Category Archives: Talent Search

Differentiating? Finding the Students Who Need Something Different

 

 

DSC_0075On this blog, we’ve talked a lot about using above-level testing as a tool to discover exceptionally talented students. It’s an efficient way to find students who need “something more” than the regular curriculum offers. If a group of your bright students takes an above-level test, the results can help you understand which students are best challenged by enriching the regular curriculum, which students might need some more significant adjustments to the curriculum, and which students need acceleration. This additional information not only makes your teaching much more efficient, but it helps students to remain engaged and challenged in school.

One of the tests provided by the Belin-Blank Center is I-Excel, offered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders. It licenses content developed by the testing company, ACT, that was designed to measure the academic progress of junior high students.  From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.  It contains four subtests: English, Math, Science, and Reading.

After testing, I-Excel scores appear in IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration, the platform for understanding and interpreting test scores, automatically.  Educators can view both group and individual interpretations, and they can easily distribute the individualized interpretations to parents.  I-Excel is offered in three different ways:

  1. BESTS In-School: For groups of 4 or more students, educators can set up a test date in their school any day of the week. Learn more.
  2. Individual Testing: For 1-3 students, parents or educators can set up a test date any time. A licensed educator must proctor the test.  Learn more.
  3. Test dates are also periodically offered at the Belin-Blank Center. Learn more.

We welcome opportunities to work with educators to ensure the I-Excel test results are presented in ways that are useful to you. Visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search for more details.

Have Your 7th-9th Graders Registered to Take the ACT?

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Your 7th-9th graders have a unique opportunity to take the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center; this test is usually given to 11th and 12th graders during the college admissions process. Bright younger students can take it as a way of demonstrating their academic abilities, becoming eligible for academic recognition such as the Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony, and becoming eligible for educational opportunities (such as summer and weekend programs) and scholarships.

Eligible 7th-9th graders will have earned a score at the 95th percentile or above on a core subject of a grade-level test (such as the Iowa Assessments).  Those students have already demonstrated high achievement on grade-level tests and are ready to show what they have learned or are ready to learn by taking an “above-level” test, or one that is designed for older students. A disadvantage of grade-level tests is that they do not accurately measure highly-able students’ abilities; think of it like a yardstick that is too short to measure the extent of their talents. The above-level test essentially lengthens the yardstick and helps us to know more about the students’ abilities and to make sound educational recommendations for them.

The cost for ACT is $65. The next test session is April 8, and the deadline is March 1st (a late fee is added for those who register after that date).

We encourage educators to let their students know about this unique opportunity.  For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search.

Making Sense of Test Scores

ideal-solutions-rocketWe are thrilled to announce the launch of IDEAL Solutions® for STEM Acceleration, the platform for understanding I-Excel and ACT test scores.  A comprehensive, easy-to-read report helps educators and parents decide the best curricular fit for one or more high-ability students.  IDEAL Solutions helps to translate data into research-supported action.

The type of information provided by above-level testing (via I-Excel or ACT) helps parents and educators make decisions based on facts and research.  IDEAL Solutions provides individual reports, as well as group reports useful for teachers looking for ways to challenge their high-ability students.

I-Excel, offered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders, licenses content developed by the testing company, ACT, that was designed to measure the academic progress of junior high students.  From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th-6th graders for over 20 years.

After testing, I-Excel scores appear in IDEAL Solutions automatically.  I-Excel is available in three different ways:

  1. BESTS In-School: For groups of 4 or more students, educators can set up a test date in their school any day of the week. Learn more.
  2. Individual Testing: For 1-3 students, parents or educators can set up a test date any time. A licensed educator must proctor the test.  Learn more.
  3. Test dates are also periodically offered at the Belin-Blank Center. Learn more.

ACT, offered to high-ability 7th-9th graders, is primarily used in the college admissions process and is available only through national testing dates established by ACT. Locations are available throughout the United States.  The ACT takes approximately three hours to complete.  Learn more.

For more information, visit the new IDEAL Solutions website!

What Kind of Test Should My Child Take?

Often, we hear from parents and educators who are seeing the signs that children aren’t being challenged, and they’re looking for a way to assess their current level of knowledge so they can make appropriate curricular adjustments.

The Belin-Blank Center offers two major kinds of assessment: above-level testing, and individualized educational assessment.

Above-level testing means giving a test designed for older students to younger students.  For instance, I-Excel consists of 8th grade content, but we administer it to high-ability 4th-6th graders.  Some reasons to consider above-level testing:

  • Parents and/or teachers suspect that the student isn’t being challenged.
  • Parents and/or teachers are looking to understand what level of content the student is ready to learn.
  • The student would like to participate in programs (IOAPA, some summer programs) that require the scores.

And the student should meet the following criteria:

  • Scoring at the 95th percentile or higher on any main subject of a standardized grade-level test.
  • Able to sit still and concentrate for 2 1/2 hours with a short break halfway through.

Learn more about above-level testing through the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS).

Individualized educational assessments are conducted to assist with academic planning.  They involve individual assessment of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant in academic planning decisions.  These assessments are not diagnostic in nature; therefore, they cannot be submitted to insurance for reimbursement.  The results are more detailed than above-level testing, and the cost to complete them is higher.  Some initial reasons to consider an individualized educational assessment include:

  • You’re considering whole grade acceleration and would like to get the bulk of the information needed all at once.
  • The student is in 3rd grade or younger, and therefore too young for the grade-level assessments or I-Excel.
  • The student has behavioral/cognitive factors that result in individualized assessment being more accurate than group-administered (e.g., 2e students who don’t “test” as well as expected based on knowledge).

Individualized educational assessments are available through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.  You can request an appointment with the Clinic using this form.

Talent Search: Bridge to Opportunity

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They say, “A picture is worth 10,000 words,” and that must mean that a video is worth over a million!  We are excited to share with you a video explaining what Talent Searches can do for students, educators, and parents.  Academic Talent Searches discover students talented in math, science, and language arts using the efficient method of above-level testing.

4th-6th graders might take I-Excel, and 7th-9th graders might take the ACT.  These above-level tests help us to understand not only the extent of students’ talents, but also what they are ready to learn next. The tests help us to understand the needs of exceptionally talented students, as well as to think about ways in which we can modify programs and other opportunities offered in school (and outside of school) to best realize those talents.  The Belin-Blank Center staff is eager to work with educators and families to understand how the test scores can be used to inform educational decision-making, so students are challenged every day.

We thank the Sara Rieger (an artist, teacher, and parent), for putting the information about Talent Searches together in such a creative and engaging way!

If you have questions about I-Excel or other opportunities the Belin-Blank Center offers, please contact ann-shoplik@uiowa.edu.  Take a look at our new video, and let us know what you think!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

“Above-level testing” is exactly what it sounds like:  Give a younger student a test that was developed for older students.  This idea was pioneered exactly one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth, sometimes called the “mother” of gifted education.  This concept was fully developed by Dr. Julian Stanley in the 1970s when he devised the “Talent Search” in which 7th and 8th graders took the college admissions exam, the SAT.  Fast forward to 2016, and above-level testing is used extensively in outside-of-school programs for gifted students. In fact, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of university-based talent searches, such as the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.  Some of these tests used are the SAT, ACT, Explore (recently discontinued), and I-Excel. Unfortunately, above-level tests are not used extensively in typical school gifted programs; we would like to change that!

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

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

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

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

 

Can I-Excel Be Used to Screen Students for a Gifted Program?

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I-Excel is a new test offered by the Belin-Blank Center. Its purpose is to assist educators in discovering academically talented 4th-6th grade students who need additional challenges in school.  One of the teachers with whom we work asked, “Could I-Excel be used to screen students for a gifted program, or would you recommend using other methods for screening?”

This is an excellent question.  The short answer is “Yes!”  We recommend the following steps for educators:

  1. Look at the results from the standardized testing routinely administered at your school (for example, the Iowa Assessments, Stanford Achievement Tests, Terra Nova, etc.).
  2. Select the 4th, 5th, or 6th graders scoring at or around the 95th percentile or above on at least one of the core content areas (such as reading, math, language, science, etc.).
  3. Invite those students to participate in I-Excel testing. We suggest that the students take all four subtests of I-Excel (Math, Science, English, and Reading) to get the most comprehensive information.
  4. Use the I-Excel information in combination with other information you have available to select students for your gifted program and/or other appropriately challenging programming.
    1. You might choose to focus on only one area; for example, if you are seeking students in need of additional opportunities in math, you’ll want to look most closely at the Math subtest of I-Excel to identify high-performing math students.
    2. IDEAL Solutions is the platform for understanding I-Excel test scores. Once your students test using I-Excel, educators will have access to an individualized interpretation of the test scores as well as a group interpretation (if 10 or more students tested). This information is designed to help you make informed decisions about the types of programs to provide for challenging your students.
    3. For example, in a given school with a comprehensive TAG program, educators might decide to use all four subtests of I-Excel to identify students for the gifted program. In another school, where the TAG program is more focused on advanced science and mathematics, educators might use only the Science and Math subtests of I-Excel as part of their larger identification process. Students with very high scores on the English or Reading subtests may be ready for more advanced material in language arts.

I-Excel is useful for helping educators determine which students have specific talents in one area (for example, Science), and which students demonstrate high ability across the board (Math, Science, English, and Reading). Gifted programs and other advanced opportunities can be designed with the students’ varying strengths in mind, and different schools will choose different approaches to challenge their students.

Because I-Excel is an above-level test, it can be used as an indicator of specific aptitude when completing the Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS).  The IAS was designed to help make decisions about whether or not a student is ready for a grade skip.

Always be sure to check your local and state policies for gifted program identification, to be sure your process is consistent with requirements.

We welcome opportunities to work with educators to ensure the I-Excel test results are presented in ways that are useful to you. Have other questions?  Visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search for more details.