Tag Archives: belin-blank

Belin-Blank Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality

Thank you to Bethany Erickson for this guest post about her experience at last month’s Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality. If you would like access to the recorded event, register by July 1 at belinblank.org/summit.


After attending the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality, I am in awe and inspired.

I am in awe of the professionals who spoke: their expertise, experience, research and heart that came through their presentations. As a classroom teacher, I didn’t really know anything about neuroscience before this summit. Now, I wonder how can teachers be teachers without knowing more about how the brain works and learns.

The adage that ‘you don’t know how much you don’t know’ comes to mind. While learning from the presenters, three themes stood out to me over the course of the two days of lectures: the need for more collaboration, more research and more awareness to benefit twice-exceptional learners at all ages.  

Collaboration came up in almost every session.

So many of the presenters graciously gave credit to their teams and showed gratitude for the work they are able to do together. Parents talked about collaborating with educators. Students talked about the help they needed and received from their parents, medical professionals, and educators. Educators that work at the Belin-Blank Center, spoke to the importance of effectively communicating with each other as colleagues but also with parents and patients.

I was struck by several things during the student panel.

One student seemed to have had appropriate supports and interventions early on to help him cope with and understand his diagnosis. Another student didn’t find out about Autism Spectrum Disorder until later and had a harder path with fewer and later support services. Even so, both have found success and a way to overcome their difficulties by using their strengths and talents, which was another clear message from many sessions.  

I was impressed with how much these students could bravely tell us and it reminded me of the importance of knowing each individual.

I will be working with high school students for the first time next school year, and hearing the student panel reminds me that they are just looking for someone to listen and see them as a person, not just their diagnosis.

Another lesson on the importance of collaboration came from the parent panel.

The three moms on the panel gave such heartfelt and honest advice that I, as a teacher, will not forget. I wish more teachers could hear their stories. It stuck with me when they agreed that some of their most helpful teachers were the ones who admitted to not knowing about twice-exceptionality (2e), but being willing to learn along side them and see their child for more than just their behaviors or diagnosis.

I was so moved by the mom who explained what it felt like to drop off her son at a Belin-Blank Center summer program, and how it felt for her to know, for the first time, that he would be okay there without her because of the supports in place.

It made me think how much more school systems need to do for 2e students and parents to make school a safe place for them as well. A safe place where they can trust educators to be accepting of their talents and their challenges.

For students and parents to find schools as a welcoming and supportive environment for twice-exceptional students, teachers need to be made aware of 2e characteristics, talents, needs and challenges. It came up in the parent and student panel that they wished more people knew 2e students existed. As a teacher looking back, I can now think of several former students that were likely twice-exceptional, but I didn’t have the knowledge or resources at the time to help them.

This summit has given me an awareness that I am so grateful for.

The need to bring awareness to educators was mentioned in the student and parent panels. It was interesting to hear from the two teachers who were on the parent panel, as they shared how much they didn’t know as teachers until experiencing 2e as a parent. I wonder how many behavior issues could be prevented or diminished by addressing the needs of the students that are not being met due to undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders.

Before the summit, I was aware that students could have multiple diagnosed disabilities, but I didn’t know the symptoms, characteristics, talents and challenges. 

The research shared during the summit was so above and beyond what I expected.

An abundance of statistics, charts, graphs, and studies that all represent individual people and families, as one presenter pointed out.  Even in the midst of so much research, the case was continually made for how much more research is needed, all the things scientists still don’t know and want to know in order to better serve and accommodate for neurodiverse learners.

I was moved by how many presenters shared stories of their own children who have been diagnosed as twice-exceptional, and how that personal connection motivates their work.  

As I evaluate how this summit will affect my role as an educator, I hope it is by improving my collaboration with others – parents, students, colleagues, medical professionals, etc. I also hope it will affect my role as a talented and gifted teacher by granting me an awareness to help me see students that may need special education and gifted education services. Or notice characteristics of students that may come from having an indivisible disability and helping them to feel seen.

Experiencing this summit will help me bring an awareness back to my coworkers of what twice exceptionality is and how we can work together to find ways to support those learners and their families.

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.

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!

Celebrating 30 Years of Nurturing Potential and Inspiring Excellence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.  That long name packs an abundance of information about who we are and what we do.

Named for two of the four co-founders of the Belin-Blank Center, the name pays tribute to the founding families and honors their philanthropic contributions to the center.  The name also references our international connections and the fact that we address both gifted education and talent development, which are complementary concepts.

Over the years, the Belin-Blank Center has been committed to providing programming and services to educators, students, and their families.  Our aim is to empower the worldwide gifted community through exemplary leadership in service, research, and advocacy. Through our work, supported through the generosity of our benefactors, funds from private foundations, and federal and state grants, we aim to eliminate barriers that impede the full development of students and educators. 

Belin-Blank staff 6/2018

Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff

 

The Belin-Blank Center is part of the University of Iowa’s College of Education.  For the first fifteen years of our existence, the Lindquist Center housed our center.  Early in 2004, we moved from the Lindquist Center to the newly built, six-story Blank Honors Center. This move was essential because over the decades, our staff and faculty have grown; that growth matches the growth in our programs.

Blank Honors Center-0101

Blank Honors Center, home of the Belin-Blank Center, on the Unviersity of Iowa campus

Through all of this change, our values have never wavered; in particular, our strong belief in the benefit of recognizing and validating talent.  Ceremonies such as our annual Recognition Ceremony increase awareness of the needs of gifted and talented students and teachers; simultaneously, they acknowledge for the students, teachers, and their families that their efforts matter.  We have noticed, and we know that they will make a difference. 

30th invitation graphicAn anniversary is an opportunity for reflection and celebration as well as for dreaming about the future.  Thanks to our benefactors, our faculty and staff, and the University of Iowa, this year we celebrate a decades-long reality created from a single vision.  We step into the future empowered to create a better world for the gifted and talented community. Paraphrasing an observation and a question attributed to Sidney Parnes, an early leader in the field of creativity, “We are already living in someone else’s dream of the future; why not make it your dream?”

A Visual Guide to Middle School IOAPA Courses

With the introduction of our middle school courses in Fall 2015, many students and teachers may still have questions about the types of courses offered by the Iowa Online AP Academy, who these classes might benefit, and how to select students who will be prepared for and challenged by online coursework.

Based on the information and experiences we have gathered so far, we are excited to provide a visual guide to our middle school classes! These data are based on middle school Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) courses taken during the fall 2015 semester.We hope they will be helpful as you and your students consider plans to register for 2016-17 courses through IOAPA.

If you are looking for more information about IOAPA’s middle school classes, check out our past posts on middle school courses and above-level testing, or visit our website. Make sure to check back here soon for our high school courses recap!

IOAPA Fall 2015 MS Data Infographic

 

Interested in IOAPA? Learn more about registration!

Registration for Iowa Online AP Academy 2016-2017 classes open in just one week (April 19), and many teachers want to register their students promptly to ensure access to these courses. Whether you are new to IOAPA or just need a refresher, take a look at the following handy registration guide for pointers on the registration process!

To register, visit our website (belinblank.org/ioapa). Be sure to read through the Getting Started section for important program information.  You will need to re-register your school each academic year.

When you’re ready to register, take the following steps:

  1. Register your school and assign a site coordinator and mentor. The first step is for principals to register their schools. They can do that on our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) by clicking on Register on the homepage. As part of this step, schools assign a site coordinator and a mentor. They can be the same person or different people; however, the mentor needs to be a certified teacher at the school. We’ll be discussing this difference more in future blog posts.
  2. Nominate the student(s) taking IOAPA course(s). Completing the school registration page sends the principal an automated email with a link in it to nominate the student. The principal either needs to complete the nomination or forward the link to the site coordinator or mentor to complete.
  3. Confirm that the student has self-enrolled in the course. Once the student has been nominated, an email will be automatically sent to the student to enroll himself/herself in the actual course. Be sure to have students check their junk mail folders, as the automated emails sometimes get filtered there. Students should complete this process and be sure to click submit when they’re done.

Middle school students should also take an above-level test to help determine eligibility, with scores considered current within the past two years. (For eligibility guidelines, see Requirements.) Learn more about above-level testing.

Questions? Check out our website (belinblank.org/ioapa) for further assistance!

IOAPA

Conference on Academic Acceleration

Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute at the University of Iowa

July 24-26, 2016

Registration Now Open

Pre-Institute: The Iowa Acceleration Scale, Sunday, July 24, 2016, (2-5 p.m.), $75.

Learn how to maximize the value of the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd edition), a tool designed to help educators and parents make data-driven decisions about academic acceleration.

Participants are invited to attend the Belin-Blank Advanced Leadership Institute Speakers Reception, Sunday evening, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m.

Two-Day Institute: A Nation Empowered: Research-Based Evidence about Acceleration and Gifted/Talented Students. Sunday, July 24, 2016: Speakers Reception 5:30 – 7 p.m. Institute is on Monday, July 25 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m., plus optional evening activities) and July 26 (8:30 a.m. to noon), $250, early registration fee.  Bring a friend!  Group registrations (2 or more registrations submitted together) are discounted, $225 per person, early registration fee.

Meet the editors and authors of A Nation Empowered; interact with others who have successfully implemented acceleration in their schools; choose from multiple sessions focusing on practical applications of how to implement acceleration in schools; and create your own plan for next steps!

Released last spring, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, includes updated information about the best-researched yet most under-utilized educational option for gifted students: academic acceleration. In spite of the strong research base supporting the implementation of the many forms of acceleration, many schools do not routinely utilize any of the options, and educators often express concerns about accelerating students, assuming that doing nothing is better than taking a “risk” with acceleration.

All Institute participants will receive a copy of A Nation Empowered. The Institute will include a strong focus on applying the research in practical settings, and participants will have opportunities to learn from educators who have successfully implemented various forms of acceleration, as well as hear from parents and from students who have benefited from one or more accelerative options.  Audience: gifted education teachers, administrators, school counselors, parents.

Discounts are available for students and groups, and an academic credit option is also available (50% tuition scholarship provided by the Belin-Blank Center).

Registration Now Open

STEM & Sputnik

Yesterday, the University of Iowa College of Education and Dean Nicholas Colangelo welcomed visiting dignitaries from the National University of Science & Technology MISiS, Moscow, Russia.

The presentation focused on the State of Iowa STEM Initiative and featured Iowa Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a panel that included Belin-Blank Center Director Susan Assouline.  Many of the speakers referenced Sputnik as a catalyst for gifted education and especially STEM education in the United States.

The Belin-Blank Center and B-BC Administrator Kate Degner covered the event on Twitter:

B-BC’s Laurie Croft Tours Schools in India

Dr. Laurie Croft of the Belin-Blank Center recently visited several schools in India:  

We visited this school on 27 September—these students are tribal children who stay at the Kamshet Campus, a residential program supported by the government and by private foundations. Dr. Narayan Desai has given the students a Mensa exam to determine who could benefit from enriched or accelerated academic programs, and I was their special guest, awarding certificates for those who achieved the highest scores on the exam.

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Do You Have a High-Ability Student Looking for a Challenge?

During the fall semester, Challenge Saturdays provides engaging weekend classes for students in Des Moines and Iowa City.

These classes are designed for high-ability elementary- and middle-school-aged students who are current members of the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS). Students who are not part of BESTS but who are of high ability are also encouraged to attend.*

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In small classes, students receive direct instruction and do advanced work. Students choose one class only. The class meets five times.  Financial assistance is available.

Learn more and register here.

*Students who are not part of BESTS generally register for BESTS – but in the meantime, parents provide a copy of the child’s most-recent ITBS scores. If test data is not available, a teacher recommendation may be submitted. To register a non-BESTS student, first sign up for a class. Following registration, send the above information to Bridget Pauley, 600 Blank Honors Center, Iowa City, IA 52242 or fax it to her attention at 319-335-5151.

We Had An Amazing Summer!

Thanks to everyone who was a part of it!

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What Are You Doing This Summer?

So much fun and I hope to come back next year :D


Are you (or a student you know) still looking for something to do this summer?  The Belin-Blank Center still has a few openings for summer camps:

Grades 2-6: CHESS

Grades 6-8: JSA

Grades 9-11: NSI

Crystal E. Owens, West Des Moines, IA, Places at National Science Competition

Crystal E. Owens (West Des Moines, Iowa) placed 3rd in her research category and received a $4,000 scholarship at the United States Army-, Navy-, and Air Force-sponsored 49th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), held April 27-May 1, 2011, in San Diego, California.

Crystal Owens accepting the Iowa Regional JSHS First Place Award from Major Mike Belin.

Owens, a senior at Valley High School, competed in the Life Sciences category of competition with her research project, “Zea Mays Seed And Plant Orientation: Impacts On Emergence, Stereoscopy, And Grain Yield.”

Owens progressed to the national symposium after competing in and winning first place in the Iowa Regional JSHS, held February 24-25, 2011, in Iowa City. Approximately 12,000 high school students participated at the regional level, and the top 96 presenters from the 48 regional symposia (representing all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the DoD Dependents Schools of Europe and the Pacific) were invited to participate in the national symposium in San Diego.

Congratulations to Crystal and everyone who participated in JSHS this year!

The Belin-Blank Center will be hosting the 2012 Iowa Regional JSHS on March 1-2, in Iowa City. We encourage Iowa high school students to pursue STEM-related research projects, the results of which can be submitted for presentation next March.

B-BC Recognizes Top-Performing Advanced Placement (AP) Schools

Dr. Nicholas Colangelo

Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, Director, Belin-Blank Center

One of the things I like best about my job as director of the Belin-Blank Center is recognizing Iowa’s schools for their efforts at developing the talents of high-ability students.

The just-released 2011 Iowa AP Index does just that. It recognizes the top 50 Iowa schools in terms of AP exams given. The Index says “well done” to these schools for seeing to it that rigorous, college-level opportunities are available to students.

Congratulations to the top-performing Iowa high schools in this year’s 2011 Iowa AP Index! This year’s #1-ranked school is George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. Rounding out the top 5 schools are Kennedy High School (#2, Cedar Rapids), Regina High School (#3, Iowa City), West High School (#4, Iowa City), and Ames High School (#5, Ames).

See iowaapindex.org for a list of the Top 50 schools, details on how the Index is calculated, and a discussion of the benefits of participating in the AP Program.

We congratulate all the Iowa schools that provided AP opportunities for their students, and we applaud students for stepping up to the academic challenge. We encourage high schools to continue their efforts at offering AP courses and other college-level curriculum (such as through dual enrollment and concurrent enrollment programs).

National Candidate’s Reply Date is Coming Up!

As many of you know, May 1st is the deadline for many students to make their final decision as to which college they will attend. For students entering college a year or more early, it is also the beginning of a form of academic acceleration: early entrance to college.

There are several early entrance programs across the country, one of which is the Belin-Blank Center’s National Academy of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (NAASE), which offers students an opportunity to start college after their junior year of high school.

For more information on early entrance to college, check out the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration’s Video Stories of Acceleration, which include interviews with NAASE students. And read Chapter 10: Early Entrance to College: Academic, Social, and Emotional Considerations from Volume II of A Nation Deceived, which is available for free download.

We’re Going to San Diego

Brian Douglas, Administrator, Finance & Technology

This past February, high school students from across the state traveled to Iowa City to participate in the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia Program.

This program was designed to engage high school students in science, math, engineering and technology through presenting their original research efforts, visiting research labs, and networking with peers to enrich their understanding of STEM opportunities beyond high school.

Five finalists from the Iowa region were selected to join 240 students from around the country in participating in the national symposium this weekend in San Diego. Finalists from the national symposium will receive military-sponsored undergraduate scholarships and participate in the London International Youth Science Forum this summer at London University.

Nearly 100 adult leaders, high school teachers, university faculty, ranking military officers and other guests will join in encouraging the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrating their achievement in the sciences.

Best of luck to all of the participants!

Sen. Grassley Introduces Bill to Support Gifted and High-Ability Students

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to support gifted and high-ability students, especially those who are underrepresented and underserved, on April 14.

The legislation, known as the TALENT (To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers) Act (S. 857), will:

  • Require states and local districts that receive Title I funding – those that serve a high proportion of students from disadvantaged settings – to include gifted and talented and high-potential learners in their plans for using the federal funds.
  • Require states to report on the performance and learning progress of gifted students on their annual state report cards.
  • Take the critical step to make sure teachers, principals, and other school personnel are trained to recognize and serve gifted and high-ability students appropriately by supporting the development of best practice strategies and helping states and districts get those strategies into the hands of teachers through national dissemination efforts and professional development grants.
  • Collect appropriate data on high-ability students to enable policymakers and educators to make informed decisions.

The bill is sponsored by Grassley and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in the Senate.  The TALENT Act is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Donald Payne (D-NJ).

The Belin-Blank Center applauds Sen. Grassley for his leadership on the TALENT Act and thanks him for his long-standing support of high-ability students.

Please urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor this important piece of legislation.

Iowa’s Representatives

Iowa’s Senators

Outside of Iowa

Visit www.house.gov and www.senate.gov for email addresses and other contact information for your Members of Congress.

For more information about the TALENT Act, visit http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=7804.

Free Webinar on Math Acceleration

Dr. Susan Assouline

Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director, Belin-Blank Center

Register here for a free Webinar – You Already Know This: How to Use Your Teaching Skills & Current Resources with Math-Talented Students (Grades 3-7). On Thursday, April 14, from 3:30 to 4:15 PM (US CDT), Kate Degner, a doctoral candidate in math education, will demonstrate a technique for accelerating the math curriculum. I will give a brief explanation of the reports generated from our new online system for making informed decisions about math acceleration, IDEAL Solutions® for Math Acceleration.

As you know, mathematically talented students have varying academic profiles. This aspect is described in Developing Math Talent (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2011); you can read about one very talented student, Zach, here.

The Belin-Blank Center Supports Acceleration

Dr. Maureen Marron

Dr. Maureen Marron,
Associate Research Scientist,
Institute for Research & Policy on Acceleration

For over a decade, the Belin-Blank Center has been committed to advocating for academic acceleration for high-ability students. We put our support behind acceleration because it is an effective intervention that benefits high-ability students academically and socially.

Since 2006, the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA) at the Belin-Blank Center has served as a central location for acceleration research and advocacy. IRPA’s activities are designed to answer three questions:

1. What is acceleration? In A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students (download at no cost), we define acceleration, report on its effectiveness, and refute misconceptions.

2. Is acceleration the right choice for my student? IRPA has created instruments, books, and guides to assist with acceleration decisions, including IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration, the Iowa Acceleration Scale (3rd ed.), and Developing Math Talent (2nd ed.).

3. How can school policy be written to include acceleration? In 2009, we collaborated with the National Association for Gifted Children, and the Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted to produce Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy.

The Guidelines document (in print or online at no cost) presents recommendations in five key areas for developing an acceleration policy and provides an easy-to-use Checklist for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy. Contact me (maureen-marron@uiowa.edu) to make arrangements for copies to share with your school board, administrators, or attendees at your state talented-and-gifted association conference.

This is an abbreviated explanation of IRPA’s activities. Please visit www.accelerationinstitute.org to learn more about acceleration and our activities.

40 Years of Talent Search

Dr. Susan Assouline

Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director, Belin-Blank Center

I love coincidences – and the co-occurrence of two events this weekend are particularly special for me. This weekend, scholars from all over the country are gathering at Johns Hopkins University to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Talent Search Model, which was originally established as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). Professor Julian C. Stanley (1918-2005) founded SMPY, “to find youths who reason exceptionally well mathematically and to provide them the special, supplemental, accelerative educational opportunities they sorely need and richly deserve for their own optimal development and the good of society.”

Also this Saturday, several hundred students will take the EXPLORE test as an above-level test. This opportunity is available through our talent search, BESTS. BESTS is part of the 40-year tradition that will be celebrated on the 25th and 26th of March. It is safe to say that without the establishment of SMPY four decades ago, well before some of the parents of today’s talent search participants were even born, many of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been impacted through the Talent Search would never have had the opportunity to fully develop their academic talents. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about the Talent Search and the research and programs that emanate from this extraordinarily robust educational model.

IDEAL(R) Solutions for Math AccelerationFor more information about ways to advocate for math-talented students, check out the Belin-Blank Center’s new web-based service, IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration.

When it comes to STEM, does gender still matter?

Although it may seem surprising in light of the gains women have made in the last forty years, recent research shows that the gender gap in STEM fields still exists. According to the American Association of University Women, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that as of 2008, although more than half of biological scientists are women:

  • Just over 30% of chemists and material scientists are female
  • Women make up a little over 20% of computer programmers
  • Less than 7% of mechanical engineers are women

So why are women so underrepresented in STEM fields? While some people may assume that the gap is due to intrinsic ability or differences in interest, the research suggests that the real reasons are more complicated:

  • A recent study found that having a female instructor rather than a male instructor makes a big difference for female students in an introductory calculus, increasing class participation as well as the likelihood that a female student would ask the instructor questions outside of class.
  • Having female professors appears to provide a sort of “inoculation” against the stereotype that STEM fields are for men only.   It’s therefore important that women be well-represented in STEM departments in colleges as professors, TAs, and older students in the program.
  • Other findings “…suggest that other characteristics such as gender differences in orientation toward people versus things (Lubinski & Benbow, 2007), the value placed on different occupations (Eccles, 2007), and commitment to child rearing, family (Halpern, 2007), and full-time work (Lubinski & Benbow, 2007) are responsible for the differences in occupational choices and career achievement levels of males and females in math and science fields.” (55-56, Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee)
  • “…although gender differences on cognitive tests may be small and disappearing when heterogeneous samples of students are studied, they appear to remain robust for gifted samples.  These gender differences for gifted students have implications for the representation of the most able females in STEM professions.” (56, Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee)

What can parents, educators, and counselors do to help more girls find success in STEM?

  • Include female scientists and mathematicians in your history courses not as “special cases” but as equal contributors to their fields.  Researchers emphasize that  instructors need to make references to accomplished women in STEM in a “regular and low-key” way.
  • If a girl shows interest in STEM, encourage that interest – provide relevant activities, academic programs, enrichment, and acceleration.
  • Model genuine interest in STEM – excitement about learning is contagious.

Gifted Education for General Education Teachers

Dr. Laurie Croft

Dr. Laurie Croft, Administrator,
Professional Development, Belin-Blank Center

Since 1980 (for over 30 years!), the Belin-Blank Center has provided an intensive residential experience for general education teachers who want to learn more about gifted education.  This experience is designed for those with little or no previous background in gifted education.  This is a GREAT way to encourage a colleague in your building to join you in your support for gifted programs!

The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank Fellowship program, June 27 – July 1, 2011, provides

  • Full room and board in a University of Iowa residence hall
  • Readings and university resources
  • Presentations from leaders in gifted education

Participants’ districts are asked to pay a $250 materials fee for books and readings.  Participants may also enroll in two graduate-level credit hours.  Those who choose this credit option will receive an automatic tuition scholarship and pay only 50% of the graduate-level tuition.

Learn more about the Fellowship program, and be sure to apply by March 18th.  Twelve applicants will be notified by e-mail of their acceptance to the program.

Access to Advanced Placement Regardless of Geography

Dr. Clar Baldus

Dr. Clar M. Baldus, Administrator, Inventiveness, Rural Schools & Visual Arts Programs; Belin-Blank Center

More than 10,000 Iowa students have taken Advanced Placement classes online through the Belin-Blank Center’s Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA), based in the University of Iowa College of Education. Altogether, that translates into 2.7 million hours of homework completed and an equivalent of more than 30,000 college credits earned by students from the comfort and convenience of their local high schools.

Started in 2001, IOAPA is designed especially to serve students from schools in Iowa’s smaller, rural towns—such as Akron and Humboldt—to ensure that they have the same academic opportunities as students from larger, more competitive schools across the country. The online academy’s AP courses also give Iowa students a chance to measure themselves against a nationally rigorous, meaningful academic standard.

For capable and motivated high school students, AP courses and exams provide college-level coursework along with opportunities to earn college credit or placement.

A recent news release from the Iowa Department of Education credited IOAPA, in part, for the increase in participation and success among Iowa students.

And because of programs like IOAPA, geography will not dictate educational opportunity for Iowa students.

Supporting STEM Innovation

Dr. Susan Assouline

Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director, Belin-Blank Center

Almost daily we hear about the weak performance of American students in math and science when compared to their international counterparts.

Many of the national reports that convey this message have issued a “Call to Action.”  In 2008, the  National Mathematics Advisory Panel released its final report about math education in the US and  recommended that districts ensure that all prepared students have access to algebra by Grade 8.  For general education students, this is great – but for mathematically talented students, the need for challenging math comes well before Grade 8.

IDEAL(R) Solutions for Math AccelerationThe Belin-Blank Center is  responding to the “Call to Action” with a brand new website: IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration.  This website is designed to assist parents and educators of mathematically talented students in understanding the degree to which their students would benefit from additional challenge.  After entering data about the student, parents and educators receive a report that provides individualized recommendations for the student.  This report also offers a detailed summary of the research related to acceleration and documents the information about the student for both parents and educators.

An IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration report provides a starting point in the discussion about how to meet a mathematically talented student’s academic needs.  To learn more, visit www.idealsolutionsmath.com.

If you are an educator, contact us about becoming an IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration School.

To learn more about STEM in gifted education, join us on Twitter this Friday, February 18th, at noon EST for #gtchat.

Solving Crimes, Cracking Jokes, and Digging Up the Past…All Before Dinner!

If you have a third-through-eighth grader looking for something interesting to do, the Weekend INstitute for Gifted Students (WINGS) still has openings for upcoming classes in Iowa City, IA and Council Bluffs, IA.

You can register your student here.

Two students at WINGSOne of our students in WINGS

The Importance of AP

Advanced Placement (AP) classes and exams have become the standard for advanced curriculum.

The Belin-Blank Center’s Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) was initiated in 2001 to provide access to AP for students who otherwise would not be able to participate. The heart of the IOAPA program is the commitment to preparing students to succeed in AP. This is done by a combination of three educational programs:

  1. The IOAPA structure, which provides excellent online AP courses as well as support in the local schools.
  2. The preparation that Iowa students receive through the Iowa Excellence Program, a Belin-Blank Center program that prepares students (especially in rural schools) for AP while they are still in middle/junior high school.
  3. The Belin-Blank Dynamic Model of Professional Development, which prepares teachers to prepare students to seek out and succeed in highly challenging courses, such as AP.

For more on IOAPA, visit http://www.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Programs/students/ioapa/.