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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Iowa AP Index

This time of year in Iowa signals the arrival of warmer weather, graduation, and the publication of the Iowa AP Index. Every year since 2005, the Belin-Blank Center has recognized Iowa high schools for providing Advanced Placement opportunities to Iowa students.

The Iowa AP Index for a given high school is the ratio of AP exams taken by students (any grade) divided by the number of its graduating seniors. A high AP Index is an indication that a school has developed a culture that is supportive of student participation in AP courses and exams. For more on how the Index is calculated, visit the About the Index page. The 2017 statewide AP Index for all public schools in Iowa is .63, and reflects a .03-point increase in statewide AP participation compared to 2016.

For the 9th consecutive year, George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids is the top-ranked school with an AP Index of 3.31. Rounding out the top 5 are John F. Kennedy High School (Cedar Rapids, 3.03), Valley Lutheran High School (Cedar Falls, 3.00), Roosevelt High School (Des Moines, 2.86), and West Senior High School (Iowa City, 2.42). Visit the AP Index website to learn more view the full list.

Are you curious about how to increase AP participation in your school? Check out our previous post on developing an AP culture and check out the College Board’s resources to start and grow AP. IOAPA can help expand access to AP, especially for rural schools that cannot support in-person AP courses. Visit belinblank.org/ioapa to learn more.

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We’re Prepping for Summer Programs

…and whole host of other things!  Check out our April newsletter for what we’re looking forward to:

Message From the Director: Expression As A High Calling

“To learn to express is probably as high a calling as one can do; because as one expresses, one can bring people together and that’s the great challenge of all of us.”

Interim Director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art and Former U.S Representative James Leach (R-IA)

Indeed. Mr. Leach’s words, shared on March 11th at the Belin-Blank Center’s annual Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Ceremony, ring true for the Center’s administrators whether they’re creating programs for students or teachers, or hosting special events such as the Scholastic Awards Ceremony, the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, or Invent Iowa. Striving to meet that challenge of “expression” on both a personal and professional level is not only a component of our special events; it is also an important aspect of the Center’s day-to-day operation.  Building community by bringing together talented learners is the common thread in the upcoming summer opportunities.  The programming goals for student and instructor are to attain a higher level of expression relative to the content of the class and the experience of being part of a community of like-minded learners.

In a previous post, I expressed my philosophy concerning transformational leadership and indicated that one of the most important roles we can serve as professionals is to give voice to those who are not in a position to express their voices or have their voices heard.  Two recent articles in peer-reviewed journals represent our efforts to give voice to talented students who are at risk due to economic vulnerability or twice-exceptionality.

The first article, “The effects of a social and talent development intervention for high ability youth with social skill difficulties,” authored by Associate Professor Megan Foley Nicpon and colleagues and published in the High Ability Studies (2017), present the findings of an intervention study with twice-exceptional students (high ability with social skill difficulties).  The social skills intervention itself, video modeling, is quite progressive in terms of interventions.  In addition, the intervention was conducted in a “naturalistic” setting, i.e., during a Belin-Blank Center two-week summer program, which is oriented towards students’ talent development.  Researchers found positive changes in several of the measured variables, including friendship companionship and security. The students in the social skills group, who experienced the video-modeling intervention, increased their willingness to seek help within their friendships compared to the non-intervention comparison group.  To our knowledge, this is the first study to investigate this group intervention with twice-exceptional students, and the preliminary findings support continuing to offer the intervention during our summer programs.

The second article, “Closing the excellence gap: Investigation of an expanded talent search model for student selection into an extracurricular STEM program in rural middle schools,” authored by Susan Assouline, Lori Ihrig, and Duhita Mahatmya and published in Gifted Child Quarterly (2017), reported on an expansion of the traditional Talent Search Model.  The expansion effectively broadened the talent pool of high-achieving students from the typical 3-to-5% to 13%.  The students participated in an extracurricular STEM program that was designed to increase the aspirations and achievements of high-potential students attending under-resourced rural schools.

An op-ed that I co-authored with Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, highlighted the importance of providing these types of educational opportunities for rural students. One sentence in the op-ed captures the intersection of expression and voice:

The education gap dividing Americans by income and location is not just profoundly unfair, but a tremendous waste of talent. It means that we fail to benefit from the brainpower of millions of young people who could grow up to be doctors, scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, teachers and fill other important roles. We simply can’t afford this unfairness.

For 29 years, the administrative team at the Belin-Blank Center has worked to develop the talents of students and their teachers.  We strive to form a community of like-minded individuals and close gaps due to disability or economic vulnerability.  It’s all possible when we aren’t afraid to speak up.

Costumes, Poetry, and Dancing at the Scholastic Celebration

Students who received a Gold Key, Silver Key, or Honorable Mention for their submission to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (Iowa or Midwest Regions) were invited to our Scholastic Celebration!

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New Test Scores Tool for Iowa Educators

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

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

Science in San Diego

The 55th Annual National JSHS starts tomorrow! The top five students from the 2017 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium are going to Nationals.  Good luck to all!

1. Kathryn Bozer – West High School, Iowa City
2. Manasa Pagadala – Rivermont Collegiate, Bettendorf
3. Mason Burlage – Beckman Catholic High School, Dubuque
4. Megan Ertl – Beckman Catholic High School, Dubuque
5. Maddie Zastrow – Prairie High School, Cedar Rapids

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