AP Summer Institute Registration is Open Now!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

It is that time of year to plan for summer events, including summer professional development! Make sure to save the date for the 2020 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 29 – July 2, 2020Registration is now open

We will be offering workshops in the following courses: AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP English Language & Composition, AP English Literature & Composition, AP US Government, and AP US History.

APTTI is a College Board-approved AP Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit current teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course. Teachers who attended our institute in 2019 shared some of their valued experiences:

“Great instructor! Provided us with many valuable resources. This depth of knowledge was impressive, interesting, and captivating.”

“I learned so much! Great presenter with excellent ideas and information. I’m feeling much more equipped to teach AP [course] now!”

Funding

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI (participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 of the $600 registration fee.  Click Financial Aid to learn more and to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2020. 

Professional Development Credit

We offer two credit options (3 semester hours total) for those who attend APTTI. Participants who enroll receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship applied to the cost of graduate credit ($560). 

EDTL:5080:0WKA (2 semester hours): These credits are earned through participation in APTTI, plus any additional follow-up assignments from the College Board consultants. 

EDTL:4976:0WKA (1 semester hour): To extend the learning experience at APTTI, participants can earn credit by enrolling in this course, Differentiation at the Secondary Level. This course is completed online once you have completed APTTI.

State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement

The Belin-Blank Center offers classes across the required strands that allow for a TAG endorsement to be earned in one summer! Attending APTTI contributes to up to 3 of the 12 required credits (see above). For more information, click here to view all 12 credit options.

New Requirements for IOAPA Middle School Courses

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services, and to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. There are extraordinary benefits in identifying students who are in need of an additional challenge, and we at the Belin-Blank Center and IOAPA want students to experience these full benefits. According to research, above-level testing is one of the best methods to make these identifications.

After examining previous years’ completion and passing rates for IOAPA middle school courses, the Belin-Blank Center is implementing a new policy regarding IOAPA middle school courses. Beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year, all students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 6th grader* will be required to have completed the I-Excel assessment. All students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 7th or 8th grader will be required to have completed the ACT.

By requiring these above-level assessments, we are hoping to provide teachers with an effective tool to identify students who would benefit from advanced coursework through IOAPA.

Students must have taken I-Excel or the ACT in the past two years or will need to sign up for testing in order to register for the Fall 2020 IOAPA courses.  Teachers need to begin the above-level testing process now. Registration for Fall 2020 IOAPA courses will be open April 1 – August 15, 2020. Below we discuss the two different above-level assessments and the process of signing up.

I-Excel

  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 or ISASP, 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. If you have 6th-graders*, contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing after reading through the details at belinblank.org/inschooltesting. 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/act for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA spring registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand.
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.
*If next year’s incoming 6th graders are currently in a separate building, please feel free to share this information with the appropriate person in that building.

I-Excel Costs

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 the student is eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. For students test individually, the cost is $90 ($45 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch). If students test on the University of Iowa campus in June at our testing session on campus (June 11, 2020), the fee is $70 ($35 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch).

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

ACT

The ACT is a test that many students take in 11th or 12th grade as part of the college admissions process. The ACT has also been used since the 1980s to discover younger students who are ready for greater academic challenges. Students testing through the Belin-Blank Center are provided with the individualized report mentioned above. Scores on the ACT can be used to qualify students for a wide variety of academic programs, including IOAPA courses.

Registration / Test Date Process

To make this process easier, parents can sign their child up for the ACT through our BESTS program. Click here for more information on this process. In doing so, we remove the guesswork from the registration process, we file the registration paperwork with ACT, and we also send you a coupon for a free IDEAL Solutions for STEM Acceleration report that provides an extensive interpretation of your child’s scores.

The ACT test dates are less flexible than I-Excel testing dates. Below are the available test dates through May 2020 (Note: we do not offer the July or September ACT test date through our registration system).

Test DateInitial Deadline (Late fee after this date)Final Deadline
Saturday, April 4, 2020Wednesday, February 26, 2020Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Saturday, June 13, 2020Wednesday, May 6, 2020Wednesday, May 20, 2020

ACT Cost

The fee for ACT testing is $70 ($35 for students who qualify for Free/Reduced-Cost Lunch). If the reduced fee for qualifying students is still too great a financial burden, the Belin-Blank Center will work with the family to make a financial arrangement that allows the student to participate. Registrations not paid as of the initial deadline will incur an additional $30 fee.

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

For more detailed information about this new requirement of above-level testing for IOAPA middle school courses, check out our recent IOAPA-BESTS blog that highlights the most common FAQs. Please do not hesitate to contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org if you have any questions.

Not Your Ordinary Science Fair

Conducting original research projects will spark students’ curiosity. Through research processes, students develop 21st-century skills and meet Next Generation Science Standards. Ok, you’re convinced. You’re ready for students to work on research projects. But how do you take student research out of the classroom and into the world? 

The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium. 

The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community. 

Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at jshs@belinblank.org and check out our website

Everything Needed for the State of Iowa TAG Endorsement in One Summer

For someone with the desire to earn the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement, the Belin-Blank Center provides choices of classes across the required strands so that earning the endorsement in one summer is possible (belinblank.org/endorsement)!

Here, we’ve compiled a list of the available options to earn all 12 hours of credit for the endorsement through the Belin-Blank Center this summer.

Online Classes (various semester hours)

Summer classes begin in June with fully online options:

  • Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (RCE:4137:0EXW – 3 semester hours), June 8 – July 27 (Dr. Susannah Wood)
  • Special Topics: Understanding and Addressing the Unique Needs of Gifted LGBTQ Students (EDTL:4096:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 8 – 26 (Dr. Haley Wikoff)
  • Current Readings and Research (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 15 – July 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of the Gifted (PSQF:4125:0WKA – 1 semester hour), June 29 – July 17 (Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon).

Online classes continue in July:

  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4976:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 8 – 28 (Dr. Kristine Milburn)
  • Special Topics: Giftedness 101 (EDTL:4076:0WKA – 1 semester hour), July 15 – August 4 (Anna Payne)   

Additional opportunities in July include face-to-face time on the University of Iowa campus:

Advanced Placement Teacher Training

EDTL:5080:0WKA (2 semester hours) plus EDTL:4976:0WKA (1 semester hour)

The AP Summer Institute sponsored by the Belin-Blank Center will take place from June 29 – July 2. The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Institute on July 6 – 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to get enrolled.  Those who choose to enroll in this two-semester-hour credit receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship applied to the cost of graduate credit.  The credit is earned through participation in the Institute, as well as any follow-up assignments from the College Board Consultants.  Those APTTI participants who choose to extend their learning experience by enrolling in Differentiation at the Secondary Level (am additional 1 semester hour; see above) receive a 50% scholarship for that class, as well.

Neuroscientific Implications for the Gifted

(PSQF:4128:0WKA – 1 semester hour)

The Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute will take place on July 20 – 21 on the University of Iowa campus.  The Summit will bring educators an opportunity to interact with researchers, clinicians, and parents to address the state of research on twice-exceptionality, as well as best practices for supporting 2E students.  The credit option will officially begin for those who attend the Summit on July 27 – August 14 (Dr. Laurie Croft), giving participants time to enroll.  The credit is earned through reflecting on the Summit, selecting relevant readings, and designing an action plan for advocacy or instruction, meeting personal needs.  Summit participants receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship, applied to the cost of graduate credit.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

(up to 6 semester hours)

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua mirrors the adult-education movement that was so popular in the late 1800s – early 1900s!  Classes bring teachers together for an accelerated learning experience, as well as time to interact with one another.  Chautauqua features six separate workshops meeting for two-days each on campus, with additional online components.  You can choose one class, or the three classes in one week, or all six classes over the two weeks, from July 6 – August 6.  Those who attend all three workshops in one week receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class (you pay for two, the Center provides a full scholarship for one); those who attend all classes over both weeks receive an automatic scholarship for the cost of graduate tuition for one class each week (you pay for four, the Center provides a full scholarship for two).

It’s easy to earn the endorsement over two summers through Chautauqua, receiving scholarships both summers. Classes are always different from year to year; the one-semester-hour classes this summer include:

Week 1:            Special Topics:  Personal Learning Plans for Gifted (EDTL:4096:0WKB), July 6-7 on campus – July 24 (Lora Danker

Science for High-Ability Learners (EDTL:4021:0WKA), July 8-9 on campus – July 28  (Dr. Hallie Edgerly) July 10-11 – July 30:         

Programming/Curriculum for High Ability:  Real-World Problem Solving  (EDTL:4073:0WKA), July 12 – 13 on campus – July 30(Dr. Kristine Milburn)          

Week 2:            Social Studies for High-Ability: Explorer Mindset  (EDTL:4065:0WKA), July 13-14 on campus – July 31 (Stacey Snyder)

                        Advanced Seminar:  Solution-Focused Skills for Working with Common Concerns of Gifted Students (RCE:5238:0WKA), July 15-16 on campus – Aug 4 (Dr. Susannah Wood)

                        Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4133:0WKA), July 17-18 on campus – Aug 6 (Dr. Laurie Croft)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (i.e., 0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

For those who already have the endorsement, the focused one-semester-hour workshop-style classes are ideal for updating skills. 

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Springing into Professional Development

In the spring—and it’s looking like spring in Eastern Iowa–a teacher’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … professional learning opportunities in the summer.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, originated the wording for a different audience, but it’s true that teachers are always looking for better ways to help their students achieve.  The Belin-Blank Center offers professional learning opportunities throughout the spring and the summer to provide educators with more opportunities to understand the unique needs of gifted learners, supporting their social emotional needs and challenging them academically.

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars by registering for undergraduate credit.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

This is a list of classes still available this spring:

  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15 (Dr. Laurie Croft)
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Thinking About Perfectionism

By Gerald Aungst

Thanks to Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com) for writing this guest post.

Parents have many questions while raising a gifted child. Some seek advice about perfectionism.

Many sources, including some psychologists and the National Association for Gifted Children, refer to two types of perfectionism: “healthy” and “unhealthy.”  The healthy type, sometimes called adaptive perfectionism, describes people who consistently pursue excellence and persist in reaching those goals. Greenspon (2000) argues, though, that this isn’t actually perfectionism because those people aren’t seeking perfection. Instead, their behavior may be better described as perseverance, high achievement, and having high standards.

Although it is often listed as a common characteristic of giftedness, research has failed to find a link; in general, perfectionism is as likely to appear in both gifted and non-gifted populations (Pyryt, 2004). It is still worth understanding perfectionism and asking how to support and help gifted children who are perfectionists.

Characteristics of perfectionism

Though perfectionism can manifest differently in different children, there are a few common characteristics:

Perceived conditional acceptance

Perfectionists believe their worth as a person hinges on their ability to perform perfectly. They cannot see their own worth and accept themselves only if they are perfect. This leads to a dichotomy: the child and their work is either perfect, or it is worthless.

Procrastination

Perfectionists can feel intimidated by the need to complete the task perfectly, so they delay or avoid it.

No satisfaction from achievement

Since perfection is not actually achievable, perfectionists gain no satisfaction from real achievements. It doesn’t matter how well they perform or what they accomplish; the child believes their work is never good enough.

Transforming desires (wants) into demands (musts)

When perfectionists want to do something well, they interpret that as a requirement to perform perfectly. This can lead to a compulsive drive to succeed. Perfectionists may also feel guilty if they are not constantly working. There is no downtime.

Addressing perfectionism

Research suggests several things that can help.  Perfectionism is not a disease or disorder. It is a mindset and belief system. Changing this mindset takes time and persistence. Steady, consistent, patient guidance from parents and others over the long term is the most effective course.

Don’t tell them how to be

 “Telling a perfectionist not to be so hard on him- or herself may make logical sense; what he or she is likely to hear, however, is the criticism that he or she has not been a good enough perfectionist” (Greenspon, 2000, p. 206). Remember that they already believe their worth in your eyes is tied to their perfection, so directly telling them what to do or not do will be perceived through that filter.

Recognize that perfectionism isn’t a positive trait

Perfectionism doesn’t necessarily result in high performance. Perfectionism can impede productivity through procrastination and learned helplessness (Ullrich, 2013).

Affirming environment

To turn around a perfectionist child’s self-perception requires the adults around that child to build an affirming environment:

  • Point out your own imperfections and failures, modeling how to persist and feel valued even when you do not succeed.
  • Emphasize effort and process, not end results.
  • Give affection, support, and encouragement liberally regardless of whether goals are met; withholding these can promote perfectionism.

Help children set realistic expectations

Perfectionists have unrealistic expectations for themselves. They set goals beyond their capabilities.

  • Avoid setting high standards that are non-negotiable.  Show children how expectations can change when circumstances change.
  • Know when good enough is good enough. Teach children how to recognize that it is time to be done and move on.
  • Teach children to allocate their time based on the importance of an assignment; perfectionists will spend large amounts of time on a low-value or small task just to keep fine tuning it.
  • Change the goal. Instead of an end-product, focus on improvement and enjoyment.

Study lives of successful people

Though successful people may seem to be models of perfection, help children to learn that most successful people have flaws and failures in their lives.

Perfectionism is a challenge, but with perseverance and support from adults, a perfectionist child can learn to see their inherent worth and that they do not need to be perfect to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to their world.

References

Greenspon, T. S. (2000). “Healthy perfectionism” is an oxymoron! Reflections on the psychology of perfectionism and the sociology of science. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 11(4), p. 197-208.

Greenspon, T. (2010). Tips for Parents: Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10567

National Association for Gifted Children. (n.d.). Perfectionism. https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents/social-emotional-issues/perfectionism

Pyryt, M. (2004, June). Helping Gifted Students Cope with Perfectionism. http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10459

Ullrich, J. (2013, September 26). Perfectionism as a Roadblock to Productivity: The truth behind the personality trait. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-modern-time-crunch/201309/perfectionism-roadblock-productivity

ISASP: Begin Discovering Talent in Your Students

Schools in Iowa began administering the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) for the first time in spring 2019. We have received a lot of questions about how to use the scores, especially related to talent identification, above-level testing, and providing opportunities for gifted students.

The ISASP was developed by the Iowa Testing Programs at the University of Iowa to align with the Iowa Core Standards. It provides standards-based information for students, their parents, their schools, and for the Iowa Department of Education School Performance Profiles. Unlike the Iowa Assessments, students’ scores are compared only to those of other Iowa students; they are not compared to a national group. ISASP scores are reported for English/ Language Arts and Mathematics in grades 3-11. Science is added only in grades 5, 8, and 10.

How Can We Use ISASP Scores to Discover Students Ready for More Challenges?

ISASP scores can be used as a first step in the process of identifying academically talented students or students in need of additional academic challenge. As is the case with many state assessments, students’ scores are also categorized according to their progress compared to other Iowa students. These descriptors range from “Not Yet Proficient” to “Advanced.”  Whereas “Advanced” sounds like a clear indicator for talent development or gifted education services, students scoring in this category may have earned ISASP scores placing them anywhere from the top 1 percent to the top 15 percent of their grade level.  Educators might choose to invite a smaller percentage of students to participate in additional testing, for example above-level testing provided by I-Excel or the ACT.

Using the 95th Percentile

Rather than simply searching for students who haves scored “Advanced” on ISASP, educators can take a closer look at scaled scores and percentile rankings using the tables found in this document. Educators might begin by finding all students who score at the 95th percentile or higher on one of the ISASP sections. Screening students for consideration for advanced programming by using a test that is administered to all students (also called “universal screening”) is a best practice in gifted education.

Using ISASP scores as a first step in the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) is appropriate. To determine which students might benefit from BESTS testing (taking I-Excel in 4th-6th grade or the ACT in 7th-9th grade), we recommend inviting students who have scored at the 95th percentile or higher on one or more of the sections of the ISASP to participate in BESTS.  Scaled scores at the 95th percentile are shown below:

ISASP Scale scores at the 95th percentile

 GradeReadingLanguage/
Writing
ELAMathScience
3rd 461454453459
4th 488487483491
5th 522519513529528
6th 549548541557
7th 586575575589
8th 607609602625616
9th 643635631651
Table 1

Casting a Wider Net: Using the 90th Percentile

Educators in some schools might find that only a very small number of their students earn ISASP scores at the 95th percentile, and they may wonder if additional students might benefit from above-level BESTS testing and/or potential adjustments to the students’ educational programs. Research at the Belin-Blank Center and elsewhere has shown that casting a wider net and including students earning scores at the 90th percentile on the ISASP or other standardized, grade-level tests can help discover more students and does not result in adverse effects on students.  In fact, we encourage you to consider the 90th percentile guideline, especially for 5th and 6th graders.  Research that shows us that students get an academic “boost” by simply taking an above-level test.  If you choose to use the 90th percentile guideline to include students for additional above-level BESTS testing, here are the scaled scores:

Scale Scores at the 90th percentile

 GradeReadingLanguage/
Writing
ELAMathScience
3rd 449446445449
4th 477476473479
5th508506503512509
6th 536533531539
7th566562561572
8th592592588606596
9th 622618615626
Table 2

Students earning ISASP scaled scores at the 90th or 95th percentile are scoring as well as or better than 90 or 95 percent of the normative sample of Iowa students. This means they are already performing quite well compared to their age group. Then, we invite these students to participate in BESTS testing, where an above-level test (one that was developed for older students) is administered to younger students. Talented 4th-6th graders take I-Excel, which contains 8th grade content, and talented 7th-9th graders take the ACT, which was developed for college-bound 11th and 12th graders. Test results provide families and educators with detailed information about the students’ aptitudes and the types of educational opportunities they might need to thrive.  Examining your students’ ISASP scores is an excellent first step toward discovering talented students.

Recap

  1. Examine the ISASP scores of your students. How many students are at the 95th percentile, as indicated by scaled scores listed in Table 1?
  2. If you decide you would like to include more students, determine which students scored at the 90th percentile using Table 2.
  3. Encourage these students to participate in above-level testing using I-Excel (current 4th-6th graders) or the ACT (7th -9th graders).
  4. Use the I-Excel and ACT scores to help place students in challenging opportunities such as IOAPA, grouping talented students together for honors-level courses, or encouraging students to accelerate in a specific subject.

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: Visions for 2020

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  

-Jonathan Swift

With the year 2020 staring us in the face and ushering in a new decade, it’s hard to resist “vision” metaphors.  I’ve always appreciated this quote by Jonathan Swift; in fact, we featured it during the January 2004 opening of the Blank Honors Center, where the Belin-Blank Center is housed.  In retrospect, this quote was a great choice for the occasion, because it characterizes the optimism and collective energy that the Belin-Blank Center’s staff pour into our work for bright students and their teachers. Over the past 16 years, we have enjoyed this wonderful space and created many engaging opportunities, always looking toward the goal of nurturing potential and inspiring excellence. 

Looking forward, opportunities in 2020 abound! Indeed, there is no better time than the shortest days of winter to envision the long, warm days of summer 2020 and the classes being planned for students and teachers. We are pleased to let you know that applications for our student summer programs are now open!

In our planning, we aspire to be as responsive as possible to the needs of our program participants.  For example, for several years, we’ve offered University of Iowa credit to high school students enrolled in the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) and the Scholastic Art and Writing Residencies.  New in 2020, we will offer 1 semester hour of University of Iowa undergraduate credit to students attending the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI).

2020 brings additional changes to our elementary and middle school student programming. Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create a new commuter program for 2nd – 8th graders, called the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Through JSA, the full complement of coursework offered in the two former programs will be available to students who live within commuting distance to the Blank Honors Center (on the University of Iowa campus).

Our high school programs have always been residential because that aspect is a very important component of the whole-student experience.  We will maintain a residential component for 7th and 8th graders through the Blank Summer Institute (BSI).  BSI, a signature program for junior high school students, was the original Belin-Blank Center student program.  Co-founders Myron and Jacqueline Blank had phenomenal vision; they saw what was invisible to others, which is that junior high is a critical time for students to have enriching and engaging learning experiences in order to be successful in school.

Educators will also have a new opportunity this summer. In addition to the Chautauqua series, professionals will be able to participate in our inaugural Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, co-hosted by the Belin-Blank Center and our Iowa Neuroscience Institute colleagues.

A proper December message requires mention of New Year’s resolutions, which are usually intended to help us improve in some way.  Making a resolution requires vision.  Take a peek at our many opportunities available for students and educators seeking improvement through engagement and challenge, especially during the long days of summer when school is not in session.  Such experiences are life-changing and profound in ways often invisible to others. We hope to see you next summer!

May this season of gratitude and giving usher in a bright new year and a decade of promise and inspiration.

Professional Development in 2020

Oprah Winfrey is one of the many notables that have contributed thoughts for the new year, saying, “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

At the Belin-Blank Center, we have been getting professional development right for four decades!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook (facebook.com/BelinBlank), and Twitter (@belinblank) accounts, through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  We know that you are committed to understanding the varied needs of gifted/talented children, and learning about ways that parents, teachers, and friends can meet those needs. 

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Here is a list of what’s coming up, organized in chronological order. All of these are online and asynchronous. Courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), winter session class shaped to your needs, December 30, 2019 – January 17, 2020.
  • Practicum in Gifted Education (various start dates for different populations—EDTL:4188:0001 is for full-time students in the College of Education and spans the entire semester; EDTL:4188:0EXW is for educators who want to earn more than one hour of practicum, March 24 – May 9; and EDTL:4188:0WKA is for educators who want to earn the one required hour of practicum, April 14 – May 4.  One ICON site that opens in January.).
  • Program Models in Gifted Education (EDTL:4199:0EXA – 3 semester hours), first spring class offered in an accelerated format from January 21 – March 14.
  • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs (PSQF:4121:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from January 28 – March 27. (Dr. Susan Assouline)
  • Administration and Policy in Gifted Education (EPLS:4110:0EXW – 2 semester hours), offered from February 4 – May 1. (Dr. Randy Lange)
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students (EDTL:4067:0EXW – 1 semester hour), February 26 – March 24. (Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik)
  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop (0WKA) format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus for three weeks on one topic.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

Belin-Blank Fellowship Program

The new year, 2020, will be the 40th year for The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education.  This prestigious fellowship program attracts applicants from across the United States and often has at least one participant from another nation. 

The Belin-Blank Fellowship is designed for educators who are NEW to the field of gifted education and have not already had opportunities to learn as much as they want and need to know about the gifted/talented students in their schools and districts. 

Please share details about the Fellowship with colleagues and friends who have an interest in Gifted Education!

Forty years of experience have convinced the Belin-Blank Center that the most effective way to provide meaningful educational experiences to gifted students is to provide a special program for classroom teachers, school counselors and psychologists, and school administrators.  Through an immersive educational journey, educators will develop the skills to better understand and work with gifted students as well as the knowledge and skills to provide leadership for others.

Varying approaches to professional development in gifted education exist, but no program provides the incentives for educators, as well as the intensive individualized approach, offered by this fellowship program.  The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education makes it possible for a select number of educators, nominated by their schools/districts, to participate in professional development in gifted education.

The Fellowship will take place from June 21 – 26, 2020; the application process begins by January 27 and ends on March 2, 2020

Please visit belinblank.org/fellowship for more details.  Invite those who will serve as effective allies in developing the talents of our gifted learners to apply in late January.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

Invent Iowa Winner Featured on Good Morning America!

Congratulations to 6-year-old Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) for his appearance on Good Morning America! Charles is a winner of our 2019 Invent Iowa competition who went on to win 1st place in his grade level at the National Invention Convention

Charles invented the Benge Beacon, a device to help firefighters find the exits in a smoky house. See his invention in action and watch his national television debut! (Trust us, you won’t regret it.) 

Charles also won $5,000 in seed money and a mentorship opportunity with entrepreneur Chelsea Hirschhorn through the SSK Kidventor $25,000 giveaway! 🤩 (Watch the announcement here: https://gma.abc/2O3XmJW)

After all that excitement, Charles got a hero’s welcome open returning home to Ottumwa and getting back to school. Watch here: https://www.kyoutv.com/home/2019/11/11/first-grade-inventor-welcomed-home-at-eisenhower-elementary/

We are so proud of you, Charles! Keep up the GREAT work.

For information about how your student can follow in Charles’ footsteps, check out Invent Iowa!

New 2020 Summer Program for Students!

Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.

JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.

Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.

Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:

  • Session 1 is June 15-19
  • Session 2 is June 22-26
  • Session 3 is July 6-10
  • Session 4 is July 13-17

Find more information here: www.belinblank.org/jsa.

Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.

Applications for all of our student summer programs open December 15th at belinblank.org/summer. Please email us at summer@belinblank.org with any questions!


We hope to see you this summer!

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

Winter Break Opportunity for Professionals and Parents

The fall semester has flown by, and it’s almost 2020!  Happy holidays and we hope you are looking forward to exciting opportunities in the new year.  Goethe has a quote that seems so appropriate for a new year:  Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Wishing is not enough; we must do.

Over the short winter break (December 30 – January 17, 2020), educators and/or parents can take advantage of one of our most useful classes entitled Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA)!

As the title suggests, this is your opportunity to read that book you’ve heard about (or at least several chapters of that book, since a one-semester-hour class requires only about 150 – 175 pages of readings).  NAGC has awarded three 2019 book awards:

Scholar
Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools (Prufrock Academic Press) by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena F. Subotnik, and Frank C. Worrell

Practitioner
A Teacher’s Guide to Flexible Grouping and Collaborative Learning (Free Spirit Publishing) by Dina Brulles and Karen L. Brown

Parent/Caregiver
Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World (Workman Publishing) by Deborah Reber

If you attended a state conference or the national convention, you might have heard about other materials that would help you better advocate for or meet the needs of your own advanced learner(s).

You can also read research-based articles for this credit; we give you the tips you need to find your own journal articles (and while you are enrolled for credit, you have full access to all the online materials in the University of Iowa libraries!).  We can also help you find the most useful materials on a topic of importance to you (e.g., how to support twice-exceptional learners, or what articles would be most helpful to you for that upcoming professional development session you’re providing at your school later in January).

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg

All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.  All will help you better understand important issues in the field.  Billy Wilder, journalist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, is given credit for saying, “Hindsight is always 20 : 20.”  Let’s plan ahead for 2020, identifying and implementing best practices for gifted children.

Scholarships for High School Students Conducting Research

Interested in doing research, but worried about the costs? Looking for an outlet to share your ideas, that may lead to college scholarships? We’ve rounded up a helpful list of funding sources and prizes for you!

Iowa students who conduct research related to pigs, pork, pig production, swine care, or in a related subject area will be eligible to receive a $200 scholarship for their project from the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. This scholarship can assist in the development of a project, be used to purchase supplies to conduct or present research, or for travel to one of Iowa’s science competitions like the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium! The deadline for application is February 1, 2020.

For students seeking creative solutions to environmental problems, check out the International Young Eco-Hero Award. This award is offered by Action for Nature and recognizes students between the ages of 8 and 16 for environmental action. Students can receive up to a $500 cash prize for creative and independent environmental research projects. The deadline for application is February 28, 2020.  

The Regeneron Science Talent Search is one of the oldest national science competitions for high school seniors. To enter, students complete an online application that includes a research manuscript describing their original research. Around 2,000 students submit the application each year with 300 of them becoming scholars receiving $2,000 each; each of the scholars’ schools receive $2,000 as well. The top 40 scholars are selected to travel to Washington D.C. to present their research and compete for one of the top ten awards ranging from $40,000 – $250,000. The deadline for application has passed for this fall but be sure to check them out next year! (And consider submitting a project to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium to prepare for next year’s Talent Search competition.)

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship has been named one of the ten biggest scholarships in the world and is available to extraordinary young people 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. The Davidson Institute awards scholarships in categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box. The Davidson Institute denotes on their website that this award is for students whose projects are at, or close to, the college graduate level with a depth of knowledge in their particular area of study and not geared toward students at the novice level. Applying to this scholarship is worth the time as the winners are awarded $50,000, $25,000, or $10,000 and are honored with a trip to Washington D.C. for some congressional meetings and a special reception. The deadline for application is February 12.

Even though it is not a requirement for an applicant to conduct high school research for the National Institutes of Health NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program, we thought this would be of some interest to students who love research. This scholarship program offers up to $20,000 per year in aid and summer research training at the NIH! High school students must be in the top 5% of their class, from a disadvantaged background, and enrolled in a University committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, or social science – health related research.

The Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium is supported by the Army Educational Outreach Program, which hosts a variety of apprenticeships that create opportunities for high school students to conduct research with scientists and engineers. They also have a variety of scholarships and grants.

With these and other scholarship opportunities, publicly available data sets, and ways for teachers to incorporate student research into their regular curriculum, it’s never been easier for high school students to contribute brand new knowledge to the world. And if you’re still unsure, be sure to check out this guide to getting started on a research project. We hope you’re inspired to get out there and start researching!

AP® vs. Concurrent Enrollment

Finding advanced coursework for gifted and high-achieving students is important. You may find yourself questioning where to begin and also wondering what is most beneficial for your student. This post helps to explain the similarities and differences between Advanced Placement® (AP®) and Concurrent / Dual Enrollment.

What is Advanced Placement® and Dual Enrollment?

  • Advanced Placement®  (AP®) is a nationally standardized program administered by the College Board. Students have the option to enroll in a wide range of different courses and take an exam in May. In Iowa, schools also have the opportunity to participate in the Iowa Online AP® Academy, which allows high school students to enroll in online AP® coursework for courses their school may not offer.
  • Concurrent Enrollment is an initiative offered by the state of Iowa that allows high school students to enroll in community college courses while still in high school.

How do credits transfer?

  • Advanced Placement®: Passing an AP® exam with a score of 3 or higher generally allows students to earn either advanced standing or course credit for entry-level college courses, depending on the university’s requirements. That is, students may obtain required elective credits or course credits (as if the student had taken and passed the course at the university) for entry-level college courses. For example, at the University of Iowa, receiving a 4 or higher on the AP® Biology exam gives you credit for a specific entry-level biology course (BIOL:1140 Human Biology) that might apply towards your degree.
  • Concurrent Enrollment: Generally, if students pass their class with a C- or higher, they receive college credit. However, this credit may or may not transfer to their post-secondary institution of choice. For example, per University of Iowa policy: Course work earned at a two-year college may be applied toward up to one-half the credits required for a bachelor’s degree. Excess credit and grades will be used in computing your grade-point average (GPA) and may be used to satisfy course requirements, but they will not count toward the total hours needed for graduation from the university.

What does the research say?

A body of research has consistently demonstrated that taking AP® exams and achieving at least a 3 or higher is correlated with greater success in various ways in college. Specifically, a recent study (Wyatt, Patterson, & Giacomo, 2015) found that AP® students who scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP® exam had more positive college outcomes than dual enrollment students affiliated with a 2- or 4-year institution.

There is also much research suggesting that participation in AP® courses alone, without taking/passing AP® exams, is still beneficial for students attending college. This speaks to the concept of “college prep” and coincides with anecdotal responses from Iowa teachers that students were prepared for college courses and the students felt that college expectations were below the expectations for AP® courses!

For more information about the history of AP® and future initiatives, check out this podcast.

What does the Iowa Online AP® Academy offer?

The IOAPA framework works with your high school curriculum so that you can take advanced classes (i.e. Advanced Placement® courses) that are of interest to you. In addition, AP® courses are nationally recognized as a way to earn college course credit at many colleges and universities across the nation. Finally, as an online program, IOAPA also offers flexibility that traditional courses may not in terms of scheduling, as well as practice with online course formats.

Will Iowa Online AP® Academy courses prepare students in the same ways as traditional AP® courses?

IOAPA students who take the AP® exam generally perform just as well as, if not better than, students who participate in traditional AP® courses.  Students who enroll in IOAPA courses also tend to successfully complete them—during the 2018-2019 school year, the completion rate for IOAPA high school courses was 93.3%, and of those students, 89.5% successfully passed their course.

How can I learn more?

You can learn more about IOAPA by visiting our website. The University of Iowa’s AP® credit policy is here, or you can visit the College Board’s AP® Credit Policy database for the policies of other colleges and universities. You can also read about the state of Iowa’s Senior Year Plus initiative for more specifics on earning college credit in high school.

AP® Exam Scholarship Winners!

The Belin-Blank Center received funding in 2018 to offer scholarships for AP® Exams for students with financial need. IOAPA mentors were to submit an application to receive this funding. We are pleased to announce the teachers that are awarded these scholarships for their students! Congratulations to the following teachers:

Hollie Weber, Central Lee High School

DeAnn Scearce, Mount Vernon High School

Chris Rogne, Crestwood High School

Leanne Bender, Hillcrest Academy

Susan Fritzell, Marshalltown High School

Ken Baker, Forest City High School

The purpose of these scholarships is to pay for the cost of AP® exams for low-income students in rural schools who are currently participating in IOAPA courses. We want to thank these teachers for their dedication to providing resources and opportunities to their students!

As funds permit, we will continue to offer these AP® exam scholarships. Keep an eye out for more information on the spring semester courses application process!

IOAPA: Semester Check-In

We are now over half way through the fall semester! We wanted to take the time to provide the IOAPA community with some resources that may be helpful for finishing the semester, as well as provide you with reminders and upcoming dates and deadlines.

There have many changes and added resources to AP® courses. Are you aware of all of these?

These changes have been implemented to make your role more streamlined from registration, to exam ordering, to test day.

  1. Click here to access a handout is quick guide to the new changes to AP® for AP® Coordinators.
  2. Click here for access to the AP® Coordinators Manual Part I (Part II will come out in March). This manual includes:
    1. What is new for 2019-2020
    2. 2020 AP® Exam schedule
    3. Exam ordering policies and deadlines
    4. Instructions about new exam registration and ordering processes

AP® Exam Registration and Ordering

Do you have questions with the new AP® Exam ordering process?

You will use your AP® student roster to update exam ordering information, including SSD accommodations, for each student. For more information, click here to watch a quick and helpful video from the College Board and click here for more detailed instructions.

What about my students who will only enroll in a one-term, spring semester course?
  • When students get enrolled into their spring semester courses with IOAPA, the AP® Coordinator will create the exam only sections for those students. There should not be a need to denote those sections as “second semester.”
  • APEX and Edhesive will enroll those students into “second semester” AP® Classroom sections on the College Board site.
  • When the school’s AP® Coordinator orders the exams for the one-term, spring semester students, the AP® Exam registration deadline is March 13, 2020.

Why did the College Board switch to ordering AP® Exams in the fall semester?

The College Board implemented a pilot program for fall AP® exam registration that included more than 800 schools and 180,000 AP® students in the fall of the 2018-2019 school year. Below is what the College Board noticed:

  • Students and teachers reported the students were more invested, committed, engaged, and focused.
  • When students register for the AP® Exam in the fall, 15% more students completed the exam.
  • Students’ chances of earning a 3 or higher increase when compared to students in schools with spring registration.
  • There was a 12% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by minority students, and a 20% increase in the number of scores 3+ earned by low-income students.
AP® Exams Taken by Low-Income Students: Scores of 3+

For more information on the pilot study, click here, and click here to watch a short video to hear the experiences of teachers and students in the pilot study.

Reminder: The final deadline to order AP® Exams for fall registration is November 15th, 2019!

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!

Will We See You in Albuquerque?

Our staff is gearing up to head to the National Association for Gifted Children Annual Convention from November 7-10 in Albuquerque, New Mexico!

If you will be attending too, be sure to check out our presentations and stop by our booth in the exhibit hall to say hello! Here’s where you can find us:

We hope to see you there!

Advocating for Acceleration: Suggestions for Parents

A parent recently told us about her child’s teacher, who confidently stated, “Well, you know the research tells us that it’s a really bad idea for kids to start kindergarten early.” Another parent said that the climate at his children’s school is unsupportive of acceleration. When approached about the possibility of subject acceleration or grade acceleration, the principal simply said, “Kids who accelerate don’t fit in.”

Those of us who have read (and done some of) the research want to jump into those conversations with both feet, summarize 70 years of research, and demand accelerative opportunities for the children. This isn’t necessarily the best approach. Being an advocate for our children might mean introducing information slowly or finding ways to inform educators other than forcefully giving them a list of the “Top Ten Reasons My Child Should be Allowed to Accelerate.”

One important thing to mention up front is that, in general, educators simply are uninformed about acceleration. Believe it or not, even in graduate programs in gifted education, students don’t necessarily learn about the research and tools for acceleration, let alone how to practice acceleration in schools. Regular education teachers and administrators spend very little time in their undergraduate courses learning about gifted students, and even less time studying acceleration. All of this means that you, the parent, might be better informed than the educator sitting in front of you. It also means that the educator sitting in front of you might, with every good intention, believe that certain myths about acceleration are true.

Get ready. You might have to learn the information on your own, and you might be the one teaching your teachers and administrators about acceleration. Fear not! There are lots of tools to help you with this:

Learn the facts.  Research tells us that acceleration is often the most appropriate avenue for helping academically talented students find a match between their abilities and the curriculum available at their school. The Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute gathers the important research and information about acceleration in one place. Research articles, practical advice, video stories – it’s all there. Other great places to find information include the Hoagies Gifted website and the Davidson Institute website.

Share what you have learned. Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and Volume 1 of A Nation Deceived are both very approachable resources that a busy administrator or teacher can read quickly. You can download both of those documents for free from the websites linked above. If you want even more information about the research, read Volume 2 of A Nation Empowered.

Be reassured that there are objective tools that can help us know when it is appropriate to accelerate a student. You don’t have to make the decision about a grade skip or subject acceleration based on a “gut feeling.” The Iowa Acceleration Scale was designed to help families and educators work together to gather information, discuss important factors, and make an informed decision about a grade skip. Above-level testing is the essential tool for making decisions about subject acceleration.

Advocacy might also mean helping to write policy for your school or district. First, a caution: Policy work takes a long time. If you are trying to solve a problem for your child, focus on your child and the issues that are pertinent to your child. Don’t try to solve everything for everyone. Leave the policy for another day.  However, if you are in a position to help make things better for future students, this might be the time to have those policy discussions. The Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children produced a helpful document last year on Developing Academic Acceleration Policies. This should help you get started on writing defensible policies for acceleration.

OK. It may seem like a lot but have courage. You have the tools, you have the information, and you can be an effective advocate for your child’s acceleration. Go for it!

This I Believe: Abby Wilcox

This is another 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 other posts in this series, see below:
This I Believe: Nicole Behrend
This I Believe: Marcelina Bixler


This I Believe
by Abby Wilcox
Math Teacher in Ankeny, IA and completing the University of Iowa College of Education MA in Teaching, Leadership, & Cultural Competency

I believe all students deserve to feel like they are cared for and respected while they are learning to their highest potential. Students deserve to come to school each day knowing the people in the school believe they are capable of succeeding in academics and in life, in general. I believe educators should show up to work every day with a fire ignited inside them for their plan to help make the world a better place by educating the future within their classrooms. Growing up, my dad was my principal from K-6th grade. For this reason, I don’t think anything will ever feel more significant to me as an educator than striving to make students feel like school is a second home to them where they are cared for and appreciated.

Education is the foundation for future success, and it is important for educators to provide the best curriculum for the students who enter their buildings. Parents and guardians trust educators to provide what it best for their children, and we need to do that by being flexible and attentive to the needs of the individual students in our classrooms.

Although the needs of the gifted are tremendous, my hope is to continue to push students within the classroom so that all individuals believe they are gifted and capable of reaching goals they never imagined possible. The passion for education and learning is something educators and high-ability students should be proud of sharing with others around them. It is important to take this passion and energy and turn it into motivation for challenging tasks to create resilient, life-long learners. I definitely want all students to continue to feel like they are capable learners, but I also want to challenge my high-ability students. I want them to reach the point where parts of school are challenging to them now because they shouldn’t have to wait until later in their academic careers to face academic challenges. They need to be prepared for success beyond high school by facing challenges head on with the support of teachers. School shouldn’t be wasted time. It should be challenging and spark new ideas every single day. A child should never end a day of school feeling like they didn’t learn anything.

It can sometimes be hard or feel overwhelming for teachers to meet the needs of everyone in their classrooms, but it is important for teachers to lean on each other for support and build a foundation of educators who strive to empower. There will always be controversial topics about what is the right or wrong thing to do or teach students who are talented and gifted, but teachers need to trust in the abilities of their students and always support them as they grow and develop into world changers.

My role as a teacher of all students, including those labeled gifted and those not, will be to spread my passion and desire to be a lifelong learner onto others in the hopes that my excitement lights a spark within them to go and change the world someday.

Professional Learning Continues

Neil Gaiman, listed as one of the top ten living post-modern writers, is quoted as saying, “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.”

Professional learning is one of the things that educators are always doing, independently, with their professional learning communities, and with the Belin-Blank Center!  We invite you to join us through the gifted-teachers listserv (belinblank.org/listserv), through our Facebook account (facebook.com/belinblank), through our blog (belinblank.wordpress.com), and through our professional development opportunities coming up (belinblank.org/educators/courses).  The varied classes we plan throughout the year provide you with tools to better support the needs of gifted and talented learners. 

To participate in our classes, you must register with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student; for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status; if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars.  Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most; follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.  All of our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Here is a list of what’s coming up; all of these are online and asynchronous. Some Spring classes have not been added to the schedule yet (courses with no instructor listed are facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft):

  • Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted Students (EDTL:4096:0WKB – 1 semester hour), final fall class, November 12 – December 4. (Dr. Jenelle Miller)
  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (EDTL:4085:0WKA – 1 semester hour), winter session class shaped to your needs, December 30, 2019 – January 17, 2020.
  • Program Models in Gifted Education (EDTL:4199:0EXA – 3 semester hours), first spring class offered in an accelerated format from January 21 – March 14.
  • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs (PSQF:4121:0EXW – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from January 28 – March 27. (Dr. Susan Assouline)
  • Administration and Policy in Gifted Education (EPLS:4110:0EXW – 2 semester hours), offered from February 4 – May 1. (Dr. Randy Lange
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4022:0WKA – 3 semester hours), offered in an accelerated format from March 23 – May 15.
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students (EDTL:4067:0EXW – 1 semester hour), February 26 – March 24. (Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik)
  • Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA – 1 semester hour), March 23 – April 11. (Dr. Jolene Teske)
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted (EDTL:4025:0WKA – 1 semester hour), April 13 – May 1. (Debra “Debbie” Judge)

The one-semester-hour classes included in the list above are offered in the three-week workshop format.  These classes have no additional technology fees and focus on one topic over three weeks.

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

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org.

7th to 9th Graders Needing More Challenge? This May Be the Time to Take the ACT

The Belin-Blank Center frequently recommends above-level testing for academically talented students because it gives students the opportunity to “show what they can do” and demonstrate their abilities on a test that was developed for older students. This is a common-sense approach to discovering academically talented students. These students have already performed very well on grade-level tests, and they need a greater challenge to demonstrate their aptitudes fully.

Using a grade-level achievement test to measure the aptitudes of an academically talented student is somewhat like using a 3-foot yardstick to measure a person who is 5 feet tall. The grade-level test “yardstick” isn’t long enough to measure the student’s aptitude accurately. By giving a student a test that was developed for older students (an above-level test), we are making our “yardstick” longer and helping to learn more precise information about the student’s capabilities.

The ACT, the test that many students take in 11th or 12th grade as part of the college admissions process, has also been used since the 1980s to discover younger students who are ready for greater academic challenges. We recommend that 7th-9th grade students who have already performed very well on grade-level achievement tests (such as the Iowa Assessments) be encouraged to take the ACT. They can take this test through any one of the university-based talent searches, including the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.

What can you do with the information? Scores on the ACT can be used to qualify students for a wide variety of academic programs, including programs offered by the Belin-Blank Center. An important opportunity that selected students might also consider is early entrance to college. The Belin-Blank Center hosts the Bucksbaum Academy, which is an early entrance to college program for students who have completed 10th or 11th grade.

Even if your academically talented 7th-9th grade students aren’t thinking about early entrance to college, we still encourage them to take the ACT. Taking this test at a young age provides bright students with many advantages: (1) more information about their aptitudes, (2) opportunities to qualify for a variety of summer and school-year programs, (3) the chance to try out a fun challenge, and (4) for students earning outstanding scores, the opportunity to be recognized in a formal recognition ceremony at the University of Iowa.

If these ideas resonate with you, we encourage you to act today! Students can register here, and teachers can download a letter to send to families here.

Gifted & General Education Collaboration

The Belin-Blank Center has asked Gerald Aungst, Curiosity Engineer (@GeraldAungst, www.geraldaungst.com), to teach pre-service and practicing teachers about Gifted & General Education Collaboration (course number EDTL:4153:0WKA), from October 8 through October 28. 

Referring to the class, he noted, “gifted learners aren’t gifted only when they are in their gifted education classes; it is critical for gifted teachers and general education teachers to work together. This collaboration can be challenging due to conflicting goals, competing schedules, or incompatible philosophies. Learn strategies for making it work despite the complications.” 

Describing collaboration as key for successful programming, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has a position statement dating back to 2014, emphasizing that, “Collaboration among gifted, general, special education and related services professionals is essential to meet the varied needs of today’s diverse student population.”

This online class, like all those offered through the Center (in partnership with the College of Education), fulfills a requirement in one of the strands (the Programming strand) necessary for the State of Iowa Endorsement in Gifted Education

Online classes have research support for benefits including “time for deeper reflection and the elimination of traditional professional development’s social and physical boundaries” (Edinger, 2017, p. 301).  Edinger cites Little and Housand (2011), who found that educators wanting to better serve gifted learners can benefit from online teacher professional development (oTPD) “since these small groups of teachers are separated from one another by distance, but can make professional connections to each other in an online environment” (p. 301).

This one-semester-hour asynchronous class is offered through Distance and Online Education at the University of Iowa; participants must register as Distance Education Nondegree-Seeking students (no cost for registration).  Classes offered in this focused workshop format have the same tuition for in- and out-of-state students, and they have no extra fees.  Tuition is currently $560 for graduate students per hour and $337 for undergraduate students per hour.  Anyone may register as an undergraduate through Distance and Online Education; undergraduate credit is accepted by the State of Iowa for the endorsement (you should always check with your own district if you want to apply the credit for other opportunities). 

More information about professional learning through the Belin-Blank Center is available at belinblank.org/educators.  Upcoming courses can be reviewed by following the links to the four strands at belinblank.org/educators/courses.

Reference

Edinger, M.J. (2017). Online teacher professional development for gifted education: Examining the impact of a new pedagogical model. Gifted Child Quarterly, 6(4), 300-312.

IOAPA: Continued Funding for AP Exams

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

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors: Make sure to apply for this funding opportunity by October 15! 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 is only available for students who are taking or have taken an 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 November 1, 2019.

As a reminder, the College Board’s new deadline to order AP exams is November 15, 2019.

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

High School Research: Your Guide to Getting Started

Getting started can sometimes be the most challenging part of a new project. You have too many ideas. You have no ideas. Your ideas are too big. Your ideas are too small. Don’t panic, our Junior Science & Humanities (JSHS) team has got your back! We are starting a series of blog posts to help you get your original research off the ground. 

An original research project is just that: original. That means no one has investigated the same question you are interested in learning more about in the same way that you are planning to tackle it. Reading about a topic that interests you is also a great way to narrow down your ideas (if you have too many), come up with an idea (if you are stuck and don’t yet have an idea), or right-size your project (if your ideas seem too big or too small).

Our advice is to avoid doing a general internet search for your topic. You know where that will end up— cat videos.

Instead, search reputable open access journals. They publish primary research articles that you can read for free.

Here is a list of trusted open access sources:

  • Elsevier, a global information analytics business, has made available several open access journals to the public through ScienceDirect. Here, you can browse all their open access journals by name or narrow the search by selecting a topical area of interest. Not all the journals on ScienceDirect are open access. However, the search capabilities allow you to select only journals that are open access, or even journals that may not be completely open access but contain some open-access articles.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals provides almost 14,000 open access peer-reviewed journals from 130 countries. The topics covered in this directory range from agriculture to technology, including anthropology, medicine, and social sciences. Articles and journals on DOAJ are searchable via key terms or are browsable by subject.
  • Nature Communications and Scientific Reports are open access research journals that publish major science research that doesn’t quite have the impact to be published in the major science research journal, Nature. The articles are high quality and have gone through stringent peer-review.
  • Public Library of Science (PLOS) is a mega journal that started with PLOS One, the world’s largest multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal. PLOS Journals are free to search, access, and redistribute. 
  • Sage Open is an open access journal published by Sage publishers that is dedicated to the social sciences.
  • SpringerOpen is a place where one can search and access any of Springer’s 200+ open access journals. Springer journals use high-level peer-review practices to provide a trusted source of primary research.
  • Wiley, a large publishing network that has been around for over 200 years, provides a listing of open access journals that they publish. These journals can be browsed by the journal name or by subject area.
  • Check out this new browser plugin for Chrome and Firefox that finds open access versions of journal articles that would otherwise be hidden behind a paywall! The best part? It’s 100% legal and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, so you can be assured it’s legitimate.

If you are reading an open access journal that isn’t listed above, take a moment to evaluate if the journal is trustworthy.  CrossRef maintains a listing of member journals. Members must maintain compliance to certain terms and can and will be removed if those terms are not met. Another evaluation tool is Ulrichsweb. This directory can tell you if a listed journal uses peer-review and more.

Next time, we’ll be discussing the structure of a research article. We’ll be sharing tips for how to quickly get the most out of an article, leaving you with time for a few more cat videos.

We look forward to learning about your research projects at JSHS!

2019: IOAPA + Edhesive

IOAPA has been providing computer science courses to students across Iowa since 2015! We are able to offer these opportunities because of our partnership with Edhesive, an online curriculum provider. Whether you are new to using Edhesive or have a few years of experience, it is always helpful to refresh with important tips and information, as well as changes within the online course provider! We hope this blog post serves as a resource for teachers mentoring for computer science IOAPA courses.

IOAPA Mentors’ Role:

Since Edhesive is not a credit-bearing institution, mentors will serve as the teacher of record at each school. Mentors and schools also decide how involved they want to be when offering Edhesive courses. However, mentors are responsible for the following six items:

  1. Setting up your course: Follow this link to learn how you can divide your course into grading periods and change/update student names in your gradebook.
  2. Helping students enroll: Follow this link to assist your students in enrollment, add/remove students, and adding a second course for a student.
  3. Provide access codes to students: Follow this link to know where all the quiz and exam access codes can be found.
  4. Monitor student performance and progress: Follow this link to learn how you can view the “Course Access Report” to see what course items your student has viewed, participated, along with when these were viewed or completed, and to view overall activity, assignment submissions, grades, and quiz and exam statistics!
  5. Transfer students’ grades in Edhesive to your school’s transcript: Follow this link to learn how to download the grades from your online Edhesive gradebook to your computer as a CSV file.
  6. Complete the AP Course Audit with the College Board: Follow this link to learn how to complete the AP Course Audit for AP Computer Science A and AP CS Principles. AP Computer Science Principles mentors must also create a Digital Portfolio with the College Board.

Supports & Resources

Edhesive has recently created new onboarding videos for Edhesive teachers! These serve to provide a short introduction to getting started on and using the Edhesive platform. There are 25 short videos, totaling only 30 minutes to show you everything you need to know about getting started with your Edhesive courses. Click here to access the Edhesive Onboarding Videos. For additional tutorials and guides, mentors can visit the Help Center or email support@edhesive.com.

The teachers listed in the course (Rebecca Dovi and Becky Stacey) do not interact with students. If students have questions, they should ask their IOAPA mentor or utilize the Student Forums for additional support with their coursework.

Similarly, if mentors need support you can connect to Edhesive teaching assistants (TAs) and other teachers through the Teacher Forums.

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!

Guidebooks for Parents and Educators

Parents and educators are often looking for useful resources in gifted education. We would like to highlight a few. The Davidson Institute’s guidebooks for parents and educators on advocacy, early entrance to college, homeschooling, mentorships, and twice exceptional students can be downloaded for free:

The Belin-Blank Center offers extensive information on academic acceleration in several publications.

  • A Nation Empowered: An update to the watershed report on acceleration, A Nation Deceived, the 2015 report provides the latest research on acceleration. A Nation Empowered: Volume 1 is written in an accessible format for parents, educators, policymakers, and the general public. A Nation Empowered: Volume 2 provides the research and an in-depth look at topics specific to acceleration, including grade-skipping, early entrance to college, twice exceptional students, and longitudinal research.
  • A Nation Deceived, Volume 1: Published in 2004, this volume includes an overview of the issues surrounding acceleration for gifted students. The discussion of the myths is still relevant today.

Two resources on twice-exceptional students are also provided by the Belin-Blank Center:

The Hoagies Gifted website provides a somewhat overwhelming list of books in gifted education. We encourage you to visit the page again and again. Hint: start with the books that have a star next to them. Some of those are classics.

Visual Guide to IOAPA Middle School Courses

We are excited to share the new IOAPA Middle School Course infographic using data from 2018-2019 IOAPA students! This, along with our high school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, on the Support Materials page. 

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Visual Guide to IOAPA High School Courses

We are excited to share the new IOAPA High School Course infographic using data from 2018-2019 IOAPA students! This, along with our middle school infographic and other useful information, can be found on our website, on the Support Materials page. 

You’re Invited: SSTP Public Poster Session

Only a week remains in the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program, which means that the students are busy putting the final touches on their research. By this Thursday, each participant in the program will have produced a poster detailing their findings.

To celebrate their accomplishments, the students will first present their work in a final poster competition. On Thursday afternoon, a panel of judges will hear the students’ presentations and view the posters. On Friday morning, the students’ work will then be officially unveiled in a public poster session.

This year, the public poster session will take place in the Iowa Memorial Union Main Lounge from 9:00-10:00am on July 26. Everyone interested in SSTP research, and research at the University of Iowa, is warmly invited to attend!

Meeting Your Goals for the Precocious Teens in Your Life with Real-World Data Sets

You can create engaging learning experiences for teens by making it possible for them to conduct original research and connect with a larger scholarly community through citizen science. While collecting original data has tremendous merit, sometimes barriers to the necessary equipment or resources for effective data collection are challenging to navigate. Publicly available real-world data sets are one way to circumvent these obstacles and get teens researching—for real.

Did you know that there are more than 244,000 data sets publicly available to anyone on data.gov? This website has data from a wide variety of sources from agriculture, climate, and ecosystems, to manufacturing, energy, and finance. Looking at the available data, you and your teen might wonder how public parks might affect a neighborhood’s resilience to natural disasters. With a research question in mind, teens are ready to learn how to design their investigation and then dig into those data!  

Perhaps you have teens interested in developing a deeper understanding of how life in the United States compares to life around the world.  Through international datasets from the United Kingdom (https://data.gov.uk), Australia (https://data.gov.au/), Singapore (https://data.gov.sg/), for example,  teens can mine data to answer specific questions and better understand international relationships and trends. Many teens are passionate about global and social justice issues. UNICEF publishes data on the lives of children from around the world, and the World Health Organization publishes global human health data. Societal viewpoints can be analyzed using data sets available from the Pew Research Center.

If economics and mathematics are where a student’s interest lies, then have them check out the international financial data released by the International Monetary Fund, weekly Dow Jones Index data, or sales datasets from stores such as Walmart.

Our technology-based lives generate datasets that may surprise teens! There are publicly available data on reddit user comments and Airbnb worldwide locations even challenges its users to “Discover what insights lie hidden in our data.” Wikipedia, Google, and Amazon make their data available, too.

Student research doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense or fancy equipment. With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, students can produce high-quality original research from their bedrooms or the classroom. Publicly available data sets abound and they can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of STEM curiosity.

For more information on student research, be sure to check out our other posts on this topic!

Message from the Director: Welcome Home!

Our June newsletter coincides with the start of six weeks of amazing energy and enthusiasm for our myriad pre-college and professional development programs.

Our elementary (Blast) and junior high students (Junior Scholars Institute, Blank Scholars Institute) will be challenged in their areas of interest and strength, digging into an advanced course during the day, all while having fun with other bright kids who share their level of interest and ability. Junior high and high school students also get to experience life on a college campus, living in the residence halls and hanging out with new friends at cultural and recreational activities in the evenings.

Our high school students will experience life-changing opportunities for personal and academic growth. Our summer programs include a behind-the-scenes look at research careers and the ways and places we discover new knowledge on many different topics (Perry Research Scholars Institute); an intensive, highly selective, STEM research experience (Secondary Student Training Program); and art and writing residencies (Summer Art Residency, Summer Writing Residency) here at the University of Iowa, one of the premier arts campuses in the US, also home to the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

This summer, educators will be making progress toward their TAG endorsements, maintaining their license requirements, or pursuing career advancement through a variety of online and on-site courses and workshops or Iowa Licensure Renewal Units. We will also have the pleasure of spending time with many who join us on campus! Some will be here for the Chautauqua program, which carries the benefit of enabling educators to earn half the credits they need for a TAG endorsement in just two weeks! Others will become qualified to teach Advanced Placement (AP) courses, increasing the number of subject acceleration opportunities for gifted students across the country, at our AP Teacher Training Institute.  Still others have been admitted to the prestigious Belin-Blank Fellowship, which aims to help teachers new to gifted education understand the qualities and needs of gifted individuals so they can better teach and develop the potential of those students.

This month, “welcome” is the most often-used word in my vocabulary, as I meet dozens of students and educators new to the Center.  I greet returning students, families, and educators with a warm “welcome home!” Expressing both of these words — welcome and home — sparked my curiosity about the etymology of each.  That curiosity, in turn, led to a few reflections about the next six weeks of summer programming.

“Welcome” comes from the Old English, wilcuma, “a wished for guest.”  Indeed, we absolutely wish for individuals to join us in our programs. We spend months preparing for them to ensure that they will have an engaging and energizing experience.  We know that for many participants their time on the UI campus in a Belin-Blank Center program offers a pivotal, often life-changing, experience.  We never tire of hearing these stories, and now that we are entering our 31st year of programming, we have heard from people who had that experience 10, 20, or 30 years ago! 

We also “welcome home” past participants and use the word “home” with great warmth.   As a noun, home, comes from the Old English, ham, and implies a “dwelling place.”  That is exactly how we want everyone who attends our programs to feel.  We want them to know that we have created a place that inspires them to reach beyond their current level of performance, where they can inspire others to extend their reach, and assure them that professors, residence advisors, and Center staff are dedicated to their well-being and happiness.   Attaining that goal is an indicator that we truly have welcomed our newest participants and welcomed home those who have returned. 

Here’s to the start of a great summer that concludes in late July!  We would love to welcome you at two very special events at the conclusion of the summer program. 

Even if you can’t join us in person this summer, be sure to connect with us by following along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our blog. However, if you are joining us this summer, welcome home!

Coming soon: New Online Integrated Acceleration System

We are developing a new online system to help schools and families make decisions about various forms of acceleration described in A Nation Empowered, including early entrance to kindergarten, subject acceleration, early entrance to college/university, and grade-skipping. This will all be done in an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the appropriate information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions.

Would you like more information? Click here to be added to the email list

I Think My Child Needs to Skip a Grade

Recently, we received this email:

My son just finished second grade. I think he needs to skip a grade and start fourth grade in the fall.  We are looking for help in requesting a whole grade skip.  I have learned that acceleration is not mandated in my state. How should we start? Is there a formal way of putting in my application?

The Belin-Blank Center doesn’t provide a formal application for acceleration that will work in every state, but we can give you some direction to get you started.

First, learn about the policies in your state and your school or district. Are there policies regarding acceleration on the state or local level?  A good place to begin is the policy page on the Acceleration Institute website.

Gather some information about acceleration, so you have an understanding of the research and how acceleration can be used with gifted students. Over the last 70 years, an impressive body of research has been built up that demonstrates that acceleration is an effective tool for challenging gifted students. An excellent place to start learning about that is A Nation Empowered. Volume 1 includes an overview of acceleration and is suitable for sharing with busy administrators and others who might be looking for a summary on acceleration. Volume 2 includes the research behind this option.  This research demonstrates that acceleration helps gifted students to maximize their academic potential; it also shows that acceleration does not cause a negative impact on social/emotional development.

Keep the lines of communication open. Meet with your child’s teacher, gifted coordinator, and/or principal. Learn about the options in your school. Share with them your concerns about ensuring your child is challenged in school. Understand that these professionals might not have been exposed to much information about acceleration in their training, so some of the information you have discovered might be new to them.

Go through the decision-making process. If a student is a candidate for a whole-grade skip, we advocate using the Iowa Acceleration Scale. This tool was developed specifically to address this question and helps families and educators to work together to consider aspects of development that are important in a decision about grade skipping. These include the student’s ability, aptitude, and achievement, as well as developmental factors, physical and social development, and support from the school and family.

Alternatively, or perhaps in addition to a conversation about a whole grade skip, you might think about subject acceleration. Moving ahead in one or more subjects might be the best alternative for a student who isn’t ready for a whole grade skip or has already skipped a grade, but needs additional challenge in a particular subject. An important tool for this discussion is above-level testing.

No discussion of acceleration is complete without considering social development—this is typically the first concern people mention when we start discussing any type of acceleration, especially grade-skipping.  Research shows that carefully selected students who accelerate do just fine socially. There might be a short adjustment period for the student, but the students typically adjust just as well socially or somewhat better socially than their chronologically older grade-mates. These students fit in just fine.

After collecting the appropriate data and participating in thorough discussions with educators and administrators, you should come to a consensus about what is the best decision for your child. Whatever the decision is now, remember that you might need to revisit it again in the future. A student who skips a grade now might need additional acceleration at some later point, or a student who isn’t accelerated now might need acceleration in the future. Also, remember that acceleration doesn’t solve all issues around challenging talented students.  Your child might still benefit from academic summer programs, additional enrichment in school, concurrent enrollment, individually-paced instruction in a strength area, etc. The goal is to challenge the student systematically throughout the school years.

Resources

Assouline, S. G., Colangelo, N., VanTassel-Baska, J., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2015). A nation empowered: Evidence trumps the excuses holding back America’s brightest students. Iowa City, IA: Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. www.nationempowered.org 

Assouline, S. G., & Lupkowski-Shoplik, A. (2011). Developing Math Talent (2nd ed.). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

See www.accelerationinstitute.org for more evidence. 

Using Citizen Science to Increase Engagement in Summer Learning

As the school year has come to a close, excitement and planning for summer fun is in the air! What are you imagining for these sun-drenched days—beaches, camping, novels, hiking, blockbuster movies? If you are a teacher, which of your students might be dreaming about digging into a science or engineering challenge this summer and how can you encourage them? Perhaps you have a child whose curiosity needs an outlet and encouraging nudge. Summer science to the rescue!

With the increase in the number of researchers looking for everyday citizens to aid them in research projects, opportunities to contribute to actual research projects right from home or the classroom are more abundant than ever! In today’s information-rich world these opportunities are available to anyone.

We have collected a few projects that span a variety of interest areas to nurture the curious indoor and outdoor kids in your life:

  • Join the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) and get connected to projects ranging from analyzing images identifying wildlife, analyzing images and data identifying celestial bodies, to transcribing historical documents. These projects seek out ordinary individuals to contribute to research, making an impact in the world. One example project is Bash the Bug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug), a project in which an individual analyzes the antibiotic resistance of M. tuberculosis, helping hospitals around the world accurately predict which antibiotics are effective at treating this disease.
  • National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/) lists several projects on their website such as bird counting projects, monitoring light pollution with the night sky, or participating in water quality monitoring with people from around the globe. Some of the projects such as the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (https://garlicmustard.wordpress.com/) even give teachers tips on how they can use the project in their classroom: “Educators can offer their students an invaluable opportunity for hands-on participation in peer-reviewed scientific research, and compare class results to the larger dataset involving hundreds of populations.”
  • Journeynorth.org is a website in which students can help track seasonal changes and seasonal migrations of different species right where they live. This site also offers teacher resources (https://journeynorth.org/tm/educators_index.html) to help a teacher drive discussion using data that was input by citizen scientists just like your students.
  • If you want to search for projects by location, then check out Scistarter.org. This website connects citizen scientists to local projects. Projects range from migration tracking to water and air quality. One project, School of Ants USA, (https://www.scistarter.org/school-of-ants-usa) asks citizen scientists to help track ant diversity by collecting and sending in a sample of ants. 

What if you have a high school student on your hands who wants to take summer science to the next level? No problem! Citizen science projects and the associated publicly available data sets can be used by students to ask their own questions and conduct their own research. Then, they can submit their work to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!

Iowa JSHS showcases research conducted by high school students each year to provide students with an outlet to share their work and be recognized for their efforts. Attending the symposium provides youth with exposure to Iowa high school research, and they also benefit from networking opportunities with other student researchers and research professionals.

Want more information on student-led research? Be sure to check out our previous posts on this topic!

Professional Development Opportunities

The Belin-Blank Center is home to one of the oldest gifted education professional development programs in the country.  The last week in June, 2019, the Center will have educators living on campus and immersing themselves in the field of gifted education and talent development during Belin-Blank Fellowship XXXIX!  For almost 40 years, the Center has been committed to offering the coursework that educators need to earn the required Talented and Gifted Endorsement, but even more, to providing the understandings that make teachers feel much better informed about the nature and needs of gifted/talented learners as the new academic year races toward them. (Where DOES the summer go?)

The Belin-Blank Center TAG Endorsement  program is aligned with the Faculty Standards for Teacher Preparation Programs in Gifted & Talented Education, developed by NAGC to ensure that educators learning about the field participate in research-based classes taught by highly-qualified professionals.  As well, all of our coursework is aligned with the NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted and Talented Education and with the Pre-K – Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards.

The summer opportunities listed below are offered as workshops (with no additional technology or other fees added to the basic tuition); all of these classes that are still available allow educators to focus on specific topics that are beneficial to their gifted and talented learners.  These are described in more detail at belinblank.org/courses:

  • EDTL:5080:0WKA Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses, July 1 – 22, is available for those who attend the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute the last week in June; the Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship off the cost of graduate tuition since participants are also paying to attend the College Board-approved summer institute (since teachers spend an average of $500 of their own money on classroom supplies, we try to provide financial assistance whenever we can!)
  • EDTL:4074:0WKA   Differentiation at the Secondary Level, July 8 – 26, emphasizing the importance of differentiation rooted in content areas, including specific strategies to strengthen secondary courses; those who attend APTTI receive the same automatic tuition scholarship for this class;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKF   Topics: Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  Mathematics, July 17 – August 6, utilizing a NAGC publication about strengthening standards developed for general education to provide differentiated learning for meaningful experiences in math for advanced learners (participants do NOT need a background in mathematics to understand the needs of their mathematically gifted youth);
  • EDTL:4085:0WKA   Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education,  July 29 – August 16, allowing educators to focus on the topics the most need to master for their students, schools, and districts (the credit may be applied, depending on readings, to the Psychology, Programming, or Administrative strand for endorsement);
  • RCE:4119:0WKA    Family Issues in Giftedness, August 7  – 27, the last of the summer classes, designed to allow teachers to be ready to work with parents in the new school year, better understanding their concerns and planning effective ways to communicate with parents as the school year begins.

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua will begin on July 8, and will provide six classes in a hybrid format that includes two days on campus with online opportunities for reflection, reading, and final projects submitted online.  The Belin-Blank Chautauqua includes three classes in Week I:

These classes are available in Week II:

Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four).  Chautauqua includes a lunch on Friday of each week, provided by the Belin-Blank Center, when participants can enjoy talking with nationally recognized leaders in gifted education. 

We look forward to working with you this summer; we appreciate your commitment to the needs of gifted and talented learners!

This I Believe: Nicole Behrend

This I Believe is an organization based on both a more recent collection of essays shared on National Public Radio, and on a radio show in the 1950s.  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.”

Inspired by this idea, Dr. Laurie Croft, our Associate Director for Professional Development, assigned essays on this topic for the Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education class. Over the next few months, with permission, we will share those responses on our blog.


This I Believe 
by Nicole Behrend
Elementary Education major, University of Iowa College of Education, also pursuing the Talented and Gifted Endorsement

I believe education is a tool used to provide individuals with the knowledge to change the world and make it a better place. I think an educational setting is a place for students to learn how to work with peers, engage their critical thinking skills, and prepare them for the future.   Education should be meeting the needs of all children. In education, educators need to differentiate instruction so that gifted students are being challenged to their highest potential. 

In elementary school, I was a TAG student. For 1 hour, 2 days a week, myself and two others from my grade level would meet with the TAG teacher. In the class, I learned things at a faster pace and I was learning things I found interesting. I remember one thing I learned in my TAG class was Braille. Being a young elementary student and learning how to communicate in a way different than what I was used to was such an eye-opener for me. We wrote our names with the special machine and learned how braille was used around the world. After class, I bragged to my friends, family, and parents about what I had learned. 

When I look back at my elementary years, most of the academic topics I remember were from my TAG class. After being a TAG student myself, I know how beneficial it is for students and how they look forward to that attention from the teacher. I want to be the teacher that my TAG teacher was to me. She made learning fun and made me excited. I want to instill enthusiasm about school in my students. I think more than anything, our gifted students need to be motivated to learn; they need to know there is a reason for the process.

Curriculum for gifted students needs to be differentiated to address their individual strengths, talents, needs, interests, and characteristics.

I believe I will have to modify the basic curriculum to meet the needs of my gifted students. I will provide enrichment opportunities to challenge students and allow them to explore areas of interest. I believe gifted and talented students need to be challenged. They need assignments that are modified or accelerated to meet their advanced needs. Gifted students also need to be with students like themselves. Advanced students benefit greatly from being with students of the same ability. To bring out the best potential for gifted students, the basic curriculum will not meet their needs. Gifted students need to explore their interests and the community they live in. 

My role as a gifted educator will be to educate, assist, and encourage my students. I will need to educate my students and their parents on the opportunities and difficulties associated with exceptional students. I will need to assist my students in their learning and opportunities past the school. I will also need to encourage my students to develop creativity, productivity, and leadership skills. Our gifted students need motivation and attention just as much as the typical student, but they also need the modifications to help them continue on the path of high abilities. 

Iowa Wins Big at the National Invention Convention

For the second year in a row, Iowa students have earned national recognition for their innovative inventions!

Winners of the 2019 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention qualified to compete at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in May. Of the six qualifying inventions, three earned national prizes!

Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) won 1st place at the Kindergarten grade level for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.

Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) won a Patent Application Award for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.

Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), won an Inventor Communication Award for “Best Pitch” while presenting their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.

A full list of national winners is available here. Congratulations to all who competed, and especially to our Iowa representatives. We are proud of your hard work and inspiring ideas!

The 2019 Iowa AP Index

The Belin-Blank Center is excited to announce the release of the 2019 Iowa AP Index!

The Iowa AP Index was developed in 2005 by the University of Iowa College of Education’s Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. The Iowa AP Index serves to recognize the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement (AP) opportunities to Iowa’s high school students.

The Iowa AP Index provides a measure of AP opportunities. The AP Index is the ratio of AP Exams taken by students to the number of graduating seniors. A high AP Index indicates a school has developed a culture that encourages students to take AP courses and exams. Schools with index scores in the top 50 are publicly recognized for their commitment to providing AP opportunities. Schools that are not in the top 50 are notified separately regarding their index ranking. 

This year, Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf is the top Advanced Placement school in Iowa, according to the Iowa AP Index.

In previous years, Rivermont Collegiate was classified as a Specially Accredited College Preparatory School in the Iowa AP Index. However, Rivermont Collegiate is accredited by the Iowa Department of Education, and therefore is no longer considered specially accredited. Rivermont Collegiate is now recognized with the accredited public and nonpublic schools in the Iowa AP Index.

The top 10 schools in the 2019 Iowa AP Index behind first-place Rivermont (index of 4.71) are:

2. Valley High School (West Des Moines, index of 2.70)

3. Valley Lutheran High School (Cedar Falls, index of 2.55)

4. Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, index of 2.48)

5. West Senior High School (Iowa City, index of 2.26)

6. John F. Kennedy High School (Cedar Rapids, index of 2.23)

7. George Washington High School (Cedar Rapids, index of 2.10)

8. Wahlert Catholic High School (Dubuque, index of 1.91)

9. Muscatine High School (Muscatine, index of 1.88)

10. Iowa City High School (Iowa City, index of 1.86)

Magnet Schools: We also want to give a special recognition to Des Moines Central Academy (index of 2.63), which is not ranked with the Iowa public and nonpublic schools.

To view the top 50 AP schools in Iowa, visit www.iowaapindex.org.