Tag Archives: education

Message from the Director: At the Edge of Knowledge, What do Students Need?

The needs of gifted students come from their strengths, not their deficits. 

I’m paraphrasing, slightly, what Executive Director of Western Kentucky’s Center for Gifted Studies, Professor Julia Link Roberts, expressed last month during Denver University’s annual Gifted Education Conference.  This simple yet elegant statement captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s model for serving gifted and talented students from grade 2 through college.  Our strength-based model features various systems for discovering domain-specific talent and then developing that talent.  A strength-based model is synonymous with talent development.

Although highly effective, there is one critical group of educators who neither implement nor advocate for a strength-based model in which talents are developed.  The group is comprised of the vast majority of faculty in colleges of education across the country; the same individuals who prepare future teachers and counselors.  

This was the situation decades ago when I was preparing to be a science teacher, and it remains true today.  For example, students with strengths in science reasoning need to be able to do what scientists do – create hypotheses, conduct research, experience success…and fail, and start all over again. It’s the rare science classroom where students with strengths in scientific reasoning have regular opportunities to experience “science” during the school day.  The same is true for individuals with talent in mathematics. 

To some extent, the lack of emphasis on talent development in schools explains the popularity of university-based summer programs among parents and students.  Every summer, tens of thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students across the country take advantage of myriad programs and courses that build on their strengths and nurture the development of their talent.  The Belin-Blank Center’s programs are among these. Our students explore their interests and stretch their intellectual muscles in the Blank Summer Institute, the Perry Research Scholars Institute, the Secondary Student Training Program, Summer Art  Residency,  and Summer Writing Residency and find respite from the lack of challenge during the school year.

Educators who participate in the Belin-Blank Center’s summer professional development can observe talented pre-college students in programming that is uniquely strength-based and talent-development focused.  Our hope is that by observing a strength-based classroom, educators will see the importance of taking this model into their own classrooms during the academic year.  This is one of the most critical lessons from their professional development experience because for every student who attends a summer program in a university setting, there are several others who are equally talented but don’t have this opportunity.

Education doesn’t have to be strengths vs. deficit.  In fact, every program we offer, including outreach programming such as the STEM Excellence program, now in its sixth year of implementation in nine rural schools across Iowa, is an excellent example of a thriving strength-based program that aims to develop the math and science talents of middle-school students.

Our work in twice-exceptionality offers additional evidence that understanding a student’s strengths is as important as understanding their challenges.  Individuals with a diagnosed disability or disorder face challenges (deficits) that can – and must – be addressed. However, this should be done in alignment with developing their strengths.

The strength-based approach is the essence of our collaborative twice-exceptional research agenda with our Iowa Neuroscience Institute partners. This work uses an unprecedented amount of data from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to better understand the relationship between high ability and challenges in learning, social-emotional development, or behavior. Indeed, understanding the role of cognitive strengths within the context of learning and social-emotional difficulties is a critical aspect of the research we are conducting.  It is only with a sample of twice-exceptional individuals, who have both intellectual strengths and cognitive challenges, that each of these can be controlled for, allowing researchers to examine their effects both independently and combined.

We are looking forward to bringing together researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents to learn about the research on twice-exceptionality at the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality this July. We invite you to join us in discussing new, unprecedented studies of twice-exceptionality, the future of research in this field, and the possibilities available for collaboration among institutions, gifted education organizations, and talent development centers in order to advance our understanding of this unique population and their strengths and challenges.

The needs of gifted students – and the professionals who are involved in their education – come from strengths not deficits.  Yet, for the foreseeable future, deficit models in education will likely dominate our thinking – and funding.  I recommend that we “lean into” the current deficit model and use it as a platform to reveal the many advantages to including a strength-based approach in gifted education and talent development.  We will continue to share our perspective and research findings, and we hope to see you at one of our events or programs soon.

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!

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.

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Governor Reynolds declared the month of October to be Gifted Education Awareness Month. The Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) proposed many activities to celebrate giftedness in your school and district! Here on our blog, we revisited some of your all-time favorite posts all month long. 

First, we encouraged you to think about who your talented students are and what they need to stay challenged and engaged at school. Then, we gave away the best-kept secret in gifted education and shared why we should all be advocates for academic acceleration. Finally, we discussed educational assessments, including twice-exceptional assessments, and explained when and for whom they might be helpful.

Although October is coming to a close, we know that for advanced learners, and their families and educators, every month is gifted education awareness month. To carry you forward from here, we are sharing some of our most helpful resources. We hope you can return to these again and again as you continue to advocate for your own gifted students. 


Go-To Resources on Academic Acceleration

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 1.25.34 PMA Nation Deceived, published in 2004, is still relevant today. It highlights disparities between the research on acceleration and the educational beliefs and practices that often run contrary to the research. We highly recommend Volume 1, which contains responses to common myths about acceleration.

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The update to that publication, A Nation Empowered, came out in 2015. You can download the free pdf here or obtain a paper copy or Kindle version here. Volume 1 contains many stories about acceleration, and those seem to resonate with people. Volume 2 contains the up-to-date research supporting acceleration.

The Acceleration Institute website has many, many resources on academic acceleration for parents, educators, policy makers, and researchers.

20 Forms of AccelerationWhen most people think of acceleration, they think of either skipping a grade or moving ahead in a particular subject. But did you know there are at least 20 different types of acceleration within the broad categories of grade skipping and subject acceleration?

Thinking about early entrance to kindergarten? These resources will be helpful.

What about early entrance to college? Start here and then head over to the Bucksbaum Academy website.

How do you make an informed decision about skipping a grade? The Iowa Acceleration Scale is a highly recommended tool.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.07.28 PM.pngDo you have a talented math learner? Be sure to check out the book, Developing Math Talent, by Susan Assouline & Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik (published by Prufrock Press, 2011). Build student success in math with the only comprehensive parent and teacher guide for developing math talent among advanced learners of elementary or middle school age. The authors offer a focused look at educating gifted and talented students for success in math.

To help answer questions about which students are ready for subject acceleration, consider investigating I-Excel, an online, above-level test for high-ability 4th-6th graders. I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format.

If you’re wondering whether your child is ready to be accelerated, these tips for parents can help guide you. This Tip Sheet from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) will also be helpful.

Does your school need to create or update its policy on academic acceleration? Guidelines for Developing an Academic Acceleration Policy are available in a free download. This document supports schools in creating a comprehensive and research-based acceleration policy that is compatible with local policies. (And be sure to keep an eye out for an update to this publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Single Subject and Whole Grade, in late 2018!)

If you’re a fan of podcasts, you can listen to Dr. Ann Shoplik talking about acceleration on Mind Matters, and Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon discussing twice exceptionality on Bright Now by Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY). Or check out our own podcast, The Window, and listen to our founder, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, engage thought leaders on issues relating to maximizing human potential and directing talent toward a larger social good.Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 4.08.59 PM

We know that TAG educators can sometimes feel a bit isolated from their other colleagues in gifted education. If you are looking for a group of like-minded professionals and experts to connect with and share ideas, be sure to subscribe to the Gifted Teachers’ Listserv.

Connect with your state and national organizations, the Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) and the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). The Iowa Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented webpage also has helpful resources and information about important legislation affecting gifted education. Not in Iowa? Find information about your state gifted association, statistics, and policies concerning gifted education here.

For a comprehensive look at all things gifted education, grab a cup of coffee and settle down to peruse Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development’s database.  The Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop on acceleration was so excellent, it was offered a second time (with fresh content) in “Acceleration, Again.”

Follow our own @AnnShoplik and @LCroft57 on Twitter, who often tweet about topics related to acceleration and gifted education, and read through the hashtags, #nationempowered#gtchat, and #gifteded.

And finally, be sure to connect with the Belin-Blank Center on social media (you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) and subscribe to our newsletter to stay updated all year long!

Gifted Education Awareness Month: Academic Acceleration

This month, we’re bringing back some of our most popular blog posts to celebrate Gifted Education Awareness Month! Today, Dr. Ann Shoplik, Administrator for the Acceleration Institute, explains why it’s so important to advocate for academic acceleration! “Acceleration” can be an intimidating word for some, but did you know that there are at least 20 different forms of academic acceleration?

20 Forms of Acceleration

The word “acceleration” actually refers to over twenty different educational interventions! (Source: A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students*)

 


Why am I an Advocate for Academic Acceleration?

The short answer to this question is that I am tired of gifted students being under-challenged in school. They need the intellectual stimulation that comes from rigorous courses taught at a reasonably advanced level, and acceleration can provide that stimulation. The longer answer is, I am familiar with the research. No educational option for gifted students has the research support that academic acceleration has. In other words, the research is clear and unambiguous: Acceleration works. Gifted students benefit from acceleration. Gifted students are not negatively impacted socially if they are moved up a grade or advanced in a particular subject. Gifted students who accelerate turn out to be higher-achieving, higher-paid adults. In other words, the effects of acceleration are positive, short-term, and long-term.  So why wouldn’t I be an advocate for academic acceleration?

Now that we have the information that is summarized so clearly and succinctly in the comprehensive 2015 publication, A Nation Empowered, it’s time to put that information to work.  There are at least 20 different types of acceleration, including grade-skipping, subject matter acceleration, distance learning, and dual enrollment in high school and college. There are many forms of acceleration, and that means that we can tailor accelerative opportunities to the needs of individual gifted students. Acceleration means allowing gifted students to move ahead in school, at a pace appropriate to their needs. Acceleration can be implemented individually, in small groups, and in large groups.  Each type of acceleration can be used to match the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student.

Educators and parents do not have to be afraid of implementing acceleration. Tools are available to help them make well-informed decisions. These tools include the book already mentioned, A Nation Empowered, and they also include the Iowa Acceleration Scale (developed to help the team consider all aspects of acceleration, including academic development, social development, physical development, and school and parental support for the decision), IDEAL Solutions (developed to assist educators and parents as they consider subject matter acceleration in STEM subjects), and university-based talent search programs, which help identify students and give them challenging courses they can take in the summer or via online learning opportunities.

If you are interested in advocating for acceleration for an individual student or you’re attempting to change policies in your school or district, consider starting with the information found at the Acceleration Institute website. It includes the tools already mentioned in this article, and many more. Don’t miss the PowerPoint presentation on acceleration, which you can download and share with other educators and families.

We have the research and we have the tools to help us make good decisions about implementing acceleration for academically talented students. Now, we need the courage to act.

Originally posted by Ann Lupkowski Shoplik on March 22, 2016

*Southern, W.T. and Jones, E.D. (2015) Types of Acceleration: Dimensions and Issues. In S.A. Assouline, N. Colangelo, J. VanTassel-Baska, and A. Lupkowski-Shoplik (Eds.), A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students (pp. 9-18). Cedar Rapids, IA: Colorweb Printing

October is Gifted Education Awareness Month!

Governor Reynolds declared the month of October to be Gifted Education Awareness Month. The Iowa Talented and Gifted Association (ITAG) proposed many activities to celebrate giftedness in your school and district! Some of these include:

  • Ask to have gifted students present their achievements at the October school board meeting
  • Communicate with other staff about how to best work with your gifted students
  • Attend the ITAG Conference Parent Night

How will YOU celebrate?

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Beyond ITAG’s suggestions, our team hopes you celebrate by thinking about who your talented students are and what they need to stay challenged and engaged at school. One way to do this is by selecting students for above-level testing to find out what they already know and, more importantly, what they are ready to learn next. Another way is to help students sign up for advanced courses, such as those available through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA).

As you may know, IOAPA and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services in order to help Iowa teachers find talented middle school students and develop their abilities. For more on how BESTS and IOAPA work together, check out our IOAPA-BESTS blog roundup. In order to use above-level testing scores to inform eligibility for IOAPA courses, make sure to begin the above-level testing process soon. 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 90thpercentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 2 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. 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).
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing. Families receive above-level test score reports and an extensive interpretation of results that can help with these discussions.

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As part of this process, you may be wondering ‘What do gifted students look like? Who are good candidates for above-level testing or advanced courses?’ High grades are a traditional means to determine giftedness, but grades and assessment scores are not the only avenue. For instance, many gifted students are bored in class, and therefore may stop trying or may create classroom disruptions.  In order to expand your school’s view on gifted qualification, make sure to look at class performance along with psychosocial factors, and socioeconomic and cultural factors. This blog post discusses identifying gifted students from underserved backgrounds.

However you choose to observe Gifted Education Awareness Month, we hope you’ll consider us a resource and partner in supporting Iowa’s brightest students and developing their talent!

Congratulations, JSHS Student Researchers!

Last month, students from across the state of Iowa attended the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville, Iowa.

JSHS is a collaborative effort with the research arm of the Department of Defense and is designed to challenge, engage, and publically recognize high school students conducting scientific research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  JSHS aims to prepare and support students to contribute as future scientists and engineers – conducting STEM research on behalf of, or directly for, the Department of Defense, the Federal research laboratories, or for the greater good in advancing the nation’s scientific and technological progress.

Students completed an original research project and submitted a research paper to the regional competition. The authors of the top 18 papers were invited to compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting their results before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers.  Students also toured various labs and facilities at the University of Iowa to hear about cutting edge research, potential career paths, and student opportunities.

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After an intensive day of presentations, the judges had the difficult task of selecting five finalists based on their research papers and presentations:

1st place: Megan Ertl (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Quantification of Muscle Accelerations to Interpret Individual Fatigue as an Industrial Application

2nd place: Cheryl Blackmer (Ballard  High School) – “Development of a LAMP Assay for the Detection of Powassan Virus”

3rd place: Pranav Chhaliyil (Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment) –  “Metagenomics Analysis of Bedtime Oral Cleaning by the Novel GIFT Method, Shows a Reduction in Dental-Damaging Bacteria”

4th place: Aaron Wills (Central Lee High School) – “Engineered Environmental Containment: “Using Lemna minor L. to Reduce Nitrate Levels in Aquatic Environments”

5th place: Brianna Cole (Valley High School) – “Cumulative Effects of Recurrent Amygdala Kindled Seizures on Respiratory Function”

JSHS 2018-50

Additional presenters, who were winners by virtue of having their papers accepted, included Allison Brasch (Waterloo West High School), Mason Burlage (Beckman Catholic High School), Ava Depping (Madrid High School), Serenity Haynes (Central Lee High School), Sean Kluesner (Beckman Catholic High School), Pearl Krieger Coble (Winfield-Mt. Union High School), Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School), Kathryn McCarthy (Sioux City East High School), Evylin Merydith (Keokuk High School), Tyler Montgomery (Kennedy High School), Elizabeth Smith (Waterloo West High School), Laura Stowater (Algona High School), Shelby Westhoff (Beckman Catholic High School).

The top five finalists will attend an expense-paid trip to the JSHS National Symposium next month in Hunt Valley, MD to present their research and compete for additional prizes.

To see all the fun we had, including tours of the IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering, Iowa Flood Center, and Additive Manufacturing-Integrated Product Realization Laboratory (AMPRL) in the University of Iowa Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, check out our full photo album! Congratulations to all, and good luck at Nationals!

 

Curious About Research?

Do you know academically talented teenagers who show curiosity or promise in doing research, or are you one yourself? Then you need to know about the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), where students can experience lots of different types of research happening at a top public research university!

Students in grades 8–10 (academic year 2017–2018) may apply for the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), a two-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center.

At PRSI, students will participate in seminars with university faculty, tour their research facilities, and study their publications. While students will spend some of their time learning advanced lab techniques, they will not be conducting original research in this program. Rather, they will be granted an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at research while it’s happening, in fields such as anthropology, business, education, engineering, medicine, psychology, sustainability, and more. This “backstage pass” approach will help students develop an understanding of research that extends well beyond bench science.

During off-hours, students can expect plenty of fun getting to know other bright teenagers who are also interested in research! They will even experience an authentic taste of life on a university campus, complete with two weeks of living with a roommate in the residence halls. Evening activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. Social events are scheduled, and students will be granted access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities and study areas.

Don’t miss this unique chance to see how research works, up close and personal; experience college life for two weeks; and meet new friends with similar abilities and interests! Applications are open through March 16 at www.belinblank.org/students. The program will run from July 8–July 20, 2018.

summer program students looking at university science research

Looking for more research programs for high school students? Check out the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). PRSI is great preparation for programs like these!

 

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

 

Teachers: What Are You Learning This Summer?

The Belin-Blank Center will provide a variety of options this summer – both for experienced and new/new-to-GT teachers!

Belin-Blank Fellowship: Apply by March 4

We invite teachers who do NOT have a background in gifted education to join us June 22-26, 2015 for the 35th Annual Belin-Blank Fellowship, an intensive week-long learning institute for educators interested in gifted and talented learners.  Facilitated by Dr. Laurie Croft, the Fellowship includes guest presentations from professionals such as Dr. Susan Assouline, Director; Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, Director Emeritus and Dean of the College of Education, and Dr. Randy Lange, Adjunct Instructor and Enrichment Coordinator, LaGrange (IL) District 102. The application and letter of support from an administrator should be submitted online.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

In July, the Belin-Blank Center is hosting the second Chautauqua series in Iowa City.  Chautauqua I (July 13-18, including class on Saturday) and Chautauqua II (July 20 – 25, including class on Saturday) will feature six separate workshops on campus with additional online components.

Chautauqua I
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications (M-T)
  • Programming/Curriculum for High-Ability Students: Facilitating Student Research Projects (W-Th)
  • Differentiating Projects with Technology (F-S)
Chautauqua II
  • Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted (M-T)
  • Special Topics: Effective Instructional Strategies for Gifted Education (W-Th)
  • Evaluation of Gifted Programs (F-S)

Participants who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—will again receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four).

Limited housing will be available at Burge Hall, adjacent to Blank Honors Center, for those enrolling in all three workshops during either Chautauqua. Contact Melissa Keeling at 800-336-6463 or melissa-keeling@uiowa.edu for registration information. Single rooms are available for $57/night; double rooms are $40/person/night.

More details will be available online early in March.

Summer Classes

In addition to face-to-face classes during Chautauqua I and II this summer, the Center provides a variety of online classes in professional development.

Online classes include:

  • Programming and Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real-World Problem Solving
  • Ethnic and cultural Issues and Giftedness
  • Cognitive/Affective Needs of the Gifted
  • Differentiated Instruction for the Gifted
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
  • Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education
  • Special Topics: Writing for High-Ability Learners

The Belin-Blank Center also hosts the Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute (APTTI) during the week of July 6 – 10. Participants may enroll for two hours of credit; the Center provides an automatic tuition scholarship for 50% of the graduate-level tuition.  As well, APTTI participants may enroll in Differentiation at the Secondary Level for a third hour of credit (APTTI participants will also receive the scholarship for this credit hour).

All workshops, on campus or online, fulfill requirements for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  Early in March, more information will be available on our website.

Down Under and to the Left…

(L to R) Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director of the Belin-Blank Center; Professor Emirita Miraca Gross; Ms. Bronwyn MacLeod

Greetings from down under!  I’m spending the week in Sydney with gifted colleagues, Professor Emirita Miraca Gross (center),  and Ms. Bronwyn MacLeod (right), where I have the honor of serving as the international guest lecturer for the 23rd session of the University of New South Wales COGE (Certificate of Gifted Education).   It’s easy to adjust to the change in climate (it’s summer and there are many hours of sunlight . . . ).  The time difference is a bit more challenging.  But this group of educators is bright and passionate and very energizing which makes the minor inconveniences well worth it.

Another adjustment is walking on the left side of the street,  hallway, and stairs, or even just figuring out where the up/down escalators are (hint:  think left).  Shifting to the left was the (unintentional) theme of my first lecture:  Definitions of Giftedness and Talent:  Key Influences and Influencers.  We started with a historical perspective, which connected us with the development of IQ tests and a psychometric approach to thinking about giftedness . . . and we concluded with a discussion based upon the comprehensive monograph by Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell (2011), “Rethinking Giftedness and Gifted Education:  A proposed Direction Forward Based on Psychological Science,” in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

We’re off to a great start.  Today (or tomorrow, depending on where you are in the world), we’ll tackle twice-exceptionality – and we’ll have pictures of the members of COGE.

B-BC Well-Represented in Journal of Applied School Psychology

The October-December 2011 Journal of Applied School Psychology was a special issue focusing on school psychologists who work with gifted students.  The issue was co-edited by the Belin-Blank Center’s Megan Foley Nicpon (who also co-authored the introduction to the issue).  Also in the special issue is an article on twice-exceptionality and its implications for school psychologists by the Center’s Susan Assouline and Claire Whiteman.

How Do You Predict Achievement in Twice-Exceptional Students?

The Belin-Blank Center’s Susan G. Assouline, Megan Foley Nicpon, and Lori Dockery recently published an article in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. In the article, “Predicting the Academic Achievement of Gifted Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” the authors report promising results for the WISC-IV Working Memory and Processing Speed Indices and the WISC Perceptual Reasoning Index as predictive of achievement for twice-exceptional students.

How Well Are We Educating Our Gifted Children?

The National Association for Gifted Children released its 2010-2011 biannual report on the status of gifted education in the United States.  Check out Tamara Fisher’s great blog post on the new report, which includes some of the main findings from the report.

B-BC Partners with Russian Educators

The Belin-Blank Center recently hosted 13 administrators from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Moscow.  The visit allowed the university administrators to learn more about policies and practices at The University of Iowa and benefit from the wide array of expertise here, especially in the College of Engineering.  A second group of administrators from NUST will be visiting in late April.

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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.

Anti-intellectualism: A hurdle

Dr. Nicholas Colangelo

Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, Director, Belin-Blank Center

One of the biggest obstacles that gifted education faces is anti-intellectualism, which Richard Hofstader defined as “a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life.”

Anti-intellectualism is most damaging to our young gifted students, who face disrespect and even ridicule for what we as a society should consider good things – excitement about new ideas, high test scores, and good grades.

What can we do about it? Schools can display student accomplishments not only in sports, but also in academics, music, and art. Teachers and parents can recognize gifted programs not as undemocratic or elitist, but as a way of accommodating individual student needs. Finally, we can recognize that anti-giftedness is anti-intellectual and ignores individual differences in abilities.

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/.