Category Archives: Talent Search

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.

 

I’m Ready to Set Up I-Excel Testing for This Year: Where Do I Start?

Maybe the first place for educators to start is with thinking about the “Why” of testing. I-Excel (and other above-level tests such as the ACT) provide a way of discovering high-ability students who need additional challenges. Above-level tests provide important information and help us make decisions about the types of programming our talented students need.

BBC students outsideIn a previous blog, we talked about how above-level testing works. Our focus here is on the steps educators can take to set up testing and what happens next.  The purpose is to discover high-performing students and match the curriculum and programming to their needs.

Students who perform well on grade-level tests (such as the Iowa Assessments) are good candidates to begin this process. Educators may take the following steps:

  1. Identify 4th-6th graders scoring at the 95th percentile or above on at least one section of the Iowa Assessments.
  2. Contact the Belin-Blank Center to set up a testing date.
  3. Invite them to participate in above-level testing using I-Excel.
  4. Administer I-Excel during a school day or on the weekend (depending on what works best for your situation).
  5. Receive detailed interpretation from the Belin-Blank Center. The Aggregate Report compiles information from your group of students to help you make decisions about placement changes and adjustments to the curriculum. The Individual Report (which can be shared with parents) provides detailed information about students’ strengths in math, science, English and reading and helps you make data-driven decisions about individual students’ academic needs.
  6. Make decisions about the students’ educational placement and curriculum. Some students’ test data will inform you that they are in need of academic enrichment, while other students’ data will indicate their readiness for more accelerated work.

What happens to the students as a result of this information? Your school district may already have a variety of opportunities for these students (enrichment programs, accelerated courses, honors courses, etc.). I-Excel might be used to help educators make decisions about which students would benefit from an accelerative math program or a literature-based enrichment program that is already in place or is being developed. Iowa educators might consider the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA), which provides online courses during the school day. What makes the IOAPA courses so successful (a 95% completion rate!) is the partnership between the Belin-Blank Center and the local school. IOAPA provides access to the curriculum and the school provides a local mentor who monitors and encourages the student.

The outcome of participation in I-Excel 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.  If you’re ready to get started, email assessment@belinblank.org.

I-Excel Testing Session for 4th-6th Graders at University of Iowa

BBC students outsideAre you thinking about having your high-ability student take I-Excel?  The Belin-Blank Center is hosting a testing session on the University of Iowa campus on June 12th.

I-Excel is considered an above-level test. It contains 8th grade content, but it is administered to high-ability 4th – 6th graders.  Students scoring at the 95th percentile or higher on any subject of the grade-level test (such as the Iowa Assessments) have reached the ceiling of that test.  An above-level test raises the ceiling, measures the student’s aptitudes more accurately, and can inform parents and educators about readiness for advanced curriculum.   More information and a video about above-level testing can be found at this link.

I-Excel is a test of 8th grade content, which provides a challenge for talented 4th-6th graders.  This test enables students to demonstrate their academic strengths in math, science, English, and reading.  The results of an above-level test tell us what students are ready to learn, which can help parents and educators make appropriate curriculum modifications and programming.  Outstanding individual scorers will be recognized in a formal recognition ceremony at the University of Iowa.  Families receive above-level test score reports and an extensive interpretation of results. This interpretation includes recommendations for curriculum readiness.  More information about I-Excel can be found here.

The next testing session on the University of Iowa campus is June 12th, and students may register here.  Check-in begins at 12:30, and testing will conclude around 3:00 p.m. The cost is $65. A few weeks before the test, we will send more details to students who have signed up.

Students unable to participate in the testing session at the University of Iowa can still take I-Excel testing this school year. See detailed information about Individual Testing, which can be arranged at a convenient location and time.  The deadline for testing this is June 10th, and testing will resume again in the fall.  If you have any questions, email us at assessment@belinblank.org.

New Test Scores Tool for Iowa Educators

In collaboration with Iowa Testing Programs, we’re proud to announce a new way for Iowa teachers to find students who could benefit from an above-level test.  Educators in Iowa who have access to eITP can now run lists of students who qualify for above-level testing (administering a test designed for older students to younger students).  The tool creates a list of students who scored highly enough on their Iowa Assessments that they would benefit from the additional challenge of an above-level test.  To learn more about above-level testing, please visit belinblank.org/talent-search.

A preview of the new feature. If you have access to your school’s Iowa Assessments scores, you can use the tool at https://itp.education.uiowa.edu/eitp/auth/individual/BestsTalentSearch.aspx

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!