Category Archives: Uncategorized

IOAPA & COVID-19: Internet & Educational Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19, and we will continue to provide updates and new resources. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. This blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

Internet Resources

We acknowledge the digital divide could prevent some students from continuing with their online IOAPA courses. We want to provide you with a few resources to combat this barrier:

  1. The College Board is attempting to navigate this situation for students enrolled in AP courses. Please fill out this survey for the College Board to provide mobile tools or connectivity.
  2. The University of Iowa is providing free drive-up wireless service to allow students, faculty, and staff who need high-speed internet Review the Drive-up Wifi Locations page for additional on-campus and off-campus locations, maps, and instructions on connecting.
  3. Many internet providers are announcing various packages to help those who don’t have internet or have slow internet at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Below is a partial list of what is offered. Please note: This list is rapidly changing. Please check with your the provider for the most recent updates and offers:
  • FCC agreement stating providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots.
  • AT&T COVID-19 response: Offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low-income families.
  • CenturyLink COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, will waive late fees due to financial circumstances associated with COVID-19, and will suspend data usage limits for consumer customers for 60 days.
  • Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months.
  • Comcast COVID-19 response: Offers free WiFi for 2 months to low-income families plus all Xfinity hot-spots are free to the public during this time.
  • Mediacom COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, offering complimentary access to all Mediacom Xtream Wi-Fi Hotspots for 60 days, and extending the pricing of Mediacom’s Access Internet 60 broadband service to new customers at $19.99 per month for the next 12 months. 
  • Sprint COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, provides unlimited data to existing customers, and, starting Tuesday, 3/17/2020, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • T-Mobile COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge.
  • Verizon COVID-19 response: Follows FCC agreement, plus giving all mobile customers 15GB of extra data from March 25th through April 30th.
  • US Cellular: Follows FCC agreement.

Educational Resources

  1. Amazon Future Engineer and Edhesive have collaborated to offer free access to additional Edhesive computer science courses or professional development through August 31, 2020. See this page for more information.
  2. Check out this list of education companies that are offering free subscriptions due to school closings. It is frequently updated so make sure to bookmark it!

We are continuing to think of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog posts and emails that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

SSTP Acceptance Status FAQ

Acceptance emails for the 2020 Secondary Student Training Program go out on April 1! With this information comes lots of questions, so here are answers to some of the most frequent questions we get.

Q: I’m an alternate. Why was I selected as an alternate?

A: Congratulations! Being an alternate means, you have an impressive and competitive application. After selecting students, we search for research group placements that match based on declared research interests, previous research experiences, and high school coursework. When the pieces fall into place, we offer a placement in a research group for the summer. In many cases, we are unable to provide students with outstanding application materials a spot in a research group because we are unable to find a suitable lab placement.

Q: I’m an alternate. What number am I on the waitlist?

A: We work to match you with your indicated research interest. Because of this, ranking the names on the waitlist 1 – 100 is not possible. When a student declines their invitation to SSTP, we look for an alternate with similar research interests that is a good match for the open seat.

Q: I’m an alternate. I really want to come to SSTP, but I’ve been invited to join other programs. What should I do? 

A: This is a question only you can answer. We cannot guarantee that anyone on the waitlist will be offered a spot in the SSTP program.

Q: What about COVID-19 concerns?

A: The Belin-Blank Center is committed to maintaining the safety and well-being of all our staff, students, and families, and we continue to actively monitor the COVID-19 pandemic. We are following the University of Iowa’s guidance and the CDC’s recommendations, and we will continue to do so throughout the duration of the situation. Furthermore, we continue to rely on University of Iowa leadership for guidance regarding our summer programs.

We have been told that the university will make decisions later this semester about face-to-face programs that begin mid-June or later. As soon as we have that information, the Belin-Blank Center will provide email updates to our program participants and their families about whether their program will proceed as planned or has been canceled, rescheduled, or modified for a different format. If the University of Iowa requires that we cancel a program due to COVID-19, all enrolled participants will receive a full refund of any program fees that they have already paid.

Q: I’m accepted! What’s next?

A: Congratulations! We look forward to your participation in SSTP. Once we have the decision from the University, we will send additional information. There are no further steps you need to take at this time. Assuming the program is able to proceed as planned, you will receive an email with information regarding your faculty mentor match, the first payment deadline, and additional program details.

Congratulations to all of the 2020 SSTP applicants! You are an impressive group of students and should be proud of your many accomplishments.

IOAPA & COVID-19: Resources

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive. This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources. Another blog post will discuss how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams.

APEX Resources

Apex has suggestions for proctoring exams, and Apex also offered a ‘course-pause’ option for students that lose access to courses. If your courses are set up to be proctored by a mentor, you can:

  1. Have students take exams upon their return.  Per Apex’s standard policy, students will not be penalized for late work.
  2. Work with parents to proctor students taking exams. Mentors can unlock tests remotely.  

You can also request a course-pause for your entire program, or just for students that may lack access. Apex will leave the courses ‘paused’ until you confirm they should be re-opened.  Please reach out to our student services team (alvs.support@apexlearning.com; 855-550-2457) to initiate this option.

Edhesive Resources

Edhesive has created a guide on how to continue courses with remote learning. This guide includes tips to support teachers, students, and parents. Edhesive is currently working with their partners at Amazon to support students who may lack equipment and internet access. Support and online teaching assistants will continue to be available to support students and teachers via online forums. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

IOAPA & COVID-19: AP Exams

In regards to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we hope you are all doing well. We recognize this is a stressful time for everyone and we want to check in on a few things. We have created a few blog posts regarding IOAPA and COVID-19. This one will provide information on how the College Board is navigating COVID-19 with AP exams. Another blog post will provide resources for navigating your online courses through APEX and Edhesive.  This blog post provides internet access and educational/learning resources.

The College Board is supporting AP students by offering free, optional remote learning and at-home AP testing. These resources are offered in order to allow students to still earn the college credit and placement that they have been working toward all year. 

  • For the 2019-20 exam administration, students can take a 45-minute online exam at home. The College Board development committees are currently creating these exam questions.
    • Students are able to take these exams on any device – computer, tablet, or smartphone. Taking a photo of handwritten work will also be an option.
    • The College Board recognizes the digital divide for low-income and rural students. If students need mobile tools or connectivity, please reach out to the College Board.
  • Each AP exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March. This will account for the students who may have lost more instructional time than others. 
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject there will be two different testing dates. Specific test dates will be posted by April 3. 
  • Colleges support this solution and are committed to ensuring that AP students receive the credit they’ve worked hard to earn. 
  • Any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge. 
  • Beginning March 25, students and schools will have access to free, live AP review lessons,delivered by AP teachers from across the nation. 
  • For more information, check with the College Board’s websiteand their AP updates for schools impacted by COVID-19. 

We are already thinking of how this situation may affect the fall semester, and we are working on being as flexible as possible. Be on the lookout for a future blog post and email that will provide information on our next steps. Our goal is to determine how we can best support our IOAPA community! As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns at ioapa@belinblank.org

FAQs about the IOAPA + BESTS Partnership

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) are teamed up to provide identification and programming services to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. This partnership helps (1) students remain challenged and engaged after they master the classroom curriculum, and (2) assists teachers school districts in identifying students who are ready for additional challenge. Above-level testing and the implementation of advanced coursework can help with these issues.

This partnership has been around for many years. In this blogpost, we discuss and respond to the most frequently asked questions related to how IOAPA and BESTS work together.

What is above-level testing?

In short, above-level testing is giving a younger student a test that is developed for older students.

Is above-level testing a new concept?

No! It is extensively used at universities with centers for gifted education, but unfortunately it is often not used by schools. The idea of above-level testing was pioneered over one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth. 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. Currently, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of a university-based talent search (including the Belin-Blank Center)!

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.  If students do so well that they get everything (or almost everything) right, then we don’t really know what the extent of their talents might be.  Psychologists call this “hitting the ceiling” of the test.

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.

How can above-level testing be used?

  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

What is the cost of I-Excel?

The cost of I-Excel in Iowa is $45 per student if groups of 4 or more students are tested. The cost is $22 if student is eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. For students testing individually, the cost is $90 ($45 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch). If students test on campus in June at the testing session (this year, June 11 2020), we sponsor $70 of the fee ($35 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch).

I’m ready to set up I-Excel testing – Where do I start?

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge. 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.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA fall registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand. (Note: that if you have 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing, they will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/talent-search for specific information).
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

How do I help students prepare for the I-Excel?

The best preparation for taking a standardized test such as I-Excel is to get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast. This helps to set the student up for success.

Before taking I-Excel, we recommend that students try the sample items so they become comfortable with the format of the test. Beyond that, we do not recommend that students study for the test. The most useful scores result when students understand the format but do not study for the test.  Families receive a link to the sample test in their confirmation email. Registered students can use the email address associated with the registration to access the sample items, or contact assessment@belinblank.org to receive the link and a temporary access code.

If the test is not during a regular school day, make sure they know what time to arrive and where to meet.  They should bring:

  • A simple calculator for use during the Mathematics test.
  • A snack to eat during a break. We recommend something healthy, such as an apple.
  • Two pencils.
  • Scrap paper will be provided.

What is the outcome of I-Excel testing?

I-Excel test results will better equip teachers and students to make decisions about which students would benefit from advanced coursework, specifically through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA). Scores at or above the 50th percentile on an above-level test are indicative of a need for additional challenge, such as that provided by IOAPA courses.

Content Area Scores for IOAPA Eligibility

Above-level assessments can provide individual domain scores specific to each content area measured, and an overall composite score reflecting performance across areas. IOAPA recommends using these content-area scores, rather than overall scores, to ensure the advanced learning opportunities are available to all talented students in their area(s) of strength. The table below details the relevant content area score(s) for each of our IOAPA middle school course.

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

Students in 7th – 9th grade also have an opportunity for above-level testing by taking the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center. We encourage educators to let their students know about this unique opportunity.  For more information, visit www.belinblank.org/talent-search.

IOAPA: Funding for Spring Course AP Exams

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to continue offering scholarships to pay for the cost of Advanced Placement exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses.

We are now accepting applications for AP exam scholarships for students enrolled in one-term, spring semester courses! As a reminder, the deadline to order all one-term, spring semester AP exams in March 13, 2020.

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors can apply for this funding opportunity by February 21, 2020! For more information and for access to the application, click here.

The purpose of this funding is to increase the number of students taking AP exams from rural schools in Iowa. If schools are already paying for AP exams, they should not request this funding. Funding for this application is only available for students who are taking a one-term, spring semester IOAPA Advanced Placement (AP) course in the 2019-20 school year.

The per-exam cost for the 2019-20 school year is $64 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools should pay the $64 per student to the College Board. Schools should submit an invoice to the Belin-Blank Center after students have taken the AP exams along with documentation showing they have paid the College Board for these students’ exams. There will be no reimbursement if a student does not take the exam.

Awards will be announced by March 1, 2020.

As a reminder, the College Board’s new deadline to order one-term, spring semester AP exams is March 13, 2020.

Please email us at ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions!

Message from the Director: Homecoming

Fall often signals homecoming, which the Belin-Blank Center experienced in full swing this past month.  At our annual advisory board meeting, we welcomed “old” board members, some of whom have served on the advisory board since its inception in 1999, and “new” members, some of whom are alumni of our programs. Everyone on the board enjoys one or more connections to the Belin-Blank Center, and everyone truly loves coming home.

As with all homecomings, feelings are mixed.  Reminiscing about our co-founders and our legacy evokes nostalgia and pride for the work we do and the impact we have on students and educators.  There is also great excitement for new initiatives and updates.  One of the most significant updates concerns our website, designed to help you feel at home wherever you are!

The Belin-Blank Center is home for students who show a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area.

TAG professionals seeking their TAG endorsement have a home here, too.  

And we are your home for research about:

Visit the new website to see for yourself and… welcome home!