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.

Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented: English/Language Arts

As summer vacation draws closer, we want to remind educators of upcoming online opportunities for professional development!  We have one class underway: Teaching Outside the Lines, focused on Doug Johnson’s book by the same name, thinking about creativity in the schools today.

Our next class is EDTL:4096:0WKB, Topics in Teaching and Learning: Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented: English/Language Arts. This class begins on May 28 and continues through June 17, and it’s an important option for those who collaborate with classroom teachers or include ELA in their gifted programs.  This class helps you conceptualize the alignment of CCSS with classroom activities and assessments—WHILE differentiating the classroom for high-achieving students.  This class will use a book published as a service publication of NAGC’s, and edited by Dr. Joyce VanTassel Baska (Using the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts with Gifted and Advanced Learners) and benefit from the expertise of the instructor, Gwen Livingstone Pokora.

You can read the National Association for Gifted Children’s page about Frequently Asked Questions about the Common Core and Gifted Education and review their main points about aligning standards (even if they’re NOT CCSS and might be a state-based version) to gifted education programming standards.  If you, or administrators and colleagues, wonder about the need for a class like this, review and / or share the NAGC Position Statement about the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards for Gifted and Talented Students.

Some of your schools may still believe that the use of standards has made curriculum more challenging for ALL of your students—meaning the gifted program doesn’t really have to facilitate more challenging curriculum—but we know that’s NOT true.  Perfect your “elevator pitch” with this online only class beginning on May 28 (next week!).

We have two additional ELA-focused workshops as part of our 2019 Belin-Blank Chautauqua.  Chautauqua offers classes that meet for two days on campus, typically providing materials online through our ICON platform, as well as a project uploaded online after the meeting on campus:

EDTL:4096:0WKD Topics:  Writing for High Ability Learners, Jul 12 – 13, on campus;

EDTL:4096:0WKE Topics:  Bibliotherapy for the Gifted, Jul 17 – 18, on campus.

We also are offering another fully online class focused on the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics from Jul 17 – August 6:

EDTL:4096:0WKF Topics:  Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  Mathematics.

We welcome you and your colleagues to these and our other very focused professional learning opportunities over the summer! 

You can learn more about these at belinblank.org/educators.  Follow the link to “Register” for information about registering as a Distance and Online Learner (non-degree seeking)—you can even register as an undergraduate with the lower tuition rate of $324 if the graduate tuition won’t help you progress on your salary scale.  The full summer schedule is here:  belinblank.org/educators/courses

Message from the Director: Springtime Renewal Extends to Gifted Education through Javits Grants

Conducting research focused on gifted education and talent development is central to our mission. The Belin-Blank Center’s Acceleration Institute, featuring A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (2015), is a prime example of how gifted education research assists educators and policy makers in better understanding and developing the talents of bright students. While gifted education research has had many advocates, there were perhaps none whose reach has extended quite as far as Jacob K. Javits.

Q: Who was Jacob K. Javits and what does he have to do with gifted education?

A: In 1988, the U.S. Congress passed the only federal legislation for gifted and talented education. It was named in recognition of its primary advocate, Jacob K. Javits, a long-serving Congressman (R-NY, 1947-1954) and Senator (R-NY, 1957-1981). As the National Associated for Gifted Children explains, the “purpose of the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is to orchestrate a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special education needs of gifted and talented students.” Javits grants typically focus on students who are traditionally underrepresented in gifted and talented programs, and the Javits Act provides opportunities to better understand best practices in gifted education.

Q: How does the Javits Act fit into current federal legislation for education?

A: Federal legislation for education has existed for more than 50 years (first passed in 1965 as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, ESEA; currently known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA). Ten years later, special education programs became mandatory with the 1975 passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (re-authorized and re-named the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA, in 1990). The original IDEA legislation was an essential mandate to ensure that every student had the right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. IDEA protects society’s most vulnerable individuals, which is essential to any society.

Q:  What does ESSA or IDEA have to do with gifted students?

A: Importantly, when the 1990 IDEA was re-authorized in 2004, there was – for the first time – recognition that gifted and talented children may also have diagnosed disabilities or disorders. These students are referred to as “twice-exceptional.” Shortly thereafter, when the 2005 request for proposals for Javits Grants was issued, the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Department of Education submitted a proposal to further investigate a specific group of underrepresented students, those who are twice-exceptional. That proposal was funded, thus launching our work in the area of twice-exceptionality and significantly impacting the field.

Q:  Has the Belin-Blank Center been awarded other Javits grants? 

A: Yes! We were awarded a second Javits grant in the late 1990s to investigate gifted and talented students attending alternative schools. Most recently (2017), the Belin-Blank Center and the UI College of Education were awarded a third Javits grant to explore the effects of a talent development model along with a career intervention program on underrepresented gifted students.

Q:  How much funding is available from the Javits Act?

A:  The short answer is, “not that much.” This is a true statement in absolute terms, as well as relative to other education initiatives. Since 1988, annual funding has varied from $5 million to $12 million, which is about 1 to 2 cents for every $100 spent on education. In 2013, no funding was available and in 2011 and 2012, there were no new awards presented. It is important to know that, even at the modest levels at which monies are allocated, Congress must reauthorize funding for the Javits Act each year.

Every year, the Javits funding is tenuous. However, the impact of Javits awards on participating students, teachers, and schools is far from tenuous. We have experienced the positive impact first hand.

In addition to the Javits demonstration and scale-up grants awarded to states, there is periodic funding for a national gifted and talented center. The original Javits legislation funding in 1988 resulted in the establishment of the National Research Center on Gifted and Talented ([NRC/GT]; 1990-2013), housed on the University of Connecticut campus.  After the funding was re-established in 2013, the National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), also on the University of Connecticut campus, was established. Current Javits funding supports the NCRGE, which offers a prolific research agenda. Most recently, researchers presented an impressive study investigating the (mis)alignment of identification for gifted programming and the content of the programming. This NCRGE research project, in addition to three other relevant projects, was reviewed in a recent Education Week article, “4 Ways Schools Help or Hinder Gifted Students,” by Sarah D. Sparks.

There is no shortage of excellent research in the field of gifted education, and we are grateful that the Javits Act has advanced the field in significant ways over the past 31 years. We are also grateful that we have had a role in that advancement. We look forward to continuing to contribute to a broad research agenda and collaborating with teachers to improve programming for gifted students.

Hope springs eternal for continued funding to support this important research!

Iowa Students Attend the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In March, students from across Iowa competed at the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). A panel of experts judged 15 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists were:

  • 1st place: Pooja Kasiviswanathan (Ames High School) — “Farming on Mars: potential strategies for sustainable agriculture in Martian conditions”
  • 2nd place: Isabella Hoeger-Pinto (Iowa City West High School) — “Examination of plasma etch rate on silicon substrate with photoresist mask”
  • 3rd place: Radha Velamuri (Valley High School) — “Involvement of the AhR in reproductive function with exposure to PCB 126”
  • 4th place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) — “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III”
  • 5th place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) — “What is honey? A comparison of honey from Iowa beekeepers versus national store brand honey using pH, pollen, and chemical composition analysis”
Winners of the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 57th Annual National JSHS in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.

Approximately 230 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences.

Iowa representatives at the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Like the Iowa finalists, these impressive students qualified for the symposium by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. Approximately 130 high school teachers, mentors, university faculty, ranking military guests and others also attended to encourage the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrate student achievement in the sciences.

Students had the opportunity to tour labs such as the Air Force Research Laboratory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Sandia National Laboratories—Security Technologies, and the University of New Mexico’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine—Emergency Medical Services.

Students participated in round table discussions on topics such as ocean trace elements, agile aerospace, energy and shear stability, academic STEM careers, and engineering satellite thermal systems. Students also had the opportunity to listen to an array of distinguished keynote speakers, including Dr. William Swartout, the Chief Technology Officer of University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies and Research Professor in the USC Department of Computer Science. Dr. Swartout shared his involvement in research and development work based on his interest in virtual humans and the development of new Artifical Intelligene architectures through the Shoah Foundation and the New Dimensions in Testimony project. Together they are creating a unique collection of interactive historical biographies that allow people to converse with pre-recorded video images of Holocaust survivors.

For the second consecutive year, an Iowa regional finalist placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) won second place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” Congratulations to Kayla, as well as her teacher, Amanda Schiller (a former JSHS competitor herself)!

Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit:

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

Chautauqua (Shuh-taw-kwuh) was a popular movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries; President Teddy Roosevelt called Chautauqua “the most American thing in America.”  Because it focused on adult education through summer classes, it seemed the perfect name for an opportunity for educators of the gifted to get together to complete some of their coursework for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.

Chautauqua classes are aligned with national standards in gifted education, including the Pre-K to Grade 12 Gifted Education Programming Standards(essential to ensure best practices in our programs) and the Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education(guiding professional learning goals as beginners—or as practicing professionals). 

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.

Chautauqua I and II feature an energizing array of one-semester-hour classes and an opportunity to meet face-to-face with colleagues.  Just as we know it’s important for gifted students to have some time to spend with true peers, Chautauqua provides gifted teachers time to spend with their true peers!  You can read more about this opportunity at belinblank.org/chautauqua.

Classes are offered in a “hybrid” format, meeting for two days on campus in Iowa City, and providing additional time online for readings, reflection, and submission of final projects.  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 (e.g., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four).

Chautauqua I (July 8 – 13)

  • EDTL:4096:0WKC    Topics: Design Innovation: Talent Development in the 21st Century, inspiring your awareness of design principles at the heart of the way we live and work so you can ready your gifted learners for the unknowns that their futures will bring;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKD    Topics: Writing for High-Ability Learners, featuring ways to develop creative writing skills among gifted students, enhancing both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills critical for their success in any professional field;
  • EDTL:4072:0WKA    Thinking Skills: Skills for Lifelong Learning, sharpening your awareness of the factors involved in teaching thinking skills;

Chautauqua II (July 15 – 20)

  • RCE:4129:0WKA      Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education, including an overview of definitions of and activities that serve as catalysts for student creativity;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKE    Topics: Bibliotherapy for the Gifted,  readying  participants to select appropriate materials for students to help them deal with the challenges of growing up gifted (videotherapy is also considered);
  • EPLS:4113:0WKA    Staff Development for Gifted Programs, preparing educators to lead professional development/learning in their own schools and/or districts in order to provide the best programming possible.

Each class is described in more detail at belinblank.org/courses.

Limited housing will be available at Currier Hall, near Blank Honors Center, for those enrolling in all three workshops during either Chautauqua (or both). Contact Rachelle Blackwell by email or at 800-336-6463 for registration information.  Single rooms are available for $312 for Sunday – Friday night (additional charge of $52/night for those staying Saturday and Sunday between the two weeks).  Reservations, including payment, are due by Thursday, June 6th, 2019.

Free music performances are available in downtown Iowa City every Friday evening.  Other extracurricular opportunities will be available for Chautauqua participants.

The Belin-Blank Center also offers the Advanced Placement Summer Institute in Iowa (June 25 – 28), providing teachers the comprehensive preparation required to develop and teach an AP course.  An optional two-semester-hour class, EDTL:5080:0WKA, Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses, is available for participants; participants receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship (based on the cost of graduate tuition); participants can choose to register for two Iowa Licensure Renewal Units as part of their participation. 

In addition to Chautauqua, the Center is offering online only professional learning opportunities throughout the summer, from May through August.  PSQF:4123:0EXW Academic Acceleration is a three-semester-hour class, focused on the most effective but most underused intervention for many gifted learners.  Eight additional one-semester-hour classes are available, each lasting three weeks and focusing on topics significant to your gifted learners.  Details are available at belinblank.org/educators/courses.

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

MORE Just-in-time Online Professional Learning for Summer

The Belin-Blank Center is committed to supporting your professional learning needs throughout the year!  We offer classes in a variety of formats, but everything we offer applies to the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  We collaborate with many Iowa educators, but we also have the opportunity to work with educators from around the country—and even from other countries!  All of our classes are aligned with national standards in gifted education, including the Pre-K to Grade 12 Gifted Education Programming Standards(essential to ensure best practices in our programs) and the Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education(guiding professional learning goals as beginners—or as practicing professionals).

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.

We have classes available for those working on their endorsement, addressing the required strands—or for those who just want to add to their “professional toolkits.” For the summer schedule, we offer an array of opportunities to ensure that anyone new to gifted education can begin their position in the fall with confidence, and to allow the most experienced teacher of the gifted to choose from the wide variety of choices that we offer, strengthening gifted programs in the school and/or the district.

This summer, Dr. Ann Lupkowski Shoplik will offer the newly revised PSQF:4123:0EXW Academic Acceleration, from June 10 – August 1. This three-semester-hour class ensures that educators of the gifted understand the powerful research underpinning acceleration as one of the most important strategies for high-ability learners, are aware of the multiple types of acceleration available, reflect on the reasons why many teachers hold negative attitudes, and have confidence in implementing acceleration in their schools.

The summer opportunities below are one-semester-hour workshops; these classes 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:4096:0WKA   Topics: Teaching Outside the Lines, exploring the book by the same name to enhance creativity in the classroom;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKB   Topics: Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  English Language Art, utilizing a NAGC publication about  strengthening standards developed for general education to provide differentiated learning for meaningful experiences in ELA for advanced learners;
  • EDTL:4029:0WKA   Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12, focusing on developing leadership skills (one of the categories referenced in the definition of “gifted” in Iowa and many other states);
  • RCE:4125:0WKA    Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted, essential for understanding unique student concerns about socio-emotional development, career development, and attitudes toward achievement;
  • EDTL:4074:0WKA   Differentiation at the Secondary Level, emphasizing the importance of differentiation rooted in content areas, including specific strategies to strengthen secondary courses;
  • EDTL:4096:0WKF   Topics:  Common Core State Standards for Gifted/Talented:  Mathematics, 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, 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, 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 Center also offers six classes in a hybrid format that includes two days on campus with online opportunities for reflection, reading, and final projects submitted online.  You’ll find more about these at our page about the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (belinblank.org/chautauqua) in July.

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

A Powerful In-Classroom Practice for Supporting Your Goals for Students

As a teacher, we know you have many goals for your students. First and foremost, you are helping your students develop an understanding of your discipline’s fundamentals. But we know that you do so much more than that! You work to create opportunities for students to be creative and curious, effectively identify and solve problems, think critically, set goals, make decisions, communicate well, express confidence, and actively participate in their communities.

The goals you have for your students are abstract, so you create actual experiences in your classroom to help students develop and demonstrate these behaviors. But you’re busier than ever, and resources are scarce. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to promote the many goals you hold for them through a single project?

The good news? There is. It’s student research.

When you support students in conducting original research projects, you are creating an environment for them to be curious and identify problems that spark their interest. You are requiring that they think critically about what questions are fruitful to ask and evaluate what can be investigated given their constraints. You are expecting them to solve problems that arise while designing and implementing their methods, determine how they will collect and analyze data, generate conclusions that make sense and determine the extent to which those conclusions are trustworthy.

Designing and implementing a research project helps students accomplish many of your goals, but presenting their work empowers students to really bloom. Many avenues are available for Iowa high school students to present their research projects, including the Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (Iowa JSHS).

When students participate in Iowa JSHS, they write scientific papers detailing their investigations. Any high school student in the state of Iowa can submit a research paper to Iowa JSHS at no cost. Each one is evaluated by a panel of judges at the University of Iowa, creating an authentic audience for whom students must develop a written product. The paper submission deadline also creates authentic space that imposes the need for students to set continual goals throughout their research project.

All students who submit papers are invited to attend the spring Iowa JSHS competition. The top 15 finalists are invited to deliver oral presentations to a panel of judges and a ballroom full of their teachers and peers. This differs from all other regional- or state-level science competitions, where students typically present a poster to individuals or small groups. Teachers tell us that the oral presentation component of Iowa JSHS deepens their students’ understanding of their project and helps them develop strong communication skills and confidence in their own abilities.

It’s not all business at Iowa JSHS, though. Research is a collaborative experience, so we work to foster a sense of community. Students in attendance have the opportunity to meet trained researchers, from undergraduates to professors, during presentations and University lab tours. They also have a chance to get to know other high school student researchers through meals together, swimming in the hotel pool, and even a trivia night! Students tell us that they value developing friendships with peers from other districts who are also interested in STEM and research. In these ways, Iowa JSHS invites students to actively participate in their newfound community.

While you are planning for next year, be sure to consider how implementing student research into your classroom can help your students reach the goals you have for them. (Bonus: It also aligns wonderfully with the new Next Generation Science Standards [NGSS] and helps students develop 21st-century skills!) It doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor – students can mine open data sets that already exist, find a problem to solve on their family farm, or work with a local expert. Whatever their project, we guarantee that you will see growth in leaps and bounds.

2019 Iowa JSHS student researchers

For more on Iowa JSHS, visit belinblank.og/jshs or contact jshs@belinblank.org.

Invent Iowa Showcases Student Inventors Statewide

On April 15, the Belin-Blank Center hosted the 2019 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention. It was a day full of energy and excitement as young inventors from schools across Iowa advanced from their local invention conventions to the state competition. We were pleased to see so many creative solutions to the everyday problems that students noticed in the world around them!

Our generous sponsors included McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. and Integrated DNA Technologies. Representatives from each – Christine Lebron-Dykeman and Mark Behlke, respectively – delivered keynote presentations to inspire Iowa’s next generation of innovators. Fourth-grader Manasvi Devi Reddy from the Linn-Mar Community School District won the McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. Agricultural Invention Award for her “Environmental Saver.” Her invention uses farming by-products to make paper, thereby reusing discarded materials and reducing the number of trees being cut down.

Inventors competed in two divisions: Kindergarten – 5th grade, and 6th – 8th grade. Winners qualified to compete next month at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The Belin-Blank Center awarded first place winners from each division an expense-paid trip to the national competition.

Quill Orth (Lewis Central Community School District), last year’s winner of the 3rd – 5th grade division, went on to compete at the National Invention Convention, where he won the 3M Innovative Materials Award for his “Hotspot Chicken Insulating Cream,” which prevents frostbite on chickens’ combs. Quill shared his story and words of congratulations and encouragement with this year’s inventors.

2019 Winners from the Kindergarten – 5th grade division:

  • 1st place: Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), for their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.
  • 2nd place: Luke Amaro & Lexi Geiskemper (5th grade, Alburnett Community School District), for their “Absorbo-Rocks.” These are rocks made of absorbent material that will capture excess water in fields and let it back out when the weather becomes hot and dry.
  • 3rd place: Charles Smith (Kindergarten, Ottumwa Community School District) for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.

Winners from the 6th – 8th grade division:

  • 1st place: Grace Brand & Sara Schutte (6th grade, Pleasant View Community School District) for “The Noise Neutralizer,” a flashing light system to alert people when the noise level is too loud
  • 2nd place: Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.
  • 3rd place: Chloe Goedken & Ellie Kronlage (6th grade, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School) for “The Adjust A-Q,” a pool cue that can be adjusted in size to avoid hitting the walls around a pool table.

Congratulations to all who competed, and keep inventing, Iowa!

Are You Thinking about Early Entrance to College? 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 kind of like using a 3-foot yardstick to measure someone who is 5 feet tall. The grade-level yardstick isn’t long enough to measure the student’s height 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 been used since the 1980s to discover 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 programs, including programs offered by the Belin-Blank Center. An important opportunity 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. We recommend that 9th graders who are interested in considering early entrance to college take the ACT in June or in the fall of 10th grade.

If your student is a 9th grader this year, it’s not too early to think about taking the ACT. Students can take the test in June and receive their scores during the summer. This information can then be included in the admissions packet submitted to the University of Iowa. It’s important to note that applicants to the Bucksbaum Academy must take the ACT or SAT by November of their 10th grade year in order to be considered for some University of Iowa scholarships.

Even if your academically talented 7th-9th grade students aren’t thinking that early entrance to college is in their future, 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.

Introducing the Iowa AP Index Archive

It’s officially spring, which means we are getting closer to releasing the 2019 Iowa AP Index! 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. 

Do you ever wonder about the history of your school’s participation in AP, or the history of AP in Iowa? The Belin-Blank Center has released the Iowa AP Index since 2005, which means there is quite a collection of data of how AP opportunities have evolved in various schools throughout the state!

This year, were are introducing an updated Iowa AP Index Archive.  This archive shares data from the last 12 years. The Iowa AP Index Archive provides information about Iowa’s average AP Index, and also provides a directory of the schools who ranked in the Top 50 from 2005 to 2017.

Check out the AP Index Index Archive, here! Also, keep an eye on this page for the 2019 AP Index to be released later this spring.

Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute (APTTI)

Are you starting to make summer plans? Don’t forget to add the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute (APTTI) into your summer schedule! This professional development opportunity takes place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019. Registration is now open!

APTTI is a College Board approved Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also support current teachers of AP courses seeking to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course.

“It [APTTI] not only provided me the opportunity to gain an understanding of AP-teaching, but I gained resources and new ideas that I now apply to all of my classes. “

“The training was invaluable…I find myself continually going back to my notes, looking at the resources I obtained at the training, and even emailing the facilitator who still quickly responds to me even though it has now been 2.5 years. I would not be as successful in my classroom had it not been for this training.”

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 (more than 80%) of the $550 registration fee.  Click here to learn more and click here to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2019. 

Academic Credit

Teachers who register for APTTI may pursue additional opportunities for graduate-level academic credit and/or Iowa licensure renewal units (additional fees and registration required). University credit is NOT included in the cost of APTTI. Click here to learn more about academic credit options!

Apply today here, and email us at aptti@belinblank.org with any questions or concerns.

AP Exam Reviews: NOW OPEN!

The AP Exam Reviews are now OPEN! Please contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org to register.

AP exam reviews are a great resource for students to prepare for AP exams. The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers online AP Exam Reviews to Iowa AP students at no cost.

AP Exam Reviews are are available for the following courses: AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Statistics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP U.S. History.

Please make this opportunity available to students who will make use of the support, and especially to students who may lack access to other resources. 

Due to increased interest in our ever-expanding course offerings, along with changes in the University of Iowa’s budget, there are significantly fewer AP Exam Reviews available this year than in previous years. In light of these limitations, we ask that schools carefully consider their students’ need for and interest in this modality of support before signing students up for AP Exam Review.

Please email ioapa@belinblank.org to register, or if you have any questions or concerns.

Must-See Summer Enrichment Classes for Middle School Students

If you’re still looking for summer programs for curious middle school students, look no further! Our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) still has limited seats available in some amazing classes. Check them out before it’s too late!

Robot Theater: Exploring with Cozmo

The focus of this class is to learn the basics of dramatic storytelling that incorporate robot technology (Cozmo, created by Anki) as part of the story. If you have written a script, story, or poem that you have been dreaming of seeing performed on stage, then this class is for you—our Cozmos will be your actors. If you have an interest in robotics and want to work with sophisticated technology, then this class is for you—Cozmo will introduce you to the world of robotics. No previous experience with writing, puppetry, theatre, or working with robots is required.

Environmental Engineering

Students will be exposed to real-world environmental challenges Iowans face with an emphasis on flooding and access to clean water. Through an interactive learning environment, students will connect with professionals from a variety of related fields to learn how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, but then also mitigate for future disasters to build community resilience. Classroom learning will be mobile and designed to engage the students in career settings providing opportunities for practicing professional development skills.

Mixed Media Workshop

Are you ready for an exciting week of action-packed art adventures? If so, this class is for you! Our week will be an exciting exploration of several different kinds of art making. You will try your hand at a variety of studio projects throughout the week. The two-dimensional art portion of the class will involve some printmaking, drawing, and painting. The stop motion animation segment will introduce you to the basics of stop-motion in the making of an awesome animation that you will shoot, edit, and create music and sound effects. You will work on individual pieces, as well as work in small groups. Exploring collaboration in small groups will allow us to put our brains together to come up with unique, creative solutions. We will go on a couple of field trips to get ideas for work and look at other artists’ work. Bring your adventurous spirit and creative brain. It’s going to be a great week of getting a little messy, learning some new techniques, getting your creative juices flowing, and challenging yourselves.

Archaeology: Discover the Past!

Ever wonder how archaeologists know where to find ancient sites? Or how rocks and bones provide them clues about how people lived? Archaeologists are scientific detectives, studying people from the past and the objects they left behind. In this course, you will learn to think like an archaeologist using scientific inquiry. We will study real artifacts in the research labs at the Office of the State Archaeologist and participate in hands-on lessons and activities to learn about Iowa’s archaeological past, from the Ice Age to the first Europeans. You will also learn how today’s Native American communities work with archaeologists to strengthen our understanding of their cultures. Part of this course will take place at an outdoor classroom at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, where we will learn archaeology field techniques to document a real archaeological site!

Other open classes include Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference, Women in Engineering, and Project Discovery: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.

Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. Payment plans and financial aid are available. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for your student, be sure to check it out at www.belinblank.org/summer or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at summer@belinblank.org!

Summer Enrichment for Middle School Students

The Belin-Blank Center specializes in academically talented kids. If you have 6th-8th grade students who show a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home in our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI)! JSI is a summer program designed specifically for bright students who want to take a deep dive into a topic – all while having fun with other middle school kids who share their level of interest and ability. 

Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t regular classes! With options like Archaeology, Women in Engineering,  Mixed Media Art, Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference, Robot Theater (and more!), there’s sure to be something for your inquisitive kids. Class sizes are small, and they take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level resources and experts.

JSI students also get to experience a taste of college life by staying overnight in the dorm with their peers for the week! Plus, they get to hang out with their new friends and attend plenty of fun cultural and recreational activities in the evenings.

We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our experts in twice-exceptionality offer specialized social and academic support for these students.

Payment plans and financial aid are available. Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for any of your students, be sure to recommend that they check it out at www.belinblank.org/summer or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at summer@belinblank.org!

AP Exam Reviews

AP exam reviews are a great resource for students to prepare for AP exams. The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) offers online AP Exam Reviews to Iowa AP students at no cost.

AP Exam Reviews are will soon be available for the following courses: AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Statistics, AP U.S. Government and Politics, and AP U.S. History.

Due to increased interest in our ever-expanding course offerings, along with changes in the University of Iowa’s budget, there are significantly fewer AP Exam Reviews available this year than in previous years. In light of these limitations, we ask that schools carefully consider their students’ need for and interest in this modality of support before signing students up for AP Exam Review.

Please make this opportunity available to students who will make use of the support, and especially to students who may lack access to other resources. 


AP Exam Reviews will be available by March 22nd. Please watch this page for more details. For instructions on ordering AP Exam Reviews, email us at ioapa@belinblank.org

Congratulations to AP Exam Scholarship Winners

Earlier this year, the Belin-Blank Center announced a new opportunity for IOAPA teachers and mentors to apply for AP Exam funding for their students. We are pleased to announce the teachers that have been awarded these scholarships for their students! Congratulations to the following teachers:

Kelley Grothus, Madrid High School

Barbara Edler, Keokuk High School

Donna Bohlmann, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Junior/Senior High School

Hollie Weber, Central Lee High School

Trish Hartman, Crestwood High School

Courtney Cook, Graettinger-Terril High School

Karla Robison, HLV Junior/Senior High School

Cheryl Smith, Saydel High School

Kelly Carey, Shenandoah 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 next year’s application process this fall!

Message from the Director: Moving the Needle Beyond the Status Quo

For nearly 30 years, my spring semester has begun with the Identification of Giftedness class.  I enjoy the students, the topic, and the opportunity to stay current on the advancements in the broad field of gifted education.  One example of advancement includes the gradual paradigm shift from the generally gifted individual to include a new paradigm of talent development, in which specific talent domains are recognized and developed along a trajectory of novice to excellence and even eminence. A second advancement involves the recognition of twice-exceptionality — that is, high cognitive ability along with a learning disorder or social impairment, such as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), that impedes realization of the full academic potential of an individual.  Yet, despite advancements over several decades, both the process for identification of students and the programs for delivery of curriculum and services remain largely the same. How do we move the needle beyond the status quo?  An initial step is increasing awareness of the issues. In this first message of 2019, I will review three issues and recommend an approach.  

Issue #1 Defining Giftedness:  Nearly every textbook addresses this very broad topic first, as do I, probably because we have to arrive at the very critical point that giftedness is a social construct and as such, it defies definition.  True, many educators will label students as gifted, but giftedness is not a “state of being” despite the fact that there is a label. We cannot measure talent or giftedness, but we can measure aspects of cognitive development that are associated with giftedness, including verbal reasoning, nonverbal reasoning, processing of information, and short-term memory.  We can also measure aptitude or potential in specific domains of talent such as math, reading, music, and sports, to name just a few.  As well, we can affirm that there are students in every classroom and in every school who, as described in the current federal definition of giftedness:

“give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.”

In class, after we finish the section on the definition vs. non-definition, we move immediately into the areas that relate to the “evidence,” of high achievement, intelligence, creativity, etc. I always start with intelligence – another social construct — and more specifically, cognitive ability, because in most schools the gifted program for elementary students is based on identifying students with high cognitive ability and high achievement.  It is with the words “evidence” and “high,” which imply measurement and comparison or judgment, where we have controversy in the field.  Sometimes that controversy is quiet and simmers just below a surface of collegial cordiality. Other times, vociferous arguments threaten to divide the field.

Issue #2 Use of Tests to Identify Students: One significant area of controversy relates to testing and the use of the tests – intelligence tests in particular – for determining eligibility for programs.  In fact, the words “intelligence,” giftedness,” and “genius,” which are each a social construct, are inextricably intertwined and have been for a century, since Lewis Terman, developer of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, launched in 1921 a longitudinal study that would be published over many decades and volumes.  The first of five volumes of Genetic Studies of Genius appeared in 1926 and the last, by Terman and M.H. Oden, Genetic Studies of Genius: Vol. V.  The Gifted Group at Mid-Life was published in 1959.

But let’s take a step back to the early 1900s when French psychologists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon completed a commissioned scale, called the Binet-Simon Scales, to help educators differentiate among individuals who needed specialized interventions to be successful in schools.  Shortly thereafter, Lewis Terman, a psychologist at Stanford University, adopted and revised the Binet-Simon Scales for use in the U.S. as the Stanford-Binet Scales. In just a few short years, Terman and his student-turned-colleague, Maud Merrill, co-developed subsequent revisions of the Stanford-Binet.  Around the same time, Leta S. Hollingworth, who reportedly never met Terman, although they shared mutual respect for each other’s work, was conducting her own studies of individuals who achieved exceptional scores on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test.  Hollingworth focused on using the information from the test to develop educational strategies for her students.

Terman is sometimes considered the “father” of gifted education and Hollingworth the “mother.” I prefer to think of them as early pioneers in the field. More important than a moniker signifying their contributions to the origin of a field is the observation that these two pioneers diverged with respect to their basic assumptions, specifically with respect to heritability of intelligence.  Hollingworth recognized that heritability is a factor in cognitive ability; however, she was more interested in the environment and educational needs of individuals with extraordinary intelligence as measured by intelligence tests.  Terman’s focus on genetics, made obvious by the title of his five-volume oeuvre, coupled with some very early-career and philosophical decisions — in particular the unacceptable and offensive promotion of eugenics — has resulted in vilification and consideration that anything related to Terman or his work should be censured. 

Issue #3 Is there a contemporary application of lessons from decades past? Historians, educators, and psychologists have written extensively about Terman’s work, especially as it relates to testing and gifted education.  A 2019 publication in Gifted Child Quarterly, v. 63, 5-21by Russell Warne offers an extremely thoughtful perspective on this question.  The title of Warne’s article, “An Evaluation (and Vindication?) of Lewis Terman: What the Father of Gifted Education Can Teach the 21stCentury,” hints at his comprehensive discussion of the criticisms underlying recent condemnations and offers helpful recommendations for today’s researchers and practitioners.

Recommendations to move the needle from the status quo? A relatively simple change is to broaden our conceptualization of the issues.  Understanding the needs of the “generally gifted” as revealed by an intelligence test should include talent development.  There also must be recognition that cognitive development is often uneven, which is an aspect of twice-exceptionality.  Another change is to be intentional in considering criticisms of Terman and his work. I am particularly sensitive to the valid condemnation that relates to Terman’s early-career promotion of the eugenics movement (he later dissociated from this movement).   There is NO equivocation on my part; any connection to eugenics is NEITHER appropriate NOR desirable.   

Taking advantage of 21st-Century scientific advancements, however, is crucial; the collaborative efforts between the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Neuroscience Institute includes both a neuroimaging and a genomics component.  As we progress in our nascent Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality research project, we recognize the importance of carefully analyzing our data prior to postulating a particular stance.  Furthermore, we affirm that both the neuroimaging and genetic components of our project are designed to integrate basic science and education. 

The Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality is a big research project, and we are thrilled to announce that we have received a Provost Investment Fund award to develop a better understanding of the neural and genetic mechanisms underlying twice exceptionality. Until now, we have used a singular psychoeducational perspective to prove the concept in educational and clinical settings.  Using a multifocal approach that combines multiple disciplines including psychology, education, genetics, and neuroimaging will help us understand the paradox of twice-exceptionality.  We just might move the status quo needle a little. 

Just-in-Time Professional Learning

The Belin-Blank Center is committed to supporting educators’ professional learning needs throughout the year! We offer classes in a variety of formats, but everything we offer applies to the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement. We collaborate with many Iowa educators, but we also have the opportunity to work with educators from around the country—and even from other countries! All of our classes are aligned with national standards in gifted education, including the Pre-K to Grade 12 Gifted Education Programming Standards (essential to ensure best practices in our programs) and the Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education (guiding professional learning goals as beginners—or as practicing professionals).

The Belin-Blank Center is one of the only programs in the state that is aligned with the Faculty Standards for Teacher Preparation Programs in Gifted & Talented Educationdeveloped by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) to ensure that educators learning about the field participate in research-based classes taught by highly-qualified professionals.

We still have classes available for those working on their endorsement—or for those who just want to add to their “professional toolkits.”  

  • If teachers in Nebraska or western Iowa (or anywhere else within driving distance) can benefit from the credit hour(s), we offer Leadership in Gifted Education (course number PSQF:5194:0WKB; 1 or 2 semester hours) for those attending the NAG 2019 Conferenceon February 21 – 22. Automatic 50% tuition scholarship.
  • NEW FLOW experience (webinar format) on February 27. FLOW stands for Focused Learning On your Work. For the inaugural session, we are featuring Dr. Shelagh Gallagher discussing Problem-Based Learning, one of the best learning opportunities for gifted/talented students. Visit belinblank.org/webinar for more details and to register. Those who register for or watch the live event via another registered computer (e.g., district or Area Education Agency) can enroll in Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Problem-Based Learning (EDTL:4073:0WKA; 1 semester hour)Automatic 50% tuition scholarship. If the time doesn’t work for you, you can register to receive the link for the recording that will be available following the webinar ($45 to register a computer for either the live event or the link).
  • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education (EDTL:4066:0EXW) is a three-semester-hour class beginning on March 11 through May 10. Only three seats left in this thorough review of curriculum models, as well as best practices in the implementation of differentiated curriculum for high-ability learners.
  • Topics: Developing Curriculum for Gifted Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC; 1 semester hour) provides an excellent opportunity to focus on the principles essential for the new units you want to offer to your gifted/talented learners.

The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education

Do you know someone who would like to learn more about the nature and needs of gifted learners? Someone who could help advocate for your district’s high-ability learners and the school’s gifted/talented program?  Encourage them to look at the information about the Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education (Belin-Blank Fellowship), one of the nation’s longest running professional development programs.  Applications are being accepted for this summer’s Fellowship, to be held on the University of Iowa campus from June 23 – 28, 2019!  

2018 Belin Fellows

For almost 40 years, the Fellowship has been offering educators, school counselors, administrators, and others, the opportunity to learn more about best practices in supporting the needs of gifted learners.  The program admits 12 educators who want to: 

  • Learn effective new ways to recognize gifted/talented students and meet their unique affective needs.
  • Enhance their abilities to meet the different academic needs of gifted/talented students.
  • Act as an effective resource in gifted education for other educators in their schools and districts.
  • Review their new knowledge and skills for applications to ALL youngsters in their classes.
  • Nurture the sense of social responsibility in the use and development of talents among gifted students. 

The Belin-Blank Center provides full room and board near the Blank Honors Center, where participants hear from leaders in gifted education, and have the chance to ask questions about identifying gifted learners and developing the talents of their highest-ability learners.  Participants receive an extensive collection of professional materials, and those who choose to enroll for two semester hours of graduate credit receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship.

2018 Belin Fellows learning about best practices in teaching gifted students.

This program is not designed for those who are already taking coursework to complete an endorsement in gifted education; it IS intended to develop the understanding of others in your school who will develop their own skills to work effectively with gifted and talented students, as well as support school and district goals to maximize learning for allstudents, including those who are ready for more.

Educators can apply online; as well, all applicants must have an administrator provide a statement of support for their participation.  Districts are asked to pay $250 toward the cost of materials. Visit belinbelin.org/fellowshipfor more information.  The application period ends on March 11, 2019.

The Scoop on Summer Programs at the Belin-Blank Center

If all the recent school closure days have you thinking ahead to how you’re going to keep your children occupied over summer vacation, now is a great time to start planning! At the Belin-Blank Center, we specialize in bright kids. Whether or not they participate in their school’s gifted and talented program, if your child shows a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home here!

Our summer programs are designed specifically for students in grades 2-11 who want to take a deep dive into a topic while having fun with other kids who share their level of interest and ability. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes!

For example, grade school students can choose from classes such as Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, and Programming in our Blast program. Middle school schools students can apply for our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) to explore Leadership, Women in Engineering, Archaeology, 3D Printing, or a Mixed Media art workshop, among many other options. High school students can learn about the research process and just what is involved in creating new knowledge in our Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI). Class sizes are kept small (a maximum of 16-20, depending on age group), to ensure that each student has a positive experience learning something they enjoy.

The programs take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level experts and resources. Our instructors are vetted professionals, including classroom teachers, local artists, and professors who have the expertise to delve into a subject at an advanced level, while keeping it accessible for the age group. Classes utilize specialized spaces and equipment, such as research laboratories, the Van Allen Observatory, 3D printing facilities, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, art studios, maker spaces and the university library.

We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our staff are experts in gifted education and talent development, and we offer specialized social and academic support for these twice-exceptional students.

If you think our programs sound like a good fit for your child, be sure to check them out at www.belinblank.org/summer. Payment plans and financial aid are available. With options for students from elementary to high school, covering a wide range of topics, we’re sure to have something for you and your family. We can’t wait for you to join us this summer!

How Student STEM Research Can Help Teachers…and their Students

One of the common characteristics of gifted students is a deep curiosity about the topics they are interested in. They may spend hours scouring Google for more information, ask complex questions in class, or observe how the topic relates to one they learned about in another class.

As a classroom teacher, this level of interest can be exciting to witness. However, it may also present logistical challenges when trying to simultaneously maintain curriculum standards and balance the various learning needs of a classroom full of students.

High school student STEM research can help solve both of these challenges. These projects offer a way to implement the Science and Engineering Practices of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and help students develop 21st-century skills, while also naturally differentiating instruction through inquiry and student choice.

The performance standards of the NGSS emphasize the role of students actively generating conceptual understanding while engaging in the practices of science. In this way, the NGSS reflect the idea that understanding the practices of science is just as important as the content knowledge itself. Research projects also help students develop important skills necessary for success in the 21st century. According to P21, essential life and career skills needed today include flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, and leadership and responsibility. Student research projects offer a chance to practice each of these skills.

Student research also helps the classroom teacher engage students in science content by allowing them to pursue an individual inquiry into a problem or generate new knowledge about a topic of their choice. Having the opportunity to choose an individual project exposes students to design and problem solving skills, as well as hands-on, minds-on, and collaborative learning.

Teachers can differentiate instruction for students who are enthusiastic about diving even deeper into their topic by encouraging them to submit their projects to various high school student research competitions.  These offer students an authentic audience to which to present their work and a chance to win accolades, prizes, and even college scholarships for their work. Competing for a prize adds a level of student engagement by having a real, tangible benefit to completing their projects and putting together a well-written research paper and presentation.

Research competitions, such as Iowa’s regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), provide students an opportunity to engage with experts who will critique their work, and valuable experience presenting and communicating science to a broad audience. These events often offer students a chance to interact with STEM professionals, listen to presentations on other students’ research, or go on tours that expose them to real-world research environments and various STEM careers. This connects students to the STEM community and exposes them to the culture of science.

Iowa’s regional JSHS allows teachers to bring non-competing students as delegate attendees. Students who attend as delegates have the opportunity to see the top projects presented, attend lab tours, and interact with research professionals and other student-scientists from around the state. The top presenters advance to the national competition, where they join student researchers from around the nation to compete for substantial scholarships. There are also opportunities for hands-on workshops, panel discussions, career exploration, research lab visits, and student networking events. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at the national competition and more than $20,000 in scholarships! Next year, it could be your student.

Iowa student Cheryl Blackmer won 1st place at Nationals in 2018!

And for those students who are interested, be sure to check out other opportunities for student research, such as the Perry Research Scholars Institute, Secondary Student Training Program, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Google Science Fair, and opportunities through the Army Educational Outreach Program.

Changes to AP: Beginning Fall 2019

The College Board is implementing some changes and new resources for Advanced Placement (AP) courses! These changes and resources are to provide better support throughout the school year, and to give students the best opportunity to succeed on AP exams. For more information on these changes, click here.

Beginning August 1 2019, AP teachers and students will have access to a variety of new online classroom resources.

What’s new:
  1. AP teachers and students will complete a short digital activation at the start of the year. Students and teachers will then have access to new online classroom resources!
  2. Schools will need to order AP exams by new deadlines in October and November. The College Board hopes that once students commit to the exam, they will more readily invest themselves in their classes.
  3. Classroom resources such as AP question banks, a performance dashboard, and unit guides will be available online.
What will stay the same:
  1. Exams administration during the first two full weeks in May
  2. Exam fee and exam fee reduction
  3. Scores will be reported on usual timelines

Follow us on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA to stay updated on all Iowa Online AP Academy and AP news!

Social Share: Asynchronous Development and Friendship

In addition to sharing our own staff’s expertise on this blog, every month, we scour the internet for interesting and informative perspectives on giftedness and academic talent to share with our followers on social media.

This month, the post our audience viewed the most was a thoughtful piece by Dr. Gail Post, of Gifted Challenges, discussing how asynchronous development in gifted individuals can affect their relationships.

Dr. Post begins with an explanation of asynchronous development and examples of the ways in which it can manifest in daily life. She then offers suggestions for how to help your gifted child cope and thrive.

Gifted children, teens and adults thrive when they understand the social, emotional and cultural impact of their giftedness, when they feel understood and accepted, when surrounded by like-minded peers, and when they are not criticized for any delays in their social-developmental trajectory. As parents, we must help them navigate the path to adulthood, seek out activities where they can develop healthy social relationships, and encourage them to accept, work with, and appreciate their unique differences.

Dr. Gail Post

Check out the full post here: Where can I find a friend? How asynchronous development affects relationships

If you would like to speak to a licensed psychologist about asynchronous development in your own child, consider the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic. You can also read more about asynchronous development and other social and emotional issues on the National Association for Gifted Children‘s website.

And be sure to connect with us on our social media pages for more! You can find us @belinblank on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Come join the discussion!

Challenging Learners Who Already Understand Grade Level Material

Guest post by Gerald Aungst
Adjunct lecturer at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center, and Gifted Support Teacher at the Cheltenham School District in Pennsylvania

The Belin-Blank Center moderates a Gifted Teachers’ Listserv, where educators from all over Iowa, the United States, and the world share resources, information, and support related to gifted education. This post originated on our listserv by Gerald Aungst, who graciously agreed to share his thoughts on our blog, as well. All opinions belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Belin-Blank Center or University of Iowa. 

Anyone who has had to sit through a meeting or training session about a topic which you understand well knows the feeling. You want to get on with it and move into something new and different. You want something useful. You want something meaningful.

And yet the idea persists in schools that when a student masters a skill quickly or already understands a topic we are introducing to the rest of the class, the best thing we can give that advanced learner is more of the same. “Oh, you finished the math worksheet already? Here’s another one with more problems to do.” Or “You wrote that 5-paragraph essay already? Well, then I guess your next essay needs to be 10 paragraphs.”

There is a place for honing and maintaining a difficult skill. Professional basketball players keep practicing free throws. Professional musicians keep practicing scales. But we need to ask if “more of the same” is the best option for a student with the limited time we have them in school.

Do you have colleagues or administrators who don’t see the value of giving advanced learners new, different things so they can continue to learn and grow? Here are a few resources to help you make your case.

Start with the NAGC position statements, which include references to relevant studies:

The Acceleration Institute has abundant resources on different options for acceleration. This brief policy summary, for example, has some great talking points for administrators. For more comprehensive explanations and a thorough review of extensive research on the topic, share A Nation Empowered to show why acceleration works.

Differentiation is another way to help students who may know some of the material in advance or who pick it up quickly. For quick overviews check out 7 Reasons Why Differentiated Instruction Works and What Works for Differentiating Instruction in Elementary Schools (many of these ideas are adaptable to middle and high school learners as well).

And of course Susan Winebrenner’s book Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom is full of strategies for differentiating and accelerating for advanced learners, backed up by decades of experience and research.

For more posts by Gerald Aungst, visit his website at geraldaungst.com.

If you are an educator looking for professional learning opportunities to help you better teach and understand gifted children, be sure to check out the Belin-Blank Center’s extensive list of courses and workshops on programming and curriculum. Each course corresponds to one of the educational strands necessary for the Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement and will help you develop your expertise in the new NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted and Talented Education. For more information, visit belinblank.org/educators

IOAPA: 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.

sar printmaking 2018-8

IOAPA principals, site coordinators, and mentors: make sure to apply for this funding opportunity by February 15th! 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 2018-19 school year.

The per-exam cost for the 2018-19 school year is $53 for students eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. Schools should pay the $53 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, 2019.

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

Discovering Students Who Are Ready for IOAPA 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 to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities.

With the frigid cold and many snow days, it may be difficult to think about this fall. However, right NOW is a great time set up above level testing with I-Excel. Your students’ above-level testing scores are needed to inform eligibility for fall 2019 IOAPA courses.

 There are four basic steps for participation in BESTS:
  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. 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.
  • Notify the students identified in Step 2 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  • Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. 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. 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).
  • Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.

Email assessment@belinblank.org or ioapa@belinblank.org with any questions.

IOAPA: Spring Dates & Deadlines!

We want to help you keep on track for 2019! Here are all of the important dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses for the spring semester.

  • January 25, 2019: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee. (Note: Per the IOAPA drop policy, these fees are waived for students in middle school and computer science courses.)
  • January 31, 2019: Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2018-2019).
  • February 22, 2019: Deadline for submitting testing accommodations requests for students with disabilities who plan to take AP Exams. See our post about the changes to this process that took effect in January 2017.
  • March 13, 2019: Deadline for pre-administration materials for AP Computer Science Principles.
  • March 29, 2019: Deadline to order 2019 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2019: Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 10, 2019: IOAPA spring courses end.
  • May 6-17, 2019: AP Exams are administered. A complete schedule of exam dates is available on the College Board website.

Ordering AP Exams

Students (generally with advice from teachers, parents, school counselors, or other school personnel) are responsible for deciding whether to take AP Exam(s) for the courses in which they enrolled. Schools are responsible for ordering those exams from the College Board for all students who indicate intent to complete exams. More information about specific procedures for ordering exams is available from the College Board.

Different states and schools handle exam fees differently. In general, for 2019 exams most students will pay the school $94 per exam. The College Board offers reduced-fee exams for students with financial need; these students generally pay the school $53 per exam. Further information can be found on the College Board website.

The Belin Blank Center is pleased to announce that we are offering a new funding opportunity to pay for the cost of AP exams for low-income students in rural schools.  Stay tuned for more information, coming soon!

Follow IOAPA on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA for reminders about deadlines, as well as other useful information to support mentors and students.

Subject Acceleration: A How-To List

This article expands upon some of the ideas presented in the earlier blog, Subject-Specific Gifted Services:

This is when we need to start shifting our thinking from creating one gifted program that serves the “all-around gifted student” to providing services for students with strengths in specific areas. This shift in thinking helps us to be more responsive to our students’ needs and helps ensure that they are challenged in school every day.

Subject acceleration (also called content acceleration) is useful for students who have demonstrated advanced ability in one or more academic areas. Examples include a 2nd grader moving into the 3rd grade classroom for reading, a student taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course, or grouping several advanced 6th graders for math instruction. Subject acceleration can be appropriate for a high-ability student who isn’t recommended for whole-grade acceleration, exhibits an uneven academic profile with an extreme strength area, or has already skipped a grade but needs additional challenge in one area.

Some people might be concerned that subject acceleration may cause academic harm or put students in situations that are too challenging.  Research (such as that provided in A Nation Empowered) tells us otherwise:  

  • High ability students engage in abstract thinking at a younger age than typical students.
  • Accelerated students do not have gaps in their academic backgrounds.
  • Accelerated students will not run out of courses before high school graduation. (Students never really run out of content to study, but the high school might not offer the next course that is needed. In this situation, a student might need to utilize other options, such as dual enrollment or online coursework.)
  • Accelerated students do not “burn out.” Research shows that acceleration leads to higher levels of achievement.

Others may argue that, “We already have enrichment, so why do students need content acceleration?” We agree that STEM clubs, science fairs, English festivals, and pull-out programs provide valuable enrichment. However, they do not provide a systematic progression through the curriculum.

Subject acceleration has many advantages:

  • The regular classroom teacher does not have to search for materials for the advanced student, because that student is removed during class (for example, the student moves to a different class for math).
  • It is more likely that the student will be grouped with intellectual peers.
  • The student receives credit for work completed.
  • The student is appropriately challenged and therefore remains interested in the subject (and in school).
  • Research clearly supports the use of acceleration with academically talented students.

The disadvantages of subject acceleration include:

  • Although the student is now working at a higher level, the pace may still be too slow.
  • If the student is accelerated by only one year, there may be little new content.
  • The student may not receive credit for high school courses completed before enrolling in high school due to district policies.
  • Additional planning and discussion time may be required, if subject acceleration is new in a school or to a particular group of educators.
  • Long-term planning is essential, so the student does not “run out” of coursework before graduating from high school.

Utilizing subject acceleration can be challenging, and it requires us to consider a variety of questions:

  • How are grades and credit assigned?
  • When completing the school’s regular testing, which grade-level achievement test does the student take (“age-appropriate” or new grade)?
  • What transportation is needed?
  • How do we schedule the same subject at the same time for the two grade levels? (For example, one district offers math at the same time every day across the district, so students don’t miss another subject if they are accelerated for math.)
  • What indicators of accelerated coursework are needed on the student’s transcript?
  • How is class rank determined?

Subject acceleration requires careful thought and planning. However, the time invested in thinking through some of the challenges and long-term issues presented by subject acceleration provides an important result:  students who are appropriately challenged and engaged in school.

Additional Resources

Register for APTTI and Apply for Funding Opportunities!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

Start the New Year off right by planning your summer professional development! Make sure to save the date for the 2019 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019. Registration is now openWe will be offering workshops for AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Physics I, and AP US History.

AP Teacher Training Institute instructor demonstrating a lesson to smiling AP Biology teachers.

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 previous institutes shared some of their valued experiences:

It gave me a framework for how to structure my course, wording for my syllabus for the College Board, and very valuable information to prepare my students for the AP exam.

Not only did I gain more resources to further my instruction, but I also learned many strategies for implementing these materials. I had the opportunity to learn from an instructor who was vastly knowledgeable and taught us as if we were students…so we could better understand how to teach our own students. This knowledge was immensely valuable!

I feel like this program has a direct impact on high school students…I am more confident in the material and the course/text structure, and my experience as an AP teacher has been much more successful than it would have been without an APTTI.

It was a wonderful course that prepared me to teach AP. The instructor modeled an AP class for us, so we not only left with content knowledge, but methodology knowledge as well. These methods can extend beyond just our AP classes and into our general classes as well.

Funding

We want to inform you of scholarships funded by the College Board that support teachers in attending an APSI. Applications for these scholarships are due Tuesday, February 12th, 2019. Scholarships offered by the College Board are listed below, and you can find more information about these scholarships and the application process here.

  • AP Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving minority or low-income students
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,000 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)
  • AP Rural Fellows Program: For teachers at rural schools
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,500 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) also offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI. (Participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 (more than 80%) of the $550 registration fee.  Click here to learn more and click here to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2019. 

Don’t miss the chance to apply for these great scholarships, especially since deadlines for some are approaching quickly! If you’re considering attending an AP Summer Institute and/or our AP Teacher Training Institute, apply today!