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IOAPA for Middle School: It’s Time to Prepare for Above-Level Testing!

We are nearing the end of 2018! Although there are many fun and stressful end-of-year activities and holidays approaching, we encourage you to think about planning for 2019 Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) coursework. The best way to do so for middle school students is to start with above-level testing. Above-level tests can provide essential information for determining whether a student is ready for additional challenge. If you have students in your classroom who have mastered the curriculum, or you are unsure of how to keep some students challenged and engaged, you may want to consider above-level testing.

For instance, IOAPA is partnered with the Belin-Blank Exceptional Students Talent Search (BESTS), our above-level testing program. This partnership helps connect students with appropriate assessment and educational opportunities. Check out this blog post for instructions on getting started with above-level testing, or this one for recommendations on using scores to inform eligibility for advanced coursework.

PRSI Classroom 2018-2

As always, contact us at with any questions!

See You at NAGC!

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) will hold its 65th annual convention on November 15-18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our staff will be available to discuss our programs and services, and answer any questions you may have, at Booth 610 in the Exhibit Hall. We will also be delivering several presentations, and we hope to see you there!


NAGC Convention presenters from the Belin-Blank Center include Dr. Susan Assouline, Professor in the Department of Psychological & Quantitative Foundations (P & Q), Myron and Jacqueline N. Blank Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, and Director of the Center; Dr. Laurie Croft, Clinical Professor of Gifted Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning (T & L) and Associate Director, Professional Development at the Center (and NAGC Board Member); Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Professor in P & Q and Associate Director, Research (Past Chair, Research & Evaluation Network); Jan Warren, Assistant Director, Student Services at the Center (Chair, Arts Network); Dr. Alissa Doobay, Supervisor, Psychological Services; Dr. Joy Goines, Staff Psychologist, Assessment and Counseling Clinic; David Gould, Administrator, Bucksbaum Academy; Dr. Lori Ihrig, Supervisor, Curriculum and Instruction; Dr. Duhita Mahatmya, Administrator, Research Methodology; and Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik, Administrator, Acceleration Institute. In addition, other familiar names in gifted education from the University of Iowa, Dr. Clar Baldus, Clinical Professor in Teaching & Learning, Consultant for the Arts at the Center (Past Chair, Arts Network), Dr. Susannah Wood, Associate Professor in Counselor Education, and colleagues Dr. Carol Smith, Clinical Associate Professor, and Dr. David Duys, Associate Professor, will be presenting at the NAGC Convention.


Going Back to School Gifted


A new school year can be an exciting or nerve-wracking endeavor for any child. Gifted children often have extra sensitivities or overexcitabilities that can intensify these feelings. Parents of gifted children can also have some apprehension about how best to help their child have a positive and productive learning experience at school. To help ease the transition from summer to school, we have compiled some tips for parents sending their gifted kids back to the classroom.shutterstock_215271067.jpg

Watch out for signs of any concerns about transitioning back to school, like perfectionism, bullying, or boredom. Help your child understand any particular issues they deal with and make a plan for dealing with these throughout this year. Involve the school or other professionals if needed.

Communicate with the teacher(s) early to discuss your child’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Politely let them know what has worked well in grades past (and what hasn’t). If you have any relevant results from testing, assessments, or doctors, consider sharing these with the teacher, so that they can differentiate (or, adjust their plan based on what each child needs) more effectively. If you are pursing an IEP or 504 plan, be sure to get organized and stay on top of those processes.

Don’t be afraid to advocate for what your child needs. Even more importantly, teach your child ways to advocate for their education, as well.

Check the deadlines for any science fairs, art competitions, scholarships, or other enrichment opportunities. It’s also never too early to be planning for out-of-school days, including spring break and, yes, next summer! Work with your child to make a list of camps, classes, or extracurricular activities they are interested in, and note the timelines for those applications processes, as well. Write these on your calendar, and have your child write them down in any calendars or planners they keep. (And be sure to check out our programs for talented students!)

JSHS 2017-22-2

Attend the school’s back-to-school or curriculum nights, and keep an eye out for any potential pain points (or solutions) for your child.

Meet the TAG teacher and offer to support their programming with your available expertise and/or resources. Are you in business? Offer to make a class visit to discuss entrepreneurship. Do you have an interesting hobby, like photography, bug collecting, or stand-up comedy? Offer to put on a workshop and let the students give it a try! Do you have contacts at a local college or major employer? See if you can arrange a behind-the-scenes tour. Do you have some available time? Ask if classroom volunteers or extracurricular sponsors are needed.

Supplement classroom learning with books that match the level at which your child is capable of reading, trips to museums, documentaries, extracurricular activities, and the like.


Reassess your student’s study space at home, and discuss time management skills. Make sure your child has everything they need to work in the way that is best for them. Evaluate whether the amount of study time that your family has built into its schedule is still appropriate.

For more, be sure to check out these other helpful posts:

Above all else, keep in mind that no one parent can do all of the things in this post at all times, and that is okay! The most important things you can do are to listen to your children, support them, and make sure they know you are here for them.

What other tips do you have? Share with us here or on social media (Facebook, Twitter).

Here’s to a year of learning new things, exploring interests, and growing through challenge!

Countdown to Applications

Our five-and-a-half-week intensive summer research program is now accepting applicants!

Need a Last-Minute Summer PD Opportunity?

PD in Science 2014.jpgThe Belin-Blank Center still has professional development opportunities for educators available this summer!

See the schedule (in chronological order) and learn more about getting registered for any of the remaining opportunities this summer.

If you’re thinking about professional learning for the fall semester, we’ll be updating our the link above in late July with the fall schedule.

Best Practices for IOAPA Mentors

Mentors are a key component of the Iowa Online AP Academy model. These individuals may or may not have expertise in the content areas their students are studying, and in most of our courses, mentors are not expected to provide instruction on the course content. (The mentor’s role for AP Computer Science Principles is slightly different; future posts will address this, or you can contact IOAPA staff with questions.) Instead, IOAPA mentors provide support and encouragement for students, assist them in determining where and how to seek help, and monitor progress in course materials and intervene when necessary.

What should I do to be an effective mentor?

  • Build positive relationships with students. According to the University of Minnesota’s mentoring model, checking in with students frequently can promote strong relationships.
    • One study cited in a research synthesis found that “facilitators that are directly working with students day by day are key to the success of the program” and that the physical presence of mentors can motivate students to engage (cited in Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Connect students with resources. Mentors are not expected to have all the answers for students’ questions, but helping them determine where to find support, or how to ask for help, can be beneficial. Check out our blog post on supporting struggling students for more info.
    • This may include serving as a “communication link” between students and their course instructors (Borup & Drysdale, 2014).
  • Communicate with other mentors. Whether for emotional support or professional guidance, your fellow IOAPA mentors are a great resource for new and veteran mentors alike. Check out the IOAPA mentor support network information in the IOAPA Handbook.
  • Encourage healthy work habits. We all need occasional reminders to take breaks and prioritize, and IOAPA students are no exception. Mentors can help students set priorities, schedule time for relaxation, and promote stress management. The University Counseling Service at the University of Iowa developed a list of stress management strategies that may be useful.


Do you have suggestions for other IOAPA mentors? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter using #IOAPA. Also, look out for our mentor survey at the end of the semester to share your thoughts!

SSTP Mentor Studies Effects of Music on Dementia Patients

This is such a great example of the high-level work that students in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) do over the summer! We’ll have information about applying to SSTP next month.

Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa

Daniel Tranel, a professor of neurology and psychology at the University of Iowa, and Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, a graduate student, have been working to study the emotional effects of music on patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. By measuring patients’ moods before and after sessions, Tranel determines the type and magnitude of the effect.

dementiaPhoto: David Scrivner/Iowa City Press-Citizen

Jasmine Leahy, a member of the SSTP class of 2016, worked with Dr. Tranel and Reschke-Hernandez this summer. She reflected on the impact of the research conducted by Tranel’s team: “It was transformative for me to see how music can completely improve the demeanor of someone. Many of the patients we worked with became more engaged when we played music for them. Our patients with Alzheimer’s became more willing to share things and talk, participate in conversations, etc.”

Read more at the following links:

Local news article

Local news story

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