will students be able to handle an accelerated format? Gifted students learn more quickly than typical students. This is incredibly important when planning curriculum for gifted students because it not only allows students to pick up on concepts more quickly, but also lets them progress at a much more rapid pace. Because of the pace and the guidelines we recommend for students interested in middle school IOAPA courses, students should see these courses as a fun challenge rather than an overwhelming amount of work.
  • Will students be able to complete this material independently? One thing that we recommend for our high school IOAPA students as well as middle school IOAPA students is that site coordinators and mentors work with students to develop a system for tackling online coursework. Often, these courses are a first introduction to online coursework, and students may need additional guidance as they familiarize themselves with the pace and expectations of online classes. Suggestions for mentor support and encouraging good time management practices can be found on our blog.
  • What if students have gaps in their knowledge? A common concern when considering implementation of online coursework is that students may skip content that is important later in their education. However, because high-ability students can work more quickly, gaps are often easily remedied. We recommend assessing for knowledge gaps through the use of unit/end-of-course tests, and then, if gaps are found, developing a project aimed at filling the gap and increasing the students’ knowledge within this area. More information about course acceleration and working with students can be found in various publications on the Belin-Blank Center website.

Stayed tuned next week for more common concerns related to accelerated coursework!

Middle School IOAPA: One School’s Perspective

This is part one of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  You can also read parts two and three.

As we’ve announced, IOAPA’s middle school program will be available state-wide beginning next school year (2015-2016). We’ve already discussed some of the requirements for students interested in these programs, but what should schools and teachers interested in middle school IOAPA classes do to prepare? Laurie Wyatt is the learning support coordinator at Southeast Polk Middle School, one of our pilot IOAPA middle schools this year. She shared some of the strategies they used at their school to make middle school IOAPA a success:

Use upper level courses as a substitute for core classes.

“Students are taking the middle school IOAPA classes instead of other core classes. We did not try to add them ‘on top of.'”

Think about which classes will best benefit your students’ needs, now and in the future.

At Southeast Polk, Laurie and other staff used the information they had to create schedules that both worked with existing curriculum and allowed students to explore areas of interest. She also worked to ensure that the IOAPA course was part of a larger plan to continue offering upper-level coursework to these students:

“One 6th grader is taking the IOAPA creative writing instead of second semester of 6th grade language arts. Next year she will skip 7th grade language arts and take 8th grade language arts as a 7th grader.”

“One 7th grader is taking the IOAPA US History to the Civil War rather than the second semester of 7th grade geography. He is a TAG student, very high CogAT scores, loves social studies, and has very high Iowa Assessment scores…As an 8th grader next year, he will enroll in another middle school IOAPA class rather than 8th grade US History.”

“Two 8th graders are taking IOAPA US History to the Civil War rather than the second semester of 8th grade US History. Again, these are very advanced TAG students who already go to the high school for several classes. Next year they will be at the high school and can take a variety of advanced social studies classes.”

Create additional means for evaluation when appropriate.

Laurie’s students who are taking US History to the Civil War keep a portfolio of their work and present to the social studies staff at their high school at the conclusion of the class.

Determine how middle school IOAPA classes can work with your school’s schedule.

“After trying this out, we want to give more students wider, appropriate opportunities, so here is what we are thinking for next year [for 8th grade]:

  • We have 8th graders eligible to take geometry. Normally they walk to the high school for this class, but next year we will enroll them in the IOAPA Geometry course and keep them at the junior high.
  • 8th grade students who meet our criteria will be eligible to take IOAPA Creative Writing second semester instead of regular 8th grade language arts. Our criteria will include data from CogATs, Iowa Assessments, history of course grades in ELA, teacher and parent recommendation, any above-level testing. A portfolio will be required.
  • 8th grade students who meet our criteria will be eligible to take IOAPA US History to the Civil War second semester instead of regular 8th grade US History. Our criteria will be much the same as the ELA criteria and a portfolio will be required.

We already have an advanced math pathway in place. If we have exceptional students at 6th/7th grade, we will discuss them on a case-by-case basis and use the middle school IOAPA to provide for them.”

Communicate with other school staff to maximize student benefit.

“Our principals are really good about coming together and planning for the needs of students, and that is key. This would not work without their support. The other key component is that this has to be offered ‘instead of’ and not ‘on top of.'”

Have other questions about middle school IOAPA courses? Check out our website!

Message from the Director: Optimism

The 11th Wallace Research and Policy Symposium on Talent Development opened on March 23, 2014, to the theme of Optimism.  The meaning of the Latin root of the word “optimus” is “best” and that is exactly what the Wallace Symposium did!  It brought out the best in the Belin-Blank Center staff, attendees, and presenters.

Since the 1991 inaugural Wallace Symposium, a primary goal has been to build a community of researchers; a secondary goal has been to build a community that brings out the best in the members.  Building community means bringing together individuals from related fields who will share ideas and, through openness and dialogue, create the best community of professionals dedicated to research and policy for talent development.  An attitude of optimism means that there is trust among community members that promotes creation of the best situation possible given the available resources.  With more than 60 featured keynote, invited, and concurrent presentations or posters, and attendees from 10 countries and more than 30 states, all of whom were dedicated to the mission of the Wallace Symposium, how could we miss?

The Wallace Research and Policy Symposium also brought out the best in the entire Belin-Blank Center staff and faculty.  The phenomenal teamwork resulted in a hugely successful event, including the accomplishment of three firsts: the symposium’s first time in DC; first-time emphasis on the integration of two critical components of best practices, research and policy; and the first time that the Belin-Blank Center worked with the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to co-host the symposium during their annual state affiliate advocacy summit.  NAGC president Tracy Cross succinctly framed the benefit of the collaboration in his message to the NAGC membership: “Attendees of the [Wallace] Symposium learned about both the latest research in several areas of talent development, and also how research can inform practices – all with the goal of ensuring members of our community are well-informed about connections between GT programs, services, and pedagogy and developing the high levels of talent we need in the global economy in every student group.”

On a personal note, I was pleased to deliver the concluding keynote, “Ten Years Later: From A Nation Deceived to A Nation Empowered.”  This keynote featured a sneak preview of the forthcoming publication that is an update and revision of the watershed publication, A Nation Deceived.

You, too, can see what we have in mind for A Nation Empowered.

After completion of such a large program, you may be wondering what’s next at the Belin-Blank Center?  We will wrap up Wallace 2014 in the next few weeks and will take a little time to consider our options for Wallace 2016 (including returning to DC).  Meanwhile, we continue to provide the excellent services and programs for students and their educators.  You can learn about the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, which took place on February 27 and 28; the March 29th Weekend Institute for Gifted Students; our Arts Scholastic Award Ceremony, scheduled for April 5; and Invent Iowa, scheduled for April 19.

I’ve always found that the season of spring is the epitome of optimism.  For 25 years, spring has been the time that the Belin-Blank Center puts the finishing touches on preparations for summer and this year is no different.  Summer student program classes, both residential and commuter, are filling up.  The professional development opportunities promise to challenge and encourage educators.  Stay tuned!

We Brought Wallace to DC

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to #wallace2014!  For the first time, we held the Wallace Research & Policy Symposium on Talent Development in Washington, DC.  Check out some of the highlights:

Message from the Director: Remembering James Gallagher

Un seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé

(One single person is gone and the loss is collective)

Such is the case for professionals in the fields of gifted AND special education, as we acknowledge the passing of Professor James J. Gallagher, a world-renowned leader in both special education and gifted education, who passed away on the 17th of January.  His obituary addresses the highlights of Professor Gallagher’s legacy in special and gifted education and offers a personal and professional lesson in life for all of us.

In 2008, the Belin-Blank Center honored Professor Gallagher as the 4th Julian C. Stanley (JCS) Lecturer at the H.B. and Jocelyn Wallace International Research Symposium on Talent Development.  The 11th Wallace Symposium will take place March 23-25, in Washington, D.C.  Dean Nicholas Colangelo (Director Emeritus of the Belin-Blank Center) will deliver the JCS lecture this year on March 24, and we will honor Professor Gallagher’s legacy at that time.

Professor Gallagher also was a contributor to the watershed publication, A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2014.  We are very busy preparing the next edition of the publication and hope to reveal additional details of the forthcoming publication at the Wallace Symposium.  We can tell you that the format will be similar (an edited volume that is comprised of updated and new chapters from experts across the field) and an abridged volume that is based upon the chapters in the edited volume.  Both volumes will be available electronically, just as Volume 1 of Nation Deceived is available – at no cost – through the iTunes store.

Speaking of digital resources, we have now published a revision of our Packet of Information for Professionals, which is an extensive resource for professionals and parents of gifted students with a disability (twice-exceptional because they have ADHD, or Specific Learning Disabilities, or Autism Spectrum Disorders).  These materials were originally developed to facilitate the efforts of Belin-Blank faculty and staff who work with twice-exceptional students.  We continue to update the materials so that we can provide the best service possible to all of our students.

Finally, please check out two recent special newsletters from the Belin-Blank Center:  the University Programs Newsletter and the SSTP Newsletter.  Both of these newsletters give you a glimpse into student life at the University of Iowa, and also demonstrate how the Belin-Blank faculty and staff work year round to provide programming for students. To see the smiling faces of those students, click here.

Want Academic Credit for Attending the Wallace Symposium?

You’re in luck! Participants at the Wallace Research & Policy Symposium may enroll for one semester hour of academic credit through the University of Iowa and are eligible for a 50% tuition scholarship. Learn more about earning credit while at the Wallace Symposium.

Wallace Post Card Page 1

Meet Us in Our Nation’s Capital March 22-25, 2014

Have you wondered why certain methods of curriculum modification work better than others for high-ability kids?  Are you curious about the interplay of research, policy, and best practice in gifted education?  Are you always looking for new ways to advocate for bright students?

If so, the Wallace Research & Policy Symposium on Talent Development: A Catalyst for Innovative Programming is the place for you.  Learn from dozens of the foremost experts in the field and network with researchers and like-minded educators.  See you in DC!


STEM & Sputnik

Yesterday, the University of Iowa College of Education and Dean Nicholas Colangelo welcomed visiting dignitaries from the National University of Science & Technology MISiS, Moscow, Russia.

The presentation focused on the State of Iowa STEM Initiative and featured Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a panel that included Belin-Blank Center Director Susan Assouline.  Many of the speakers referenced Sputnik as a catalyst for gifted education and especially STEM education in the United States.

The Belin-Blank Center and B-BC Administrator Kate Degner covered the event on Twitter:

Colorado Governor Signs Acceleration Bill Into Law


There is more good legislative news for gifted education, this time at the state level.  Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 1023 into law on March 22.  HB 1023 requires all school districts to develop procedures for reviewing and implementing academic acceleration. (The full text of the bill can be found here.)

The basis of the law is the extensive research on the benefits of academic acceleration as an education intervention for gifted and high-ability students.  The Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration provides research, instruments for making decisions about acceleration, and policy advice.

States and districts that are seeking guidance on writing acceleration policy can consult Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy. The Guidelines document

  • Presents recommendations in five key areas for components of an acceleration policy.
  • Supports schools in creating a comprehensive and research-based acceleration policy that is compatible with local policies.
  • Provides an easy-to-use Checklist for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy to guide policy development.

Congratulations to the Colorado advocates for their successful efforts!

Senator Grassley Introduces TALENT Act in Support of Gifted Students

Grassley-090507-18363- 0032Senator Grassley (R-IA) continued his long-time leadership in gifted education by introducing the bipartisan To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers (TALENT) Act (S. 512), along with Senators Casey (D-PA) and Mikulski (D-MD), on March 11, 2013.

There are four key provisions of the TALENT Act (the NAGC and CEC websites contain additional information):

Supporting Educator Development to Ensure Academic Growth for High-Ability Students: The TALENT Act recognizes the critical role of teachers as the catalyst for learning and academic growth and as such seeks to expand professional development opportunities in gifted education pedagogy for teachers nationwide.

Confronting and Addressing the National Excellence Gap: The TALENT Act responds directly to recent research demonstrating a growing “excellence gap” at the top achievement levels between students from low-income or minority backgrounds and their more advantaged peers by emphasizing opportunities for students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from rural areas throughout the bill.

Providing Public Transparency of Student Achievement Data: The TALENT Act emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the highest performance levels in the accountability system, with an emphasis on closing the “excellence gap”.

Continuing Research and Dissemination on Best Practices in Gifted Education The TALENT Act recognizes that the expanding research in gifted education is the foundation for the success of our nation’s students with gifts and talents.

In a press release from the CEC, Senator Grassley said:

“America cannot afford to ignore the needs of its brightest students and, by doing so, squander their potential. Our legislation would make modifications to federal education policy in order to develop and encourage the high achievement that’s possible for so many gifted and talented students. By doing so, it would help to enhance the future prosperity of our nation.”

Senator Grassley’s sponsorship sends an important message that the needs of gifted students must be considered in federal education reform efforts.  The Belin-Blank Center applauds Senator Grassley for his leadership in gifted education.

The 2012 Acceleration Summit

The Belin-Blank Center co-hosted a summit on academic acceleration, Creating Learning Opportunities for Advanced Students:  The Critical Need for Acceleration Policies, with the National Association for Gifted Children, in Washington, DC, on March 18-19, 2012. We purposefully brought together experts and perspectives from gifted education leaders, education researchers, influential policy makers, and administrators to discuss how to shape the local, state, and national agendas to serve gifted and high-ability students.

Through research presentations, advocacy talks, a panel presentation, and breakout sessions, attendees:

  • Identified barriers to adopting acceleration policies and practices for high-ability students at the state, area education agency, district, and school levels;
  • Generated strategies for supporting acceleration policy at the state, area, district, and school levels; and,
  • Explored opportunities for establishing collaborations and partnerships between stakeholders in gifted and regular education so that the needs of high-ability students are integrated into curriculum and policy decisions.

The summit was an exciting and energetic exchange of ideas.  It lasted only a few hours, but the ramifications of acceleration and setting policies that are based on research and best practices can build to an exciting future in our schools.

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How Well Are We Educating Our Gifted Children?

The National Association for Gifted Children released its 2010-2011 biannual report on the status of gifted education in the United States.  Check out Tamara Fisher’s great blog post on the new report, which includes some of the main findings from the report.

Sen. Grassley Introduces Bill to Support Gifted and High-Ability Students

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to support gifted and high-ability students, especially those who are underrepresented and underserved, on April 14.

The legislation, known as the TALENT (To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers) Act (S. 857), will:

  • Require states and local districts that receive Title I funding – those that serve a high proportion of students from disadvantaged settings – to include gifted and talented and high-potential learners in their plans for using the federal funds.
  • Require states to report on the performance and learning progress of gifted students on their annual state report cards.
  • Take the critical step to make sure teachers, principals, and other school personnel are trained to recognize and serve gifted and high-ability students appropriately by supporting the development of best practice strategies and helping states and districts get those strategies into the hands of teachers through national dissemination efforts and professional development grants.
  • Collect appropriate data on high-ability students to enable policymakers and educators to make informed decisions.

The bill is sponsored by Grassley and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate.  The TALENT Act is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Donald Payne (D-NJ).

The Belin-Blank Center applauds Sen. Grassley for his leadership on the TALENT Act and thanks him for his long-standing support of high-ability students.

Please urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor this important piece of legislation.

Iowa’s Representatives

Iowa’s Senators

Outside of Iowa

Visit and for email addresses and other contact information for your Members of Congress.

For more information about the TALENT Act, visit