Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students

The Belin-Blank Center is offering a new book study this fall for one semester hour, available online from September 10 – 30 and taught by Dr. Kimberley Chandler. Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students, reviewing the book by the same name, helps educators better understand essential elements of curriculum design and delivery for gifted students.  Importantly, at a time when gifted programs are attempting to identify traditionally underserved students, the class will explain the need for a differentiated curriculum for typically underrepresented students, including children of poverty and those who are from culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Students will develop confidence in using practical, evidence-based strategies with high-ability learners.

Dr. Chandler noted that “This book study will help to bridge research and practice through examining effective strategies gleaned from various studies conducted with underserved populations.”

You can review upcoming credit options at belinblank.org/educators/courses; registration information is available at belinblank.org/educators/reg.  No out-of-state tuition or additional fees for this class.

Please share with your own social media networks!  Suggested hashtags include #gifted #GiftedEd #GiftedCurriculum #GiftedDiversity

IOAPA Classes 2019-2020

We are just over a week into the fall semester! During this busy time of year, we don’t want you to forget about some important information related to your IOAPA courses. To keep you in the loop, here are a few upcoming items for IOAPA.

  • If your students decide the class is not for them, not a problem! Just make sure to drop the course before September 13th to prevent the $350 drop fee. For more information about our drop policies, check out the IOAPA handbook on our website.
  • Check your previous emails from ioapa@belinblank.org, as these emails contain important information and deadlines about the upcoming year. If you did not receive these emails, make sure to check your spam / junk folder.
  • Don’t forget: New to Fall 2019, AP Coordinators need to order AP Exams by November 15, 2019! (Click here for instructions and check here for additional deadlines).

Helpful Tips to Start the Semester

Textbooks: Recommended textbooks for courses on APEX can be found by clicking “Learn more” on the relevant course(s) from the IOAPA course catalog. Edhesive courses do not require textbooks.

Online Support: APEX and Edhesive offer support guides and videos on their websites! Also, feel free to reach out to their customer service with technical questions.

Message from the Director: What We Do Matters

What we do matters…I had just typed those words as the title to this message when an email from a teacher-mom who has advocated extensively for her twice-exceptional student crossed my screen.  Of course, I switched screens and opened her email.  Her message concluded with these words, “I’m so very grateful that this middle school has seen that 2e kids are HERE and they MATTER.”

You might think that being a teacher would make it easier to advocate.  No.  Being a teacher in the district where your child attends school requires extra effort when advocating for your child’s academic needs.  When a child is twice-exceptional, or 2e (that is, have very high ability and have a learning, behavioral, or social-emotional disability), the effort required increases by magnitudes. This mom has assiduously navigated her professional and personal roles and responsibilities over the past several years to ensure that educators (a) understood the complexity of her child’s strengths and diagnoses and (b) that her child’s needs were being met. 

This teacher-mom effectively advocated for her child and blazed a trail for other 2e students.  What she did matters, and we know this because the school counselor called her to share that the educators and administrators at her child’s school recognized that traditional approaches for identification for gifted services are not enough for twice-exceptional students.  The final phrase, “2e kids are HERE and they MATTER”, captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s tagline: Nurturing Potential/Inspiring Excellence.

Each day, my colleagues and I recognize the wisdom expressed through the psychological principle known as individual differences,. Basically, individuals vary across a variety of traits, including physical size, behaviors, emotions, cognitive ability, and achievement.  The licensed psychologists in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic experience this with every client.  Understanding the variation in twice-exceptional students from typically-developing students allows psychologists  to generate evidence-based recommendations that can be tailored to the student’s needs.  When recommendations are translated into advocacy by parents and action by teachers, it can change a child’s educational and overall life trajectory. Our work matters. 

Help us understand what matters to you – fill out our thirty-second survey.

During the weeks of summer programming for gifted students and professional development for educators of gifted students, this notion of doing something that matters is apparent each day – often multiple times a day.  Sometimes what matters emerges in a class discussion among educators.  Other times, we know that what we do matters when we a student in one of our programs expresses that they were able “to try things that I thought I could never do.”

A new school year is upon us.  The Belin-Blank Center’s amazing faculty and administrative, clerical, and student staff are already busy planning for another summer that will matter to students and teachers and to us!  

You don’t have to wait until next summer…check out the Weekend Enrichment classes, professional development, above-level testing, or the twice-exceptional research project.  Opportunities like these have the potential to make a real difference in a child’s life.  As we start this school year, we applaud the educators and parents who pursue these opportunities on behalf of their gifted learners.  This work matters.

Invention Curriculum

Looking for a creative and fun way to kick off the year?  If so, consider adding the National Invention Convention curriculum to your lesson plans. This is free, open-access curriculum that supports the type of critical thinking necessary to participate in programs like Invent Iowa. The framework of the curriculum is developed around the 7 steps of the Invention Process: Identifying, Understanding, Ideating, Designing, Building, Testing, and Communicating.

The curriculum was designed by the STEMIE Coalition. STEMIE is an education framework that elevates youth invention and entrepreneurship education to a core part of K-12 education. It contains lesson plans, rubrics, assessments, and other resources. Students have the opportunity to think creatively while using the invention process to design and test their work. It is a great way to help students better understand ways of solving real-world problems that they encounter on a daily basis.

Find the National Invention Convention curriculum here.

Resources for Invent Iowa can be found here.

Happy inventing!

Professional Learning in Fall 2019

Michelangelo is credited with saying, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” 

Fall 2019 is the right time to expand our toolkits to learn new ways to support the needs of gifted and talented learners.  Of course, teachers earning their endorsements in gifted education have registered as distance learners and enrolled for credits this fall (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Psychology of Giftedness (PSQF:4120:0EXW), offered over Fall semester. (Dr. Toni Szymanski)
  • The Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE/EDTL:4137:0EXW and 0EXU) has two sections for the first time.  Offered in an accelerated format over the first eight weeks of the semester, the class has more students than ever before. (Drs. Laurie Croft and Kim Chandler)
  • Conceptions of Talent Development (EDTL:4067:0EXW), offered in the second eight weeks of the semester.
  • Beginning at the ITAG Conference, October 14-15, Des Moines, two semester hours of credit can be completed by teachers new to gifted education (RCE:5237:0EXW Seminar in Gifted Education –  TAG: You’re It).  This section helps guide participants through basics that they will need to consider throughout their first years in gifted education.

Several one-semester-hour classes, offered in the workshop format, are available this fall.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus over three weeks on one topic:

  • EDTL:4096:0WKA Topics: Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students tackles one of the field’s greatest challenges through a study of the book by the same name (September 10 – 30, 2019).  (Dr. Chandler)
  • One or two semester hours can be earned by attending the ITAG Conference, October 14-15, Des Moines (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education ITAG 2019), and completing projects of benefit to the gifted program.
  • Another semester hour (PSQF:5194:0WKC Continuing Education Individual Study: Identifying and Serving Young Gifted Children) begins at the ITAG Pre-Conference facilitated by Dr. Sally Beisser, Distinguished Professor of Education at Drake University, and continues online with Dr. Croft.
  • One or two semester hours are also available for those who have the opportunity to attend the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Convention in Albuquerque, NM, November 7-10.  (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education NAGC 2019).
  • One more semester-hour this fall, EDTL:4096:0WKB Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted and Talented Students,  helps teachers understand the advantages and disadvantages of involving gifted learners in competitions.  (Dr. Jenelle Miller)

The practicum experience required for the Talented and Gifted Endorsement is available every semester.

Aim high as this new year begins.  Develop your understanding of the nature and needs of high-ability learners, as well as ways to begin to meet those needs.

Learn more about the professional learning opportunities available through the Belin-Blank Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, by visiting belinblank.org/educators/courses.  Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

This I Believe: Marcelina Bixler

This is a second example of an assignment completed for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class, based on This I Believe,” an organization that builds on essays published by National Public Radio, and the thoughts captured during a radio show in the 1950s hosted by Edward R. Morrow.  From their Website:  Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division.

In reviving This I Believe, executive producer Dan Gediman said, “The goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, the hope is to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.”

To read the first post in this series, click here.


This I Believe
by Marcelina Bixler
Proud Harrison Elementary (Davenport, IA) Teacher, also pursuing the University of Iowa College of Education MA in Teaching, Leadership, & Cultural Competency

I believe in believing in your students. I believe as educators we have many roles and responsibilities, we have at school for students of such diverse backgrounds and home life.  The role I believe that connects us to our students, not only in teaching and instructing, is building relationships with our students.

All my life I always knew what I wanted to be a teacher.  My mom would encourage me and say I would make a good teacher as I gave my younger brothers instructions and always made them be my students when I played school.  I think it was a nice way of saying I was a “bossy” sister.  Neither of my parents graduated high school, so they believed in me and supported my dream.  When I was in high school, just to be sure that education was the route I would take after high school, I took a couple of business classes and I was in a co-op class for Business Professionals of America.  I did the books and accounting for a local salon.  I remember one of my teachers asked what I wanted to be, which a teacher had never asked me before in school.  I responded proudly that I wanted to be a teacher.  She smiled and responded that I would make a good secretary and walked away.  I was crushed because as a teenager and student, you want your teachers to believe in you. I was an average student and had to work hard for my grades.  I was a bit crushed and wondered if college and my dream of being a teacher would be attainable.  Because I had a strong support system at home and I believed in myself…I became a teacher.

This is why I believe in believing in students.

Believing in their abilities, believing in their contributions, believing in their dreams, believing that we can get them one step closer and guiding them there. 

I believe in knowing our students’ abilities whether it is a disability to our talented and gifted.  What I don’t believe is that the talented and gifted are getting what they need in a pull out program once or twice a week in just the subjects of math and reading but also incorporating the arts.  We are motivators, encouragers, and believers in our students from the toughest of students to the most talented and gifted.  I believe our responsibility is a great one, but a rewarding one knowing we did our best in providing an education and built a relationship. I choose to believe in believing in students by knowing their abilities, learning styles, and interest so that I can challenge their strengths as well as work on what they need to progress in while building a relationship and providing a culturally responsive classroom.

Make Your Time Spent Testing More Meaningful

“We spend too much time testing!”

This is a refrain we’ve often heard. Parents and teachers are frustrated by the amount of instructional time “wasted” on standardized testing, especially if they can’t see how the information can be used to plan instruction. Why would we recommend adding more testing to your busy schedule?

Above-level testing provides an opportunity for academically talented students to showcase what they can do. Picture the typical gifted student: he or she takes the grade-level test and gets extremely high scores. The student gets everything right, or almost everything right. Those scores are more likely to elicit a response of “good job!” rather than specific educational recommendations tailored to the student.

Imagine, though, that our student is given the opportunity to take a harder test, one that offers the chance to show his or her extensive level of knowledge… a test that results in a detailed report specifying the types of educational opportunities that would benefit this student.  This opportunity is available through above-level testing.

The Belin-Blank Center (and other university-based talent search centers) offers above-level testing using I-Excel for 4th-6th graders and the ACT for 7th-9th graders. It’s easy to get started with this process, and the Belin-Blank Center staff is available to help you through it.

 What can you do with the test results? Discover the students who need additional challenge in school, highlight the students who might benefit from being grouped together for instruction in math (for example), and determine which students might benefit from subject acceleration or grade skipping.

Ready to get started? Email assessment@belinblank.org, and we’ll walk you through the process!