Here in Iowa, we know a thing or two about writing.
Let us bring our UNESCO City of Literature and the Writing University to your home with the Writers’ Room!
The Writers’ Room is a collection of online creative writing classes for students in grades 6-12. Challenge yourself by exploring form, discussing creative writing fundamentals, and completing stimulating assignments. Receive individual feedback on your work from world-class faculty and graduates of the University of Iowa’s famed writing programs. Learn how to give and receive artist-centered feedback with your peers and enjoy the benefits of building a community with other inspired young writers.
Join the community
Our community of student writers is impressive and welcoming. Check out this digital anthology of past students’ work. You could be next!
“I really enjoyed the fact that the teachers seemed to be so engaged, and that I was able to make friends, even online. My confidence as a writer has been so strengthened by this experience.”
– Summer 2020 student writer
Get your seat at the table
Submit your application to the Writers’ Room today to make your writing stand out from the crowd. Don’t wait – time and space are limited! Class starts September 14th (grades 6-9) and 15th (grades 9-12).
Since many students were working remotely from home this spring, parents had the unique opportunity for an up-close view of what happens in school on a regular basis. Perhaps you are one of those parents who was surprised by how quickly your child grasped new material being taught, and now you have a nagging question in the back of your mind: “Will my child be adequately challenged by his or her school placement in the upcoming school year?”
If you suspect the answer may be “No,” the next question is what would challenge your child appropriately? Does he or she need to skip a grade? Move ahead in math? One of the best tools for gathering evidence for acceleration decisions like these is above-level testing. We’ve shared the secret of above-level testing here before; briefly, it involves administering a test designed for older students to bright young students in an effort to discover exceptional academic talent. This information helps us to understand what a student is ready to learn and if he or she is ready for the academic challenges presented by a grade skip or subject acceleration.
How do we get started? The Belin-Blank Center and many other university-based talent searches provide above-level testing. Students in 4th-6th grade take I-Excel. Even if your school isn’t currently offering group testing, your child could participate in individual testing using I-Excel. Details about this option are found here. Parents first identify a teacher who is willing to proctor the test, and begins the registration process using this form. The Belin-Blank Center also provides ACT testing for 7th-9th graders in a group setting. Once the above-level testing is completed, families receive a detailed eight-page report from the Belin-Blank Center explaining the test results and providing additional resources useful in making acceleration decisions.
We understand that these are challenging times, so we want to add that we aren’t trying to put additional stress on families or educators. Instead, we wanted to make sure that those of you who are ready to think about these issues have the tools you need to help inform your decisions. Our goal is to support you.
You will find much more information and links to decision-making tools and research about acceleration on the Acceleration Institute website, which is provided by the Belin-Blank Center. The Belin-Blank Center has been a catalyst for research and programming on academic acceleration for the past 30 years. We’re currently working on a new product, the Integrated Acceleration System, which will assist educators and families in working through the process of making decisions about grade-skipping, subject acceleration, early entrance to kindergarten, and early entrance to college. Sign up here if you would like more information about the Integrated Acceleration System as it becomes available.
We might be able to help! Above-level testing is a useful tool for gathering data needed for decisions such as: Does my student need additional challenge in a particular subject? Is my child ready to skip a grade?
I-Excel testing will be available this summer. Bright 4th-6th graders can take the test individually or in small groups (supervised by a proctor). I-Excel is an online test, so we are able to offer testing even if schools have not yet reopened. Parents and relatives are not allowed to proctor the test, so testing cannot occur until the stay-at-home guidance is no longer in effect. Licensed educators may proctor the test.
Are you interested in learning more about I-Excel testing for your child or students in your school? Contact us at email@example.com.
We at the Belin-Blank Center are happy to support parents and students in whatever ways we can. Our primary concern is the safety and health of all involved. We recommend that you follow the guidance provided by your governor and local authorities in terms of meeting with people outside your family any time in the next few months.
Michelangelo is credited with saying, “the greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
Fall 2019 is the right time to expand our toolkits to learn
new ways to support the needs of gifted and talented learners. Of course, teachers earning their
endorsements in gifted education have registered as distance learners and
enrolled for credits this fall (courses with no instructor listed are
facilitated by Dr. Laurie
of Giftedness (PSQF:4120:0EXW), offered over Fall semester. (Dr.
to Educating Gifted Students (RCE/EDTL:4137:0EXW and 0EXU) has two sections
for the first time. Offered in an
accelerated format over the first eight weeks of the semester, the class has
more students than ever before. (Drs. Laurie
Croft and Kim
of Talent Development (EDTL:4067:0EXW), offered in the second eight weeks
of the semester.
Beginning at the ITAG Conference, October 14-15,
Des Moines, two semester hours of credit can be completed by teachers new to
gifted education (RCE:5237:0EXW Seminar in Gifted Education – TAG:
You’re It). This section helps guide
participants through basics that they will need to consider throughout their
first years in gifted education.
Several one-semester-hour classes, offered in the workshop format, are available this fall. These classes have no additional technology fees and focus over three weeks on one topic:
EDTL:4096:0WKA Topics: Effective Curriculum for Underserved Gifted Students tackles one of the field’s greatest challenges through a study of the book by the same name (September 10 – 30, 2019). (Dr. Chandler)
One or two semester hours can be earned by attending the ITAG Conference, October 14-15, Des Moines (PSQF:5194:0WKA Continuing Education Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted Education ITAG 2019), and completing projects of benefit to the gifted program.
Another semester hour (PSQF:5194:0WKC Continuing Education Individual Study: Identifying and Serving Young Gifted Children) begins at the ITAG Pre-Conference facilitated by Dr. Sally Beisser, Distinguished Professor of Education at Drake University, and continues online with Dr. Croft.
One more semester-hour this fall, EDTL:4096:0WKB Topics: Competitions for Elementary and Secondary Gifted and Talented Students, helps teachers understand the advantages and disadvantages of involving gifted learners in competitions. (Dr. Jenelle Miller)
The practicum experience required for the Talented and
Gifted Endorsement is available every semester.
Aim high as this new year begins. Develop your understanding of the nature and
needs of high-ability learners, as well as ways to begin to meet those needs.
Do you know someone who would like to learn more about the nature and needs of gifted learners? Someone who could help advocate for your district’s high-ability learners and the school’s gifted/talented program? Encourage them to look at the information about the Belin-Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education (Belin-Blank Fellowship), one of the nation’s longest running professional development programs. Applications are being accepted for this summer’s Fellowship, to be held on the University of Iowa campus from June 23 – 28, 2019!
For almost 40 years, the Fellowship has been offering educators, school counselors, administrators, and others, the opportunity to learn more about best practices in supporting the needs of gifted learners. The program admits 12 educators who want to:
Learn effective new ways to recognize gifted/talented students and meet their unique affective needs.
Enhance their abilities to meet the different academic needs of gifted/talented students.
Act as an effective resource in gifted education for other educators in their schools and districts.
Review their new knowledge and skills for applications to ALL youngsters in their classes.
Nurture the sense of social responsibility in the use and development of talents among gifted students.
The Belin-Blank Center provides full room and board near the Blank Honors Center, where participants hear from leaders in gifted education, and have the chance to ask questions about identifying gifted learners and developing the talents of their highest-ability learners. Participants receive an extensive collection of professional materials, and those who choose to enroll for two semester hours of graduate credit receive an automatic 50% tuition scholarship.
This program is not designed for those who are already taking coursework to complete an endorsement in gifted education; it IS intended to develop the understanding of others in your school who will develop their own skills to work effectively with gifted and talented students, as well as support school and district goals to maximize learning for allstudents, including those who are ready for more.
This is when we need to start shifting our thinking from creating one
gifted program that serves the “all-around gifted student” to providing
services for students with strengths in specific areas. This shift in thinking
helps us to be more responsive to our students’ needs and helps ensure that
they are challenged in school every day.
Subject acceleration (also called content acceleration) is useful for students who have demonstrated advanced ability in one or more academic areas. Examples include a 2nd grader moving into the 3rd grade classroom for reading, a student taking an Advanced Placement (AP) course, or grouping several advanced 6th graders for math instruction. Subject acceleration can be appropriate for a high-ability student who isn’t recommended for whole-grade acceleration, exhibits an uneven academic profile with an extreme strength area, or has already skipped a grade but needs additional challenge in one area.
Some people might be concerned that subject acceleration may
cause academic harm or put students in situations that are too challenging. Research (such as that provided in A Nation
Empowered) tells us otherwise:
High ability students engage in abstract
thinking at a younger age than typical students.
Accelerated students do not have gaps in their
Accelerated students will not run out of
courses before high school graduation. (Students never really run out of
content to study, but the high school might not offer the next course that is
needed. In this situation, a student might need to utilize other options, such
as dual enrollment or online coursework.)
Accelerated students do not “burn out.” Research
shows that acceleration leads to higher levels of achievement.
Others may argue that, “We already have enrichment, so why
do students need content acceleration?” We agree that STEM clubs, science
fairs, English festivals, and pull-out programs provide valuable enrichment.
However, they do not provide a systematic progression through the curriculum.
Subject acceleration has many advantages:
The regular classroom teacher does not have to
search for materials for the advanced student, because that student is removed
during class (for example, the student moves to a different class for math).
It is more likely that the student will be
grouped with intellectual peers.
The student receives credit for work completed.
The student is appropriately challenged and
therefore remains interested in the subject (and in school).
Research clearly supports the use of
acceleration with academically talented students.
The disadvantages of subject acceleration include:
Although the student is now working at a higher level, the pace may still be too slow.
If the student is accelerated by only one year, there may be little new content.
The student may not receive credit for high school courses completed before enrolling in high school due to district policies.
Additional planning and discussion time may be required, if subject acceleration is new in a school or to a particular group of educators.
Long-term planning is essential, so the student does not “run out” of coursework before graduating from high school.
Utilizing subject acceleration can be challenging, and it requires
us to consider a variety of questions:
How are grades and credit assigned?
When completing the school’s regular testing,
which grade-level achievement test does the student take (“age-appropriate” or
What transportation is needed?
How do we schedule the same subject at the same
time for the two grade levels? (For example, one district offers math at the
same time every day across the district, so students don’t miss another subject
if they are accelerated for math.)
What indicators of accelerated coursework are
needed on the student’s transcript?
How is class rank determined?
Subject acceleration requires careful thought and planning. However, the time invested in thinking through some of the challenges and long-term issues presented by subject acceleration provides an important result: students who are appropriately challenged and engaged in school.