Tag Archives: gifted education

Professional Development for Spring and Summer 2023

“Teachers benefit from professional development trainings that are focused, purposeful, provide examples of what the targeted expectation should look like, and allow teachers the opportunity to apply what they have learned and implement it into their instruction”

(Keely Blair P’Pool, 2021, p. 100)
Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

That is why professional development has been an integral part of the Belin-Blank Center since 1980, when Dr. Nicholas Colangelo, founding director of the Center, was first talking with Connie and David Belin and Jaqueline and Mike Blank about how to best support gifted and talented children.

Winter Session

Over winter break, the Center will offer EDTL:4085:0WKA Current Readings & Research in Gifted Education (December 21, 2022 – January 13, 2023), allowing “just-in-time” professional learning on topics of most interest to participants.

Spring Semester

In Spring of 2023, the Center is offering three-semester-hour extension classes (Identification, Program Models, Curriculum Concepts) and a two-semester-hour class about Administration and Policy Issues.  A variety of workshops are also available.  Check belinblank.org/courses after the Thanksgiving holiday to see everything that is available.

Summer Professional Development Options

Belin-Blank Fellowship

The Belin-Blank Center will host the 43rd Connie Belin & Jaqueline N. Blank Fellowship Program in Gifted Education, July 16 – 21, 2023, on campus at the University of Iowa.  One of the longest-running professional learning programs in the country, the Fellowship allows those with little background in gifted education and talent development to immerse themselves in ways to identify and understand gifted students, including those who have been traditionally underrepresented, and ways to develop students’ talents.  This is the time for parents and teachers of the gifted to find allies in their schools, urging those who have an interest and would benefit from the program to apply for the Fellowship, free of cost to participants (although participants do need to cover the cost of travel to Iowa City).  Room and board, as well as presentations from experts in the field, are all part of the Fellowship.  Teacher leaders / instructional coaches are especially welcome!  Anyone wanting to earn academic credit can enroll in CSED:5237:0WKA.  Look for application materials in mid-January (belinblank.org/fellowship)!

Online Coursework

Summer of 2023 will offer both PSQF:4123:0EXW Academic Acceleration and the CSED or EDTL:4137:0EXW Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (both three-semester-hour extension classes), as well as multiple online and asynchronous one-semester-hour courses, offered in a workshop format.  Everything available will be posted at belinblank.org/courses early in December.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

As well as online opportunities, the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (belinblank.org/chautauqua) will take place in June 2023.  Over the two weeks from June 12 – 17 and June 19 – 24, participants will have an opportunity to participate in up to six workshops that will include two days of either face-to-face interaction on campus in Blank Honors Center or via Zoom (participants may choose the option best for them).  Those who enroll at the graduate level for all three workshops in either week—or both—receive an automatic tuition scholarship from the Belin-Blank Center for one of three classes (i.e., three workshops for the cost of two; six for the cost of four). Chautauqua offers opportunities in the Psychology, Programming, and Administrative strands, making earning the endorsement easier than ever.  Chautauqua classes differ from summer to summer, allowing those interested in the endorsement (belinblank.org/endorsement) to complete all of their work through Chautauqua over two summers.  Between online and Chautauqua opportunities, endorsement candidates can complete all of their work before the next academic year.

Get Registered for Credit

To participate in endorsement classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the purposes of the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student regardless of your professional status. In other words, if you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most (belinblank.org/educators/reg).

Policy: A Fundamental Component in an Acceleration Plan

Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska gave an important talk at a previous Belin-Blank Center conference on “The Research and Practice of Acceleration for Gifted Students: Toward Policy Development.” She explained that acceleration policy is needed:

  1. To ensure that it happens consistently across districts, individual students, and time;
  2. To provide guidance for educational decisions about acceleration options; and
  3. To ensure that it is presented as one of the basic provisions for gifted students at all stages of development.
Photo by Nicole Berro on Pexels.com

The research on academic acceleration is the strongest research and the best practice we have in gifted education. Nothing else comes close.  Both short-term and longitudinal studies consistently demonstrate the power of acceleration for gifted students; for example, in one study of students who had accelerated 38 years prior, researchers found accelerated students earned terminal degrees (e.g., Ph.D., J.D., or M.D.) at a rate substantially higher than in the general population (37-43% in the accelerated group compared to only 1% in the general population), performed at a high level in their careers, demonstrated a higher rate of patents and publications, earned higher salaries, etc.

Acceleration can be used as the catalyst for talent development in schools.  Schools should provide:

  1. Advanced opportunities as early as possible in identified areas of aptitude;
  2. Sustained practice of the progressive development of skills under the guidance of a coach, tutor, or mentor;
  3. Competitions in the area of strength, so students can see what excellence looks like; and
  4. Collaboration on expert teams for performance.

The above recommendations are consistent with those provided by the National Science Foundation (2010), which calls for more use of inquiry through project-based learning, more research preparation, and more emphasis on career development.

If we accelerate gifted students, what does that look like at each stage?  Dr. VanTassel-Baska recommends using acceleration as the first intervention, then providing enrichment and other services. By using acceleration as the first intervention, we are starting with the evidence-based provision. Higher levels of functioning demand that we raise the level of curricular challenge; this ensures a good match with the student’s readiness for learning.  In short, gifted students who are ready for more advanced curriculum need acceleration.

Acceleration is flexible. It can be provided in different ways, from content acceleration to grade skipping (20 different types of acceleration are listed in A Nation Empowered). Acceleration can be provided at different times during a student’s development, it can be provided for a group or individually, and the types of acceleration can be used alone or in combination.

Content acceleration options at all stages of development should be a core for acceleration policy.  Policymakers and practitioners should consider utilizing existing practices. For example, if an option for testing out of high school courses is available for students who have difficulties, this option should be made available for gifted students as well.

Both research and effective practice demonstrate the power of acceleration with high-ability learners. Acceleration is the first and most important differentiation tool for instruction for gifted students and needs to be acknowledged as such. Our gifted programs would be far more effective if strong acceleration policies were enacted.

We thank Dr. VanTassel-Baska for presenting this important talk.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies

The publication, Developing Academic Acceleration Policies: Whole Grade, Early Entrance, and Single Subject is available online. This publication, a project of the Belin-Blank Center and the National Association for Gifted Children, was published in 2018.

Developing Academic Acceleration Policies uses current research and practical considerations of school-based issues to guide decision-making. It includes recommended elements of whole-grade acceleration policies, early entrance to kindergarten or first grade policies, and subject-acceleration policies. Each section includes a checklist of items to consider while developing those specific policies. The information provided is supported by recent research.  Lists of resources are also included.  Download your copy of the publication from the Acceleration Institute website.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

Additional Notes from the Belin-Blank Center

  • See the 2-volume book, A Nation Empowered (nationempowered.org), which provides the latest information on research and practice in acceleration.
  • The Acceleration Institute (accelerationinstitute.org) contains many resources for making decisions about acceleration and
    implementing acceleration policies.
  •  The Integrated Acceleration System is a useful tool for making decisions about a grade skip. Other forms of acceleration will be included soon.

Advanced Coursework Opportunities Free for Iowa’s Rural Schools 

The College Board’s Advanced Placement® (AP) program allows high school students to complete college-level coursework. Additionally, success on the associated AP exams can translate into college credit. In fact, AP credit is accepted or recognized by the three public universities in Iowa, as well as many colleges and universities throughout the country. This gives students the opportunity to earn college credit at a greatly reduced cost while still in high school. However, despite these benefits, rural schools still fall behind urban and suburban schools in their AP course offerings. 

Providing the appropriate level of challenge to gifted and talented students is not always easy for rural schools. Offering AP courses requires additional resources such as teachers and training, and sometimes it is simply not possible to offer an AP course for only one or two students. The Iowa Online AP® Academy (IOAPA) provides free access to nearly 30 online advanced courses for Iowa students who would not otherwise have access to these courses in their schools. IOAPA classes include Advanced Placement® courses for high school students as well as high school-level courses for eligible middle school students. Unlike courses offered by community colleges, IOAPA’s AP courses are designed for bright high schoolers. They introduce college-level material in a way that is approachable for a high school student. IOAPA also offers AP exam scholarships to IOAPA high school students, with preference given to students from rural schools, so cost is no longer a barrier to taking an AP exam.  

The IOAPA team also publishes the Iowa AP Index, another way to provide recognition to Iowa schools. The Iowa AP Index recognizes the Top 50 Iowa accredited public and nonpublic high schools for providing Advanced Placement opportunities to Iowa’s high school students. Every public and nonpublic high school in Iowa accredited by the state Department of Education and that administered AP exams the prior year is invited to participate. The Iowa AP Index for a given high school is the ratio of AP exams taken by its students (any grade) divided by the number of its graduating seniors. This means that smaller schools still have similar opportunities to be recognized for providing their students with advanced coursework. 

The Belin-Blank Center will begin registration for spring semester IOAPA courses on November 7th. If you have any questions about your Iowa school’s eligibility for IOAPA courses, email us at ioapa@belinblank.org.  

Recent Research on Twice-Exceptionality

The Belin-Blank Center has an extensive body of work on twice-exceptionality — from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to professional learning to leading research. Our director, Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon, is a leader in that field. Here are some of the recent publications that come from her work.

Policy Considerations for Twice-Exceptional Students

Abstract: Policies for talented students with disabilities, or twice-exceptional students, exist in very few states across the country. Historically, families of twice-exceptional students have found most of their support through implementation of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Accommodation plans. Yet, there is no federal mandate for gifted education service provision; consequently, these students’ coexisting high abilities often are overlooked. We recommend states modify their gifted and talented policies to address specifically twice-exceptional best practices in identification, such as using universal screening methods tied to curriculum interventions, and intervention, such as creating Gifted Individual Education Plans in conjunction with IEPs. These methods outline not only service provision for one’s disability but also specify methods for developing talent among twice-exceptional youth. (Foley-Nicpon, M., & Teriba, A. (2022). Policy considerations for twice-exceptional students. Gifted Child Today, 45(1), 212-219. https://doi.org/10.1177/10762175221110943)

Developmental Milestones as Early Indicators of Twice-Exceptionality”

Abstract: Twice-exceptional individuals are those who have high cognitive ability in one or more areas, but also have a diagnosed disability. The needs of these individuals likely differ from those with high cognitive ability without a disability and those who solely have a disability. Intervening early can offer exceptional benefits for twice-exceptional individuals, but this has proved challenging due to the high cognitive abilities masking disabilities. This study explores if parent-reported developmental milestones can predict the number of disabilities diagnosed for an individual, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). Using a clinical sample of about 1,300 individuals, we used a Bayesian cumulative logistic model to explore if developmental milestones can predict the number of diagnoses after controlling for IQ and age. Study results showed that when an individual began to count and read informed predictions for the number of future diagnoses in the clinical sample. Implications for future study and practitioners are discussed in further detail. (LeBeau, B., Schabilion, K., Assouline, S. G., Foley-Nicpon, M., Doobay, A. F., & Mahatmya, D. (2022). Developmental milestones as early indicators of twice-exceptionality. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nlm.2022.107671)

Excellence Expected, Needs Overlooked: Implications for Working With Asian American Twice-Exceptional Students”

Abstract: Twice-exceptional students often face challenges stemming from misconception, misidentification, or misplacement in educational systems (Foley-Nicpon & Candler, 2018). Because the disability may mask the gift/talent domain or the gift/ talent domain may mask the disability, it can be challenging to recognize these students and appropriately respond to their learning needs (Baldwin et al., 2015). For Asian Americans in particular, the Asian American community has vocalized the problematic nature of ignoring the heterogeneity and diversity within the community and the impact this has on their education (Park, 2019; Wong, 2015). Without considering their racialized experiences, the learning and social and emotional needs of Asian American twice- exceptional (AA2E) students might not be captured fully. Asian American students are well represented in the U.S. gifted and talented education (GATE) system; they are 5% of school populations but 10% of GATE populations (Civil Rights Data Collection, n.d.; Ford, 2013). These data seem to support the model minority stereotype, a stereotype that can negatively affect talented and gifted Asian American students who may feel pressured to maintain high standards and internalize this high expectation (Henfield et al., 2014; Mun & Hertzog, 2019; Wong, 2015). When “what giftedness or disability should look like” meets “what Asian American should be like,” the multilayered stereotypes make it even harder to recognize, understand, and respond to the needs of AA2E students. In this article, we discuss the development and needs of AA2E students. We provide strategies to support practitioners in addressing (a) the diversity within the Asian American community, (b) family culture and dynamics regarding immigration and education, and (c) mental health needs of AA2E students. We hope to leave teachers and educational practitioners feeling better able to support the needs of diverse AA2E students in their classrooms. (Park, S., & Foley-Nicpon, M. (2022). Excellence expected, needs overlooked: Implications for working with Asian American twice-exceptional students. Teaching Exceptional Children. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F00400599221097020)

To hear more about the Belin-Blank Center’s research, be sure to attend our presentations or stop by Booth 506 at the National Association for Gifted Children 69th Annual Convention in Indianapolis next month!

5 Things That Every Educator and School System Should Know 

The Gifted Education field is more committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion than ever. In August 2022, the National Association for Gifted Children hosted its second annual National Symposium on Equity for Black and Brown Students. The Belin-Blank Center started its Academy for Twice-Exceptionality in the Fall of 2021. Researchers and national gifted education centers are focusing on key issues and providing schools with practical ideas to implement. Here are five essential ideas and/or resources to help schools do this. 

Donna Y. Ford’s Equity Goal and Equity Formula

Dr. Ford believes that schools and program schools must be deliberate in setting specific minimal goals, especially regarding representation, to be equitable for their students. She introduced the Equity Formula that supplies a target percentage goal to better address underrepresentation in advanced programming. With this target in mind, decision and policymakers can review current placement criteria and/or processes to find barriers for students traditionally “missed” for advanced programming within a school system. This article shares more information on this important idea.  

Local Norms

For too long, gifted programs used national percentiles in deciding who was identified for a variety of advanced programming. While a national perspective has some degree of value in interpreting scores, especially at the district level, a specific program at a particular site does not need to cast such a wide perspective on scores. Schools should serve the students within them, so it makes much more sense to compare the students within a school. Dr. Scott Peters has written prolifically on the benefits of using per school local norms in helping to make gifted programs more equitable. Here is an article detailing “Everything You Need to Know” about local norms.  

Tips for Improving Identification of Gifted EL Students

The face of America’s students is changing. In the Fall of 2020, Hispanic students made up 28% of public school students. Because gifts and talents are found among all populations, schools must do a better job of discovering students for advanced programs within this population. The National Center for Research on Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut conducts excellent research that often results in practical resources for schools. Their tips address screening, identification, communication, and professional development. These tips are also available as a downloadable pdf.  

Jacob’s Ladder Program

There is great power in scaffolding as an intervention. Students with high potential might need focused support to better access critical and creative thinking tasks. Dr. Tamra Stambaugh began working with an interactive approach to scaffold reading as a graduate student at the College of William & Mary. As a result, the Jacob’s Ladder Reading Comprehension Program was developed. Using a ladder image, students move from lower-order, concrete thinking skills to higher-order, critical and creative thinking skills. The critical thinking skills (consequences and implications, generalizations, and main idea/theme/concept) are based on the work of Paul’s Reasoning Model. In addition to “ladders” related to short stories, poems, fables, and non-fiction, there are ladders that focus on affective skills.  

The Paradox of Giftedness and Autism

According to the Autistic Society’s research, approximately fifty children are diagnosed with autism in the United States every day. With the increasing number of autistic students across the country, schools and families must work together to support student success. While it is essential to focus on the strengths of all students diagnosed with autism, this is a non-negotiable when working with the twice-exceptional student population. The Belin-Blank Center drafted a Packet of Information to supply recommendations for administrators and educators that would lead to a positive experience for twice-exceptional students. The experience-based information and suggestions offered in this resource have resulted from working with gifted students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder through our Assessment and Counseling Clinic.   

We encourage you to view this list as a foundation and a catalyst. The five items shared here are research-based and should be considered in any effort to better address diversity, equity, and inclusion within a program for advanced students. They have been developed from solid thinking, so they serve as an excellent foundation from which to grow. Inevitably, new ideas that will help schools will be forthcoming from leaders in the field. We urge practitioners, especially those in decision-making positions, to stay up-to-date with current research and research-based resources. It is our hope that this list serves as that spark! 

For You at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any of the helpful information for talented students, families, and educators this semester!

An icon of a calendar

FOR EDUCATORS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Information Sessions

  • On Campus: November 3, 2022
  • Online: November 8 or December 6, 2022

Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Information Session

  • Online: 6:30 pm on November 9, 2022

Computer Science Python Fundamentals

  • Start anytime!
  • Access ends June 30, 2023

Disability as Diversity in Gifted Education

Students with disabilities are often underrepresented in gifted education programs. Being “twice-exceptional,” (the coexistence of disability and high ability) seems paradoxical to many, despite growing awareness of and research on twice-exceptionality. Here are a few tips for increasing twice-exceptional (2e) students’ access to gifted services.

Increase communication between gifted, general, and special education teams. Often, students who are identified for special education services first are eliminated from consideration for gifted programming (either intentionally or accidentally). Increasing opportunities for collaboration across classroom environments can promote the identification of talents among students with disabilities.

Use universal screenings in place of nomination or referral processes. As with other underrepresented groups, unconscious biases can prevent the referral of 2e students for further evaluation. Reliance on nomination or referral procedures as an entry point for further evaluation will likely exclude students who could otherwise benefit from participation. Benchmark assessments and other curriculum-based measures can be used as screening tools without requiring additional testing.

Use domain-specific rather than global talent identification processes. Reliance on one overall measure of talent will likely inaccurately exclude 2e students, whose cognitive and academic profiles are often more variable. Consideration of available programming can help determine the domains to assess, as identification processes should always be aligned with services.

For more information on serving twice-exceptional students, visit our Assessment and Counseling Clinic‘s website.

What Does the Research Say About Academic Acceleration?

Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

At the Belin-Blank Center, we are big fans of academic acceleration. Why? Because it is a research-based best practice. Acceleration is “…one of the cornerstones of exemplary gifted education practices, with more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted individuals” (from the National Association for Gifted Children position statement on acceleration).

Academically, acceleration provides a better match between a student’s abilities and the curriculum. Socially, acceleration places students with academic peers who are similar both in terms of their intellectual level and in terms of their interests.

What does the research say? Acceleration benefits students both in the short-term and in the long-term.

Short-Term Benefits

In terms of academics, accelerated students are more challenged and therefore more engaged in school. Research studies have demonstrated that academically talented students who enter school early do very well compared to their older classmates and, as a group, those who enter college early perform very well academically and socially. There may be a bit of an adjustment period, but accelerated students (those who skip a grade or move ahead in a particular subject) earn good grades, demonstrate they do not have gaps in their knowledge, and continue to perform well in school in later years.

Socially, accelerated students tend to perform as well as or slightly better than their age peers. They also perform as well as or slightly better than the older students in the new grade. They fit in, which means that our concern about acceleration somehow damaging students’ social development is unfounded. As a group, they do just fine socially.

Long-Term Benefits

Acceleration has long-term beneficial effects, both academic and social. Accelerated students tend to be more ambitious, earning graduate degrees at higher rates. They hold more prestigious jobs and have a higher productivity rate. Some students say they wish they had accelerated more. They talk about “the gift of time,” meaning that they view the time saved as an opportunity to pursue an additional graduate degree, participate in diverse projects, travel, and get a head start on their careers. Longitudinal research shows us that accelerated students even have an economic advantage: They earn higher salaries than their age peers and higher salaries than the older peers with whom they graduated.

The longitudinal research on social development and academic acceleration is positive overall. Looking back, an overwhelming majority of accelerated students say acceleration was the right decision for them. They do talk about some challenges (for example, being too young to date), but the students say they would do it again, if given the opportunity. In fact, in a 2020 study (Bernstein, Lubinski, and Benbow) that followed accelerated students for 35 years, the authors state that our concerns about a negative impact of acceleration on social/emotional development are “fruitless.”

Photo by Sam Lion on Pexels.com

Dare We Say It? Not Accelerating Students Who Are Ready is Educational Malpractice

Maybe those are strong words, but with all the research supporting the decision to accelerate students who are ready, doesn’t it make sense to at least consider this option? Have courage and do your research! There is a lot of information available to help you make informed, research-based decisions in the best interests of your students.

For More Information

A Nation Empowered:

  • Volume 1 was written for the educated layperson. It includes personal stories of acceleration as well as an overview of the research.
  • Volume 2: Contains the supporting research

Acceleration Institute:

  • Website with information useful to parents, educators, administrators, and policymakers.
  • Also see the Annotated Bibliography on the Acceleration Institute website. You’ll find sections on academic effects of acceleration, long-term effects, radical acceleration, rural students, etc.
Professional Development About Acceleration:
Upcoming Webinar

The Belin-Blank Center regularly offers webinars on the Integrated Acceleration System for teachers and administrators. 
Learn more and sign up here.

Message from the Director: New Beginnings

by Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, Belin-Blank Center Director

August is synonymous with new beginnings for many of us.

Kids are heading back to school – it is my favorite time to check social media feeds to see friends post first-day-of-school pictures. On campus, we welcomed new students from across the globe, including new arrivals to our Bucksbaum Early Entrance and Twice-Exceptional Academies. Over the weekend, thousands of students met new friends, ate ice cream on the University of Iowa’s President’s lawn, and learned the Iowa fight song.

It’s a great time to be a Hawkeye!  

New beginnings are also happening at the Belin-Blank Center – I started as Director on August 1st.

I am not new to Iowa or the Center, however. I arrived in January 2004 as a postdoctoral scholar in the Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic. I later became a licensed psychologist, focusing mainly on assessment and intervention with twice-exceptional youth. In 2008, I joined the UI Counseling Psychology faculty.

There, I have had the honor of training future child psychologists, researching talent development among underrepresented groups, and serving the college, University, and Iowa community.

In the Belin-Blank Center’s 34-year history, there have been only two directors before me: Nicholas Colangelo and Susan Assouline. Both are giants in the field known internationally for their development of the Center, love for and dedication to talented youth, and commitment to creating best practices for acceleration and twice-exceptional intervention. I am honored to continue their legacy and the legacy of the Center.

I know these are big shoes to fill.

However, I join a dedicated staff and faculty who care deeply about the Center and its mission. I am certain we will continue to do great things. We seek to be the leaders in talent development for elementary through university-aged students; diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in gifted education; research and discovery for high ability and twice-exceptional youth; and collaboration and outreach both within and outside the University.

Together, we will embrace this new beginning and continue the Belin-Blank Center’s impact far into the future.

This Fall at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any of the helpful information for talented students, families, and educators this semester!

An icon of a calendar

FOR EDUCATORS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy Information Sessions

  • On Campus: September 12 or October 11, 2022
  • Online: November 8 or December 6, 2022

Academy for Twice-Exceptionality Information Sessions

  • On Campus: 10:00 am on October 18, 2022,
  • Online: 6:30 pm on August 31, September 28, or November 9, 2022

Learn to Develop Talent in Any Domain

Talent needs to be recognized and fostered within all domains and fields, so its focus must expand beyond K-12 classrooms and business. To that end, the Belin-Blank Center, in collaboration with the University of Iowa College of Education, has developed a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development. This certificate is hinged upon a broad perspective of talent development, and it will prepare professionals in any domain to recognize and develop talented people in whatever their field may be.  

What is talent development? Talent development is a systematic process that supplies the necessary skills and training, so an individual’s talent area(s) is actualized. Discovering and developing talent fosters equity when casting and considering a broader “net” and when the process includes proper support and accommodations.  

We are excited about this professional learning opportunity because of its potential to partner with multiple departments at the University of Iowa and professionals from various fields. While we predict the Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will attract K-12 pre-service and in-service educators, we drafted it to be relevant for individuals outside of education (e.g., the arts, STEM, athletics, or leadership).  

Our one-of-a-kind Graduate Certificate in Talent Development is open for Fall 2022 registration.

This meaningful learning experience can be completed 100% online or in a hybrid fashion. It is research-based, provides elective course choices within and outside education, and culminates with an interest-based project. If you have any questions, contact Randy Lange at randolph-lange@uiowa.edu 

Come learn with us! 

To learn more or register, visit our website.

Message From the Director: The Last Word

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Welcome back! 

After a two-year pandemic-imposed hiatus from onsite professional development and on-campus residential student programs, the hallways of the Blank Honors Center resound with the happy voices and excited footsteps of students and teachers. Their faces reflect the anticipation of making new friends and engaging in meaningful new learning. None of this would be possible without months of careful planning. Multiple teams of Belin-Blank Center colleagues attend to the details so participants can enjoy our comprehensive programming. I am very appreciative of my colleagues’ unflinching commitment to excellence. 

Welcome to our summer faculty and staff! Serving several hundred students and teachers takes many sets of hands, ears, eyes, feet, minds, and hearts. From residence hall advisors to student assistants to front-desk support, many of the summer program staff are undergraduate and graduate students. Their praises often go unsung, so I want to take this opportunity to thank them. 

Welcome to our many faculty colleagues who mentor and instruct students and teachers. This summer, we are pleased to have Ms. Cori Milan as the student program coordinator for our residential student programs, the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP), Perry Research Summer Institute (PRSI), and Summer Art/Writing Residencies (SAR/SWR). In addition to Ms. Milan, we will work with our colleague, Dr. Barry Schreier, a clinical professor in counseling psychology and the Director of Higher Education Programming at the Iowa Center for School Mental Health. Dr. Schreier leads our efforts to enhance the student experience through increased attention to social-emotional well-being and the professional development of the staff who support our students.  

Welcome to licensed psychologist Dr. Christopher Smith, the newest Assessment and Counseling Clinic staff member. Dr. Smith joins a dedicated team of professionals who kept the Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic open throughout the pandemic. 

Welcome to Dr. Megan Foley-Nicpon, recently named the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and the new Belin-Blank Center Director. Dr. Foley-Nicpon brings a wealth of experience to this position and is singularly qualified to become the third director of the Belin-Blank Center. Watching Dr. Foley-Nicpon present her formal job talk was one of the more joyous moments of my 32-year career. We’ve been colleagues since 2004, and she has enhanced the reputation of the Belin-Blank Center in multiple areas, including twice-exceptionality and talent development. Dr. Foley-Nicpon will begin her tenure as director in August, making this my final post as director. 

Welcoming new colleagues and delighting in the wonder of a Belin-Blank summer makes my last “Message from the Director” bittersweet. Nostalgia fills my thoughts as I reflect on the many moments that form decades of personal, professional, and organizational growth and development. We have done so much together during this time, and I know this team of professionals will have many more triumphs to come. 

I have had the opportunity to work with amazing colleagues and a dedicated advisory board. I have a loving family who has graced me with their phenomenal support throughout my entire career.  

I am now approaching my final weeks as the Myron and Jacqueline Blank Endowed Chair and Director of the Belin-Blank Center. Only one word adequately captures the sentiment that fills my heart: Gratitude. 

Belin-Blank Center Finalists Win Big at Nationals!

Finalists from two of our programs, Invent Iowa and the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), recently competed at the national level in their respective programs.

2022 Invent Iowa Finalists at the National Invention Convention

Invent Iowa finalists advanced to the National Invention Convention, hosted by the Henry Ford Museum.

Charles Smith (Ottumwa) won 2nd place in the 3rd-grade division, as well as Best Video Presentation, for his E.F.A.F. (Emergency Floor plan App for First responders). Jason Ahn (Ames) won a Patent Application Award and Best Logbook for his ARE Board (Auto Rolling & Erasing Whiteboard). Those who are interested can view the complete list of winners or watch the award ceremony replay.

Finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS earned an expense-paid trip to compete at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In the oral presentations, Amara Orth (Lewis Central High) won 2nd place in the Life Sciences category, for an $8,000 scholarship! In the poster competition, Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) won 3rd place in the Biomedical Science category and a $350 scholarship. A full list of winners is posted here.

Congratulations to all!

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

AP Summer Institute – Online!

Advanced Placement (AP) coursework is one of the most recognized forms of acceleration. There are many benefits to taking an AP course, including providing the appropriate level of challenge for talented students.

Advanced Placement classes help develop college-level academic skills. The classes are made up of students and educators with a strong commitment to excellence in learning and problem-solving. These are all qualities necessary in college. Many students who enter college are shocked at the amount of work and study time involved. Taking AP classes in high school will better prepare them for challenging college classes.

The Belin-Blank Center is proud to be an approved site to provide AP summer training for teachers. To accommodate as many teachers as possible, we are offering an online session (August 1-5, 2022). The seven AP trainings offered online are Computer Science & Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

We would love to work with you this summer! Learn more and sign up here.

NEW! Graduate Certificate in Talent Development

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce our new graduate certificate in talent development! It addresses talent development from a broad perspective and considers multiple fields. This certificate will be open to current, degree-seeking students at the University of Iowa and non-degree students (e.g., full/part-time personnel in teaching and/or a wide range of professions). The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a synthesis of theory and multiple perspectives across various areas of study and provide opportunities for registrants across fields to engage and interact with the common goal of how to best match individuals with appropriately enriching experiences (within and outside of school). 

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The purpose of the Graduate Certificate in Talent Development is to increase understanding of talented individuals, the process of talent development and the creative process, and to prepare advocates for talented individuals. The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will provide a research-based foundation for cultivating talent and encouraging best practices, especially in K-12 schools.  The emphasis on talent development is moving away from simplistic “pull-out” programming within schools and exploring more sophisticated conceptions of the development of expertise in specific fields and domains. The proposed certificate intends to train professionals across fields to develop talent among artists, athletes, business leaders, musicians, and STEM, to name a few. 

The Graduate Certificate in Talent Development will be available in Fall 2022. It consists of 14 semester hours and can be earned completely online. Its three-fold learning approach is composed of: 

1) required coursework (6 semester hours),  

2) interest-based elective coursework (6 semester hours – can reside in any UI department), and  

3) a culminating independent Capstone Exploration Project (steered completely by student interest).  

If you have any questions, please contact Randy Lange (randolph-lange@uiowa.edu).

We would love to learn with you!

Does Your Child Need More Academic Challenge at School This Fall?

Our Assessment and Counseling Clinic can help you learn more about your child and their academic needs.

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Our clinic offers individual educational assessments to help you better understand your child’s cognitive and academic strengths. These evaluations can assist with academic planning by helping determine whether your child is ready for advanced learning opportunities such as acceleration and enrichment programming. You can use the results to better advocate for your student’s advanced learning needs at school. When shared with your child’s educators, the results may inform team decisions about identification for enrichment and/or accelerated programming.

These assessments involve tests of intellectual and academic skills, including above-level skills, as well as a screening of psychosocial factors that may be relevant to academic planning decisions.

If you’re interested in learning more about educational assessments and other clinic services, visit our website. To request information about pursuing an educational assessment for your child, click here.

Professional Learning Makes All the Difference

by Dr. Laurie Croft, Associate Director for Professional Development

Gifted and talented students have unique social-emotional needs AND unique academic needs.  Professional learning allows educators to understand and address those unique needs, and that facilitates student success in school and in life in a wide variety of ways.  Peterson (2009) suggested that giftedness can actually be a risk factor for poor personal and educational outcomes.  Comprehensive preparation to interact with and support the various challenges faced by gifted learners facilitates appropriate affective and academic development.

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Belin-Blank Chautauqua 2022

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua provides six classes for professionals, who can take any or all.  Allowing educators to spend time with others who share their focus on the nature and needs of gifted students—either in person on campus or via Zoom—each class meets from 9:00 – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm for the first two days of each class.  Participants finish up any readings and final projects over the next couple of weeks, working online and independently. 

All classes fulfill one of the strands required for the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement and count toward the total number of 12 required credits.  Enrolling in Chautauqua allows an educator to complete half of the endorsement this summer, and the different Chautauqua schedule from summer to summer allows a participant to complete the endorsement program the next year.

Those who enroll in all three graduate credits the first week receive a full tuition scholarship for one class; those who enroll in all six credits receive a full tuition scholarship for two classes, one each week.  In other words, the Belin-Blank Center covers the cost of two of the six classes; the Center understands the value of professional development!

Chautauqua Courses in 2022

Chautauqua courses include the following in Week I:

Thinking Skills (EDTL:4072:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Laurie Croft;

Topics: Executive Functioning for Learning and Life (new in 2022; EDTL:4096:0WKB), Jul 13 – Aug 2, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn; and

Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted (RCE:4125:0WKA, Jul 15 – Aug 4, taught by Dr. Debra Mishak.

Chautauqua continues in Week II:

Gender Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4123:0WKA), Jul 18 – Aug 5, taught by Dr. Haley Wikoff;

Topics: Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking (EDTL:4096:0WKC), Jul 20 – Aug 5, taught by Gwen Livingstone Pakora, MA; and

Staff Development for Gifted Programs (EPLS:4113:0WKA), Jul 22 – Aug 5, taught by Lori Danker, MA and MSE.

Learn more about Chautauqua at belinblank.org/chautauqua.

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Teacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses (EDTL:5080:0WKA), available to those participating in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute.  The Belin-Blank Center provides a 50% tuition scholarship, allowing participants to earn two hours for the cost of one graduate credit.  The APSI takes place on campus from Jun 28 – Jul 1.  Contact educators@belinblank.org about information to override the restriction on enrollment. 

APSI participants benefit from earning another credit hour for Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.  APSI participants receive a 50% tuition scholarship for this class, as well.

Fully Online and Asynchronous Courses

In addition to Chautauqua courses this summer, the Center, in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Education, is offering additional online courses that are fully asynchronous.  Professional learning opportunities began at the end of May, but they continue in July, including:

Leadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (EDTL:4029:0WKA), taught by Dr. Beth Maloney;

Differentiation at the Secondary Level (EDTL:4074:0WKA), Jul 11 – 29, taught by Dr. Kristine Milburn.

The practicum experience, required for the endorsement is available every semester, including summer.

For more information about all the summer professional learning opportunities available, visit belinblank.org/courses.

Visit belinblank.org/educators/reg for all the information you need to get registered as a non-degree seeking Distance and Online student.

Welcoming a New Licensed Psychologist to the Assessment and Counseling Clinic!

We are so excited to welcome Dr. Christopher Smith to the Belin-Blank Center! Dr. Smith is joining the Assessment and Counseling Clinic as a licensed psychologist.

Dr. Smith earned his BA from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and his MA and PhD from Alliant International University in San Francisco, CA. He completed his internship at an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Augusta, Maine, and his post-doctoral fellowship working with children and adolescents at an eating disorder clinic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He holds psychology licenses in Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts. Most recently, he worked as a licensed psychologist at ChildServe in Iowa City.

We are looking forward to having Dr. Smith on the team at the ACC! He will be involved in providing clinical assessment and counseling services to gifted and twice-exceptional students and supporting research and other clinic initiatives.

Be sure to check out all of the clinical services we provide in our Assessment and Counseling Clinic. If you are interested in requesting more information about scheduling clinic services, you can do so here!

Message from the Director: Opening Doors for Talent Development

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“You’re a girl; you don’t need to take calculus.”

I’ve never forgotten those words stated by my high school counselor when I inquired about registering for calculus my senior year. That was then. I didn’t even question the statement. Not taking calculus in high school probably closed some doors for me, but other doors — education and psychology – opened.

Many decades have passed since then. Legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sex or “…any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual[i]” has opened doors to more opportunities for more people. We are all better off because of those legalities. Nevertheless, much work remains concerning nondiscrimination, societal racism, and social justice. Furthermore, we have not fully addressed the most significant issue facing students, families, and educators: inequality in educational programming, especially in access to gifted education. The gifted programming inequalities in schools nationwide are society’s way of saying, “You’re a _________; you don’t need access to gifted programming.”  Educators, researchers, and psychologists can do better.

This spring, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) dedicated an entire issue of their flagship journal, Gifted Child Quarterly, to equity in gifted education. I applaud my colleagues who contributed to that special issue, which catalyzed the entire field to reflect and act. We can all make a difference in addressing this pernicious problem in education, which reflects a broader problem related to discrimination and lack of respect for diversity. At the Belin-Blank Center, we continuously aspire to offer services and programming focused on talent development through our student programs and professional development opportunities. We seek to recognize the strengths and potential of a diverse student population more fully.

As a high school junior, I didn’t know then the impact of being excluded from an educational opportunity based on one educator’s bias about girls and advanced math. Now I recognize that that experience was the entry point to a career as an educator, administrator, and researcher dedicated to ensuring that we extend opportunities to all who would benefit from them.

Bias, whether implicit or explicit, leads to exclusion and discrimination that has long-term consequences. It denies marginalized communities and people opportunities that would positively contribute to their lives and to society. Each of us has the power to chip away at discrimination through our words and our actions.

There has been improvement for some, but there is much more to do. I have hope because of a new generation of educators. This generation has greater awareness of the vastness of human potential, which we should not limit based on “classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.” As we look to the future, professional educators must ensure that inclusion and equity become focal points of practice and policy. We aim to lead the way.


[i] The University of Iowa prohibits discrimination in employment, educational programs, and activities on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual. The university also affirms its commitment to providing equal opportunities and equal access to university facilities. For additional information on nondiscrimination policies, contact the Director, Office of Institutional Equity, the University of Iowa, 202 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1316, 319-335-0705, oie-ui@uiowa.edu.

Sign Up for Summer!

Don’t miss any exciting opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

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For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • The Integrated Acceleration System: Making Decisions About Grade-Skipping: February 26, 2022
    • Topics in Teaching and Learning (Teaching Outside the Lines: Developing Creativity in Every Learner): February 16, 2022
    • Prog/Curr for High Ability Students: March 7, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022, or April 18, 2022
    • Continuing Education Individual Study (Connecting to Align Gifted Programming and Services): April 25, 2022
    • Intro to Educating Gifted Students: May 16, 2022, June 13, 2022, or August 22, 2022
    • Academic Acceleration: June 6, 2022
    • Senior Honors Project: June 13, 2022
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 17, 2022
    • Practicum: October 24, 2022, or November 14, 2022
  • Summer Programming for Educators:

For Students & Families

Summer Programs

Online Professional Learning in Summer 2022

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John Cotton Dana, an American library and museum director, brilliantly asserted that “who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”  That is certainly true of teachers who support the needs of gifted and talented learners.

Teachers from across the country who are new to the field of gifted education and talent development look for coursework to help them earn the Talented and Gifted Endorsement.  Teachers who already work in gifted programs continue to develop their understanding of gifted children and how to best develop their talents.

Chautauqua

The Belin-Blank Center sponsors Chautauqua in the summer, and many teachers take advantage of one or more of the six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each of these classes meets, either in person on the University of Iowa campus or via Zoom, for the first two days of the class; look for more information at belinblank.org/Chautauqua.

Online Programming

Others might prefer the flexible format of fully online and asynchronous opportunities throughout the summer.  All classes are one semester hour unless otherwise indicated.

May 17 – Jun 6EDTL:4096:0WKA (Topics)Assessing Achievement for Talent Development (Programming strand)Anna Payne
Jun 6 – 24EDTL:4024:0WKADifferentiating Projects with Technology (Programming strand; updated content)Dr. Antonia Szymanski
Jun 6 – Jul 29PSQF:4123:0EXW (3 semester hours [s.h.])Academic Acceleration (1 s.h. each in the Psychology, Programming, and 1 Administrative strands)Dr. Ann Lupkowski-Shoplik
Jun 13 – Aug 4EDTL/RCE:4137:0EXW (3 semester hours)Introduction to Educating Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Kimberley Chandler
Jun 20 – Jul 11EDTL:4085:0WKACurrent Readings & Research in Gifted Education (strand based on readings)Anna Payne
Jun 27 – Jul 18PSQF:4126:0WKACognitive/Affective Needs of Gifted Students (Psychology strand)Dr. Katie Schabilion
Jul 1 – 22EDTL:5080:0WKATeacher Training in Advanced Placement Courses** (Programming strand)Dr. Randy Lange
Jul 6 – June 24EDTL:4029:0WKALeadership Skills for G/T Students, K – 12 (Programming strand)Dr. Beth Maloney
Jul 11 – 29EDTL:4074:0WKADifferentiation at the Secondary Level (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn

**option for participants in the University of Iowa Advanced Placement Summer Institute (belinblank.org/apsi)

Registration

To take part in classes, participants must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Those earning the Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education may register as either graduate or undergraduate students, regardless of professional status (undergraduates pay less tuition per course but may lose district benefits). Once participants have their “HawkID” and password, they can follow the directions to register for courses that match their interests and needs. Follow the steps at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

Belin-Blank Chautauqua—Back with an In-Person Option!

Journalist Charles Bowden once said, “Summertime is always the best of what might be.”  That might be the most accurate way to look at the Belin-Blank Chautauqua, an opportunity to enjoy professional learning with colleagues who enjoy time with others who share their interests.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, bringing Americans together to learn and enjoy time spent with one another.  After two years of hosting Chautauqua only online during the pandemic, the Belin-Blank Center is looking forward to hosting participants who want to participate in person, as well as those who choose to continue to participate via Zoom.

Professional Learning

Our Chautauqua is a unique form of professional learning, offering six one-semester-hour classes that begin over two weeks in July.  Each class meets for two days and continues online with readings, an online discussion or two, and a final project.  All classes end on or before August 5 this summer, the final day of the last university summer session.  Those who are interested in expanding their professional expertise in gifted education may enroll in the combination of classes that makes sense for them, from one to all six classes.

Scholarships

Participants who enroll as graduate students in three classes in one week receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class (you pay for two, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for one).  Participants who enroll as graduate students in all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week (you pay for four, the Belin-Blank Center provides a scholarship that pays for two classes).

Coursework

The six classes represent the strands required for the endorsement in the State of Iowa: 

  • the Psychology strand (understanding the nature and needs of gifted/talented learners);
  • the Programming strand (appropriately differentiated programming/coursework for talent development);
  • the Administrative strand (administrative issues in the field that school personnel might now know).

Classes in Chautauqua are different from one summer to the next, so educators can earn the State of Iowa endorsement in two summers!  For those who want to earn the endorsement even more quickly, Chautauqua classes can be combined with online summer classes to complete the endorsement in one summer.  Classes are offered throughout the year to meet the needs of anyone seeking endorsement or seeking professional development in new areas.

Chautauqua in Summer 2022 includes all one-semester-hour courses:                  

Week 1: Jul 11 – 29 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4072:0WKAThinking Skills (Programming strand)Dr. Laurie Croft
Jul 13 – Aug 2 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKB (Topics)Executive Functioning: Skills for Learning and Life* (Programming strand)Dr. Kristine Milburn
Jul 15 – Aug 4 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4125:0WKACounseling/Psychological Needs of the Gifted (Psychology strand)Dr. Jean Peterson
Week 2: Jul 18 – Aug 5 Meets Monday/Tuesday,      9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.RCE:4123:0WKAGender Issues and Giftedness (Psychology strand)Dr. Jolene Teske
Jul 20 – Aug 5 Meets Wednesday/Thursday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EDTL:4096:0WKC (Topics)Infusing Language Arts with Creative Thinking* (Programming strand)Gwen Livingstone Pokora
Jul 22 – Aug 5 Meets Friday/Saturday, 9:00 – noon; 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.EPLS:4113:0WKAStaff Development for Gifted Programs (Administrative strand)Dr. Jolene Teske

*NEW!

Registration

To take part in classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status (scholarships are awarded to those who register as graduate students). Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for courses that interest or benefit you. Follow the steps laid out at belinblank.org/educators/reg.

2022 Winners of Iowa Junior Science & Humanities Symposium

Congratulations to everyone who competed at this week’s Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!  

These high school students are doing impressive research projects and did an excellent job communicating their findings to a panel of judges and an audience of their peers. Regional winners receive scholarships and an expense-paid trip to compete at the annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

2022 Winners of the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

The 2022 Iowa Regional winners are:

🏆 1st place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) – “Secret Sounds of Bees: Analysis of Honey Bee Vibroacoustics Using Hidden Markov Models”

🏆 2nd place: Kiersten Knobbe (Adair-Casey Guthrie Center High School) – “Turbid or Not Turbid? That is the Question: Creating a Water Filtration and Sanitation Method for Developing Countries”

🏆 3rd place: Alina Markutsya (Ames High School) – “Biomechanical Analysis of Balance Beam Skills in Gymnastics”

🏆 4th place: Libby Knipper (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Efficacy of Antimicrobial Starch-Based Plastic Food Storage Films”

🏆 5th place: Jasmyn Hoeger (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Novel Mammalian Fibroblast Cell Culture Media Technique for Ultraviolet Cell Reduction”

Message from the Director

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

Today’s view from the Blank Honors Center is grey and bare, seemingly devoid of energy. However, activity and enthusiasm abound inside the Blank Honors Center as we prepare for the Belin-Blank Center’s many student and professional learning programs, services, and information sessions scheduled for the next several months. 

This summer, students in grades 3-11 can choose from science, technology, engineering, art, math, and writing options. Whether online or on-campus, full-day or residential, all of our programs give students access to valuable university-level resources and experts in developing talent. 

Educators can earn their TAG Endorsement through our Chautauqua program and fully online classes. Other excellent professional learning opportunities include our Belin Fellowship and AP Summer Institute.

We are also pleased to welcome two new members of the Belin-Blank Center team! Dr. Nesibe Karakis is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar in our STEM Excellence and Leadership program. Mr. Dominic Balestrieri-Fox is our new Administrative Services Coordinator. He works to support many programs across the Center, including the Iowa Online AP AcademyAP Summer Institute, and the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. If you encounter either of them when you contact the Belin-Blank Center, please join us in welcoming them!

New colleagues and changing seasons are but two reminders that change is the only constant. January closed with the very sad news that our friend and colleague, University of New South Wales Professor Emerita Miraca Gross, passed away. Dr. Gross’s work had a profound impact on the field of gifted and talented education. This is especially true in academic acceleration, where her contributions are unparalleled. She will always remain an inspiration, and her impact will positively influence many generations of students, families, and professionals. 

Dr. Gross advocated for tools associated with making acceleration decisions, such as our newly developed Integrated Acceleration System.  We invite you to learn more about this tool during an upcoming online session focused on making decisions about grade-skipping, featuring Belin-Blank Center experts.  

It may still be a grey day in February, but we are staying cozy inside the Blank Honors Center, eagerly turning our eyes toward sunnier days. Whether you are a parent, educator, or student, we hope you will join us for one of the many exciting events and programs we are planning for this summer. We are excited to see you soon!

Strengths-Based Assessment to Better Understand Your Student’s Unique Needs

The Belin-Blank Center’s Assessment and Counseling Clinic is pleased to partner with Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development to facilitate access to their Suite of Tools for our clients.

The Suite of Tools is a strengths-based, talent-focused tool that brings together several different types of assessments to help parents and educators celebrate the unique gifts of a particular student and bring their eclectic profile into better focus. The Suite of Tools (2016) was originally developed by Dr. Robin Schader and Dr. Susan Baum at the Bridges 2e Center for Research and Professional Development, and is built on the theme of C.L.U.E.S.: a process of Collecting information, Looking for connections, Uncovering patterns, Exploring options, and Seeking joyful learning.

The first assessment in the Suite of Tools is “My Learning Print,” which explores ways in which students prefer to learn, their specific interests, conditions that enhance understanding, fun hobbies, and family experiences outside of the classroom. The second assessment is called the “Quick Personality Indicator,” which asks participants to rank descriptive statements and then helps students to tally these outcomes to decipher whether they are most like a People Person, Learned Expert, Creative Problem Solver, or Practical Manager. A third tool is the Teacher Feedback form, which offers classroom educators the opportunity to reflect on the core abilities of this student. After a parent interview, each of these CLUES is brought together into a PowerPoint presentation by a seasoned educational therapist who highlights the findings of the Suite of Tools for your distinctive student, and then offers suggestions and direction for talent development opportunities that can enhance this student’s social-emotional growth and promote their intellectual potential. The Suite of Tools is especially helpful to include as an additional lens of insight along with a psychoeducational evaluation, when a learning team is crafting a 504 Plan, or for exploring options of optimal learning during an IEP Meeting.

Bridges Academy case manager Sandra Clifton, supported by her colleague Amy Clark, will be offering these services to interested Assessment and Counseling Clinic clients. For more information, please email sandra.clifton@bridges.edu.

Sandra Clifton

After earning her Masters in English Education and serving over a decade as a high school teacher, Sandra Clifton earned credentials as a professional coach and joined the RULER Team at Yale University to guide teachers in a program of Social-Emotional Learning.  She then opened her own private practice: the Clifton Corner, a safe space of learning to support overwhelmed students who struggle with issues of perfection, motivation, organization, learning differences, and self-esteem. For the past fifteen years, Sandra has worked to promote self-discovery and personal accountability to help young people transform their identity through the tools of mindfulness, creativity, leadership, and positive psychology as a Board Certified Educational Therapist.  Sandra shares a special affinity with both athletes and artists who shine with strengths outside of school–but may encounter challenges with time management, confidence, and/or academic insecurities in the classroom–often identified as gifted, sensitive, and/or twice-exceptional students. Sandra also guides parents through curriculum decisions and school transitions to create more joy in the journey of learning. She is currently working to earn her doctorate in Cognitive Diversity at Bridges Graduate School and is thrilled to be serving as an intern at the Belin-Blank Center.

Amy Clark

Amy Clark is a doctoral student at Bridges Graduate School, a solutions innovator, and a mom. She found her love of twice-exceptional education through the creation of Chestnut Ridge Academy, which she founded to serve her son by creating highly customized experiences for gifted and exceptional minds. In addition to her daily role as a tiny-school leader, she supports families on their own unique journeys. She guides parents to better understand their exceptional children and to uncover strategies for both educating and parenting differently through her company, Exceptionally Engaged. Her decades-long career in research and design at some of the world’s most creative companies has helped millions of people to feel empowered with tools that become part of their everyday lives. She continues to impact lives as an education, neurodiversity, and design consultant to those looking to discover the magic that lies at the intersection of technology and learning. 

Professional Learning at the Belin-Blank Center

Nelson Mandela is credited with saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” At the Belin-Blank Center, we are among those who believe that this is true. Our tagline, after all, is Nurturing Potential – Inspiring Excellence.

We also know that these years of the pandemic have included the most difficult days for any teacher today. We are committed to providing professional learning to support the needs that teachers of the gifted have, both as they earn the TAG endorsement, and after they are working with students’ evolving needs.

The Belin-Blank Center offers traditional three-semester-hour classes throughout the academic year, and one, (Academic Acceleration, PSQF:4123:0EXW), in the summer. We also offer one-semester-hour classes in a workshop format throughout the year, including the winter session and over the summer.

Workshops provide educators an opportunity to focus on one topic (“Thinking Skills” or “Gender Issues”), and they last for three weeks. Workshops have no additional fees added to the tuition, providing some savings. Some educators find it advantageous to register with Distance and Online Education as non-degree-seeking undergraduates, even though they obviously have degrees, in order to save tuition dollars. Many others prefer to register as graduate students so they can count the hours toward other opportunities in their district.

This summer, the Belin-Blank Center will collaborate with various departments in the College of Education to offer sufficient hours to complete the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement. Participation in Chautauqua provides six of the required hours. Fully online classes, including the individualized practicum experience, provide the additional hours.

Over the next two weeks, we will update our professional learning schedule with the classes available this summer. You can also get started this spring to free up some time to relax over the summer! Visit belinblank.org/courses to see what is currently available.

Get Registered

To participate in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest you the most. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All of our classes fulfill the strands required for endorsement.

Questions?

Contact us at educators@belinblank.org!

Advanced Placement Summer Institute and Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

Summer has traditionally been a season for teachers to refuel and refresh. Many times, the “refueling” portion centers on acquiring new learning through professional development. The Belin-Blank Center will be offering multiple learning opportunities in Summer 2022. Two excellent examples are our Advanced Placement Summer Institute and the Belin-Blank Fellowship. You are invited to both!

Advanced Placement Summer Institute

Who: Middle School & High School Teachers; Gifted Coordinators

What: APSI is 30 hours of content-rich training. It is designed to strengthen both instruction and core curriculum. While it seems to target new or current AP teachers, the strategies will bolster the teaching repertoire of middle school teachers and gifted coordinators. Academic credit is available and includes a 50% tuition scholarship.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

When: There are two options! The Summer 2022 on-campus session is June 28 – July 1; the fully online session is August 1 – 5.

Where: The on-campus courses are held at the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The online classes allow you to learn from anywhere with an internet connection.

Why: The Belin-Blank Center is committed to professional development for educators!

For more information about the AP course content offered and the Iowa teacher grant scholarship):

belinblank.org/apsi

Belin-Blank Summer Fellowship

Who: The program, in its 42nd year, is designed for educators with limited expertise working with gifted and talented students. This summer, priority will be given to those in instructional coaching roles in a school.

What: The Belin-Blank Fellowship is a unique opportunity for a select number of educators, nominated by their schools, to receive professional learning in gifted education through a five-day summer residential workshop at the University of Iowa. The program aims to help educators new to gifted education (especially those in an instructional coaching role) understand the characteristics and needs of gifted individuals so they can better teach and develop the potential of gifted and talented students.

When: The Summer 2022 Fellowship will be held June 20 – June 24.

Where: The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program will be held on the campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.  Room, board, and materials are provided as part of the Fellowship; academic credit is available and includes a 50% tuition scholarship.  Contact educators@belinblank.org with questions.

Why: The Belin-Blank Center has been committed to professional development for educators since 1980, even before the Center became a center!

The application process will be open by Monday, February 14th.

For more information:

belinblank.org/fellowship

Belin-Blank Chautauqua

The Chautauqua Institution is truly a national treasure. It is a place for contemplation and a place for reflection, a place where platitudes and slogans can be set aside and be replaced by thoughtfulness and introspection.  (E. Spitzer)

As someone who taught U.S. History for several years, I always loved talking about the Chautauqua movement popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Chautauqua was an adult education movement, and people from all over the country would gather to learn about a wide variety of topics. Chautauqua was loved as a social movement as well as an educational opportunity.

The Belin-Blank Center was the first TAG endorsement program in the State of Iowa to offer sufficient online course offerings to allow candidates to complete the entire program. As fewer and fewer opportunities exist for teachers to collaborate in professional learning in a face-to-face format, the Center decided to offer its own version of the Chautauqua (belinblank.org/Chautauqua).

For several years, the Belin-Blank Center has dedicated two weeks in July to an accelerated professional learning format. By participating in Chautauqua, a teacher can complete half of the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement one year and complete the second half the next summer.

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers a full scholarship for one class each week to anyone who enrolls in all three classes during one week (or for two classes to anyone who enrolls in all six classes during the two weeks)

This summer, Chautauqua begins on July 11, and each of the six one-semester-hour classes that begin during Chautauqua has a unique format.

The first class meets from 9:00 am – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm (Central Daylight Savings Time) on Monday, July 11, and Tuesday, July 12. The format will include a Zoom option. Some instructors may Zoom in for the class, and at least some of the participants may Zoom in for those meetings, too. Although this was fully face-to-face on campus in the past, we’ll be flexible about the meeting time this summer and, perhaps, in the future! The workshop will last for three weeks (July 11 – July 29), with all the work that follows those first two days taking place online, via our ICON online course platform. The additional work typically includes readings, one or two additional questions for online discussion, and a final project.

The second class meets from 9:00 am – noon and 1:00 – 4:00 pm on Wednesday, July 13, and Thursday, July 14. The class continues on ICON after that for three weeks (July 13 – August 2).

The third class during Week I of Chautauqua meets on Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16. The class continues on ICON after that for three weeks (July 13 – August 4).

Week II looks much the same!

Over the course of the two weeks of Chautauqua, no classes are repeated from the previous summer, ensuring that the endorsement can be completed. Over the two weeks, classes are offered from each of the strands required for the endorsement.

Chautauqua is a wonderful option for those who want to take one workshop on a new subject, useful for their school. It’s an equally terrific option for those who want to complete their endorsements over two summers. We’ll be updating the schedule soon.

We look forward to seeing you in July 2022!

Message from the Director: Talent Scouts Not Deficit Detectives

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Be a Talent Scout, Not a Deficit Detective” 

University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education

This slogan, courtesy of our colleagues at the University of Connecticut National Center for Research on Gifted Education (NCRGE), appeared on large buttons at the November 2021 National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) annual conference. I made sure to display mine prominently. Although the Belin-Blank Center refers to discovering talent rather than scouting for talent, either verb captures the essence of the Center’s daily work. Discovering talent in partnership with families and colleagues worldwide and in our home state is essential to developing thattalent. 

Below are a few examples of ways in which we partner with schools and families to discover and develop talent: 

STEM Excellence and Leadership is a long-running partnership between the Belin-Blank Center and rural middle schools in Iowa, funded by NSF grants and recently featured in the Phi Delta Kappan’sspotlight on rural education (December 2021/January 2022). STEM Excellence and Leadership focuses on increasing the achievements andaspirations of bright rural middle-school students to better prepare them for advanced coursework in high school. 

Students from rural communities are less likely to attend college and, if they do, they are 60% less likely to enroll in STEM majors. This discrepancy may be partly because under-resourced rural schools typically cannot offer the same advanced math or science courses that well-resourced urban and suburban schools have available to their advanced students. Positively, rural areas are often very desirable places to live because of their strong sense of community. In general, smaller school systems are typically less bureaucratic, and educators and administrators often have more flexibility in creating specialized opportunities for advanced students. These upsides enable the STEM Excellence and Leadership program to make a difference in rural schools. 

Academic accelerationis a broad topic, encompassing everything from minor adjustments to the curriculum to grade skipping. The Belin-Blank Center offers a wide variety of information about acceleration through our Acceleration Institute website and more individualized advice with the Integrated Acceleration System tool. Through our collaboration with the NCRGE, we’ve reached an even broader audience on the benefits of appropriate acceleration. For the next few weeks, educators have an opportunity to indicate their interest in participating in an upcoming NCRGE academic acceleration study, which will provide free professional learning, universal screening, and stipends for participating educators. Watch a two-minute informative video to learn more about the study and how partnering with the NCRGE can benefit gifted students in your school. More details are available on NCRGE’s website.  

Finally, we are in the final stages of developing a Graduate Certificate in Talent Development, an online 14-semester-hour graduate certificate for full-time professionals, non-degree students, and degree-seeking students. Coursework spans multiple theories and perspectives across several talent domains (e.g., art, writing, sports) and culminates with an independent capstone exploration. We expect coursework to be available in Fall 2022. Stay tuned for more about this graduate certificate in the coming months! 

There are only a few more weeks remaining in 2021.  I hope you are inspired to join us in discovering and developing talent in the coming year.  

Best wishes for a safe, healthy, and happy 2022. 

Coming Up at the Belin-Blank Center

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

An icon of a calendar

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Current Readings and Research in Gifted Education: December 20, 2021
    • Program Models in Gifted Education: January 18, 2022
    • Identification of Students for Gifted Programs: January 18, 2022
    • Admin and Policy in Gifted Education: January 24, 2022
    • Curriculum Concepts in Gifted Education: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: March 21, 2022
    • Practicum: April 18, 2022
    • Belin Fellowship: June 19-24, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (On Campus): June 28 – July 1, 2022
    • AP Summer Institute (Online): August 1-5, 2022

For Students & Families

Save the Dates for Professional Learning

Photo by Max Fischer on Pexels.com

SAVE THE DATES! The Belin-Blank Center will host several professional learning opportunities for educators in Summer 2022.

The Belin-Blank Fellowship Program is a unique opportunity for a cadre of educators to learn more about the area of gifted education, through a five-day summer workshop. Its purpose is to help teachers learn better methods for working with gifted children in their classrooms. The program is designed to help educators provide an appropriate program for gifted students, develop in students a heightened sense of social responsibility in the use of their talents, and provide leadership in gifted education. For Summer 2022, priority will be given to those in instructional coaching roles. The dates for Summer 2022 are June 20-24. Applications will be available on our website in mid-February.

Want to prepare for teaching an AP class? The Belin-Blank Center will be hosting BOTH on-campus and online Advanced Placement Summer Institutes (APSI). The on-campus APSI will be held at the University of Iowa in Iowa City from June 28 – July 1. The online APSI will take place from August 1-5.

The planned ON-CAMPUS classes are:

Biology, Calculus AB, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Government & Politics, Human Geography, Psychology, US History, and World History

The planned ONLINE classes are:

Computer Science Principles, English Language & Composition, English Literature & Composition, Physics I, Psychology, Spanish Language & Culture, and Statistics.

Stay tuned for more professional learning opportunities in spring and summer 2022. We hope you will plan to join us!

Preparing for an Acceleration Meeting: What’s an Educator to Do?

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One of the students in your school is being considered for acceleration, and you are facilitating this discussion. You have talked about this with the family and other teachers, strategized with administrators, gathered the data, and scheduled a meeting. What are the final steps you need to complete as you prepare for this meeting?

The regular classroom teacher who is invited to attend the meeting may not have had any significant training in gifted education or academic acceleration, but they would have been exposed to surface level concepts such as academic rigor, Bloom’s Taxonomy, or the wide variability among their students in terms of their academic abilities; these ideas direct our thinking to considering options such as acceleration for individual students. Resources such as Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered and the educator page of the Acceleration Institute website will provide an introduction to acceleration and answer basic questions about the short-term and long-term impact of acceleration.  Parents or guardians and school administrators would also benefit from similar introductory materials (e.g., see the parent’s page).

The team of individuals who come together to talk about acceleration for a particular student generally includes the parent or guardian, an administrator, the current classroom teacher, receiving (future) teacher, gifted teacher or coordinator, and others who have information and knowledge relevant to the discussion. Whether you’re using the Integrated Acceleration System or another tool to help guide you through the process of making decisions about acceleration, you’ll want to consider these items before the team meets:

  1. Answer team members’ questions through individual meetings or via email/phone. Make sure they have informative resources such as the ones listed above.
  2. It is likely the current classroom teacher has already been talking with gifted education staff about the student concerning strategies and options for meeting the student’s needs. Your support might be needed in these discussions.
  3. Determine the purpose of the meeting. Is it to introduce acceleration as an option or to make a decision about acceleration?
  4. It is important to present to the parents the options that have already been made available to their student. These might include special projects the student has completed, distance learning options, and/or flexible grouping for high-ability readers. Highlighting strategies that have already been in place starts the meeting off on a positive note.
  5. Pre-plan possible options. For example, consider what additional supports might be offered to the student and regular classroom teacher if the decision is not to accelerate the student. Consider when and how the student will be advanced to the next grade, if the decision is made to accelerate. Consider how subject acceleration might be implemented if that is the option chosen for the student.
    • Key “If We Grade Skip” questions might be: What scaffolding might be needed? What coordination (e.g., desk in the room, name added to classroom charts, consumables acquired) needs to be addressed? What closure might be needed in the current grade? Which grade level state testing will be administered? Who will be the receiving classroom “buddy”?
    • Key “If We Do NOT Grade Skip” questions might be: What are the student’s key strengths and areas requiring growth? Is the student a candidate for subject acceleration? What classroom differentiation as well as outside of school enrichment opportunities might be appropriate? How might the parents/guardians be assured that the student will be challenged in school?
  6. Make a list of topics to be discussed at the meeting, such as:
    • Discuss the data that were collected, including standardized testing results and informal information about what the student does in the classroom and at home.
    • Discuss the student’s approach to something novel and challenging.
    • Give stakeholders the opportunity to share what they know about the student.
    • Prepare questions that will get the family involved in the discussion, such as “Tell us about your child?” “What do you see at home?” Ask what they might have observed from the past year or previous years.
    • What does the student do outside of school? These might include online opportunities, community activities, museum visits, public speaking opportunities, and/or mentorships.

Sample Team Meeting Agenda

11:00 AM – Introductions and brief general overview of the tool used, the Integrated Acceleration System, and its purpose

11:10 AM – Overview of Integrated Acceleration System Sections A-D.

11:15 AM – Discuss items of interest from previously completed sections.

11:25 AM – Discuss achievement, ability, and aptitude testing information. Consider strengths and opportunities for growth.

11:35 AM – Discuss Questions for the Meeting from the Integrated Acceleration System.

11:45 AM – Review the email list of who will receive the student report. Generate the report. Read the recommendations and discuss them. Make a decision.

12:00 PM – Plan next steps (including any additional data that needs to be collected)

12:15 PM – Determine who will monitor the transition, if the decision is to accelerate the student.

Special thanks to Randy Lange for a productive discussion that informed this blog.

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Important Dates for Student and Educator Programs

Mark your calendars for upcoming opportunities for students, families, and educators at the Belin-Blank Center!

For Educators

  • Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:
    • Differentiation Instruction for Gifted: October 25 – November 12, 2021
    • Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students: November 22 – December 14, 2021
    • Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention: November 17 – December 9, 2021
    • Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education: October 25 – December 3, 2021 and November 8 – December 3, 2021
    • Conceptions of Talent Development: October 18 – December 17, 2021

For Students & Families

Introducing the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality

The college experience is an excellent opportunity for academic and personal growth. It is also a time that comes with unique challenges for first-year students. Academic expectations, time management, prioritization, staying healthy, and feeling disconnected are just some of the potential struggles. These areas can be more amplified and burdensome for twice-exceptional students. Twice-exceptional students have the potential for high achievement and also have one or more learning disabilities.

Twice-exceptional students are arguably an underrepresented population in gifted and talented education. Too often, this unique population is missed or denied access to programs and services for advanced learners. Experts at the Belin-Blank Center found that more than 50% of the twice-exceptional students in one study would have benefited from acceleration in school. As the number of students with learning disabilities attending the University of Iowa increases, resources and services to assist and support this population become very important.

Using its expertise in twice-exceptionality, the Belin-Blank Center is collaborating with other UI offices, including Student Disability Services, to establish the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality for individuals with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Too often, the school experience for twice-exceptional students is laden with walls and barriers.

The recent emphasis on inequity and injustice in schools has resulted in courageous conversations about the underrepresentation of specific populations in programs and services for advanced learners. Many times, individuals addressing the need for positive change in schools use a metaphor of mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Two goals of the Belin-Blank Center’s Academy for Twice-Exceptionality are to support twice-exceptional students (an underrepresented population) and to tear down the walls and barriers facing these students, replacing them with mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.

Mirrors (Finding Community)
The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality aims to dispel any sense of not belonging. A group living situation in one of the campus residence halls is crucial to fostering relationships with others like themselves. Through a weekly meeting with other Academy students, individuals have a place to “see” others who are like them and are reaching for the same goal – success in college. The feelings and perceptions regarding the collegiate experience will undoubtedly be different for twice-exceptional students. Through discussions facilitated by the Belin-Blank Center staff, students will learn with and from one another about ways to address issues that arise.

Windows (Learning Opportunities)
As a world-class institution, the University of Iowa seems to have limitless possibilities for its students. The numerous options include programs and degrees, extracurriculars, campus services, fitness and wellness, and student research. With this incredible breadth of opportunities, students can become overwhelmed, especially twice-exceptional students. The Academy for Twice-Exceptionality includes individual sessions with a staff member to assist students in better navigating a large university by pointing them in the right direction.

Sliding Glass Doors (Support for Reaching Goals)
The Belin-Blank Center established the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality with one fundamental purpose. We aim to provide better access for success at the University of Iowa for students with high ability and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who identify as Autistic. Twice-exceptional students can do great things, especially with support. The support features that are unique to this Academy help to “slide” open the door of access to all that the University of Iowa offers. Specific areas targeted include adjustment to campus life, communication, creating a sense of community, living independently, organization, self-advocacy, and setting goals. Through this Academy, we are committed to opening the University of Iowa’s “door to possibilities” and walking alongside students through it.

We are confident that the Academy’s combination of well-planned support structures and regular communication with families converts the goal of success in college to reality for twice-exceptional students. Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors are commonly found in a home. This Belin-Blank Center Academy strives to create a “sense of home” for twice-exceptional students at the University of Iowa.

Are you interested in finding out if the Academy for Twice-Exceptionality is the right match for you? The Belin-Blank Center would love to share more with you. Contact us today to connect and start the conversation.

STEM Research Mentorship Opportunities for Students & Teachers

We are pleased to share two fantastic opportunities for high school student researchers and their teachers!

Mentorship for High School Student STEM Researchers

JSHS is offering a virtual mentoring program for high school students involved in STEM research.

Is this mentorship for me?

Any student who starts a research project and intends to submit their research at the regional Junior Science and Humanities (JSHS) competition can participate. This resource is free for students and supported by JSHS.

How can mentors help?

  • Mentors share their expertise and advice to help guide and encourage you throughout your research.
  • Mentors can provide assistance and feedback on your original research concepts.

How will I work with my mentor?

Chronus is a virtual mentoring platform that houses the JSHS virtual mentorship program. Through Chronus, you will be able to:

  • View mentor profiles and find mentor matches based on shared interests.
  • Connect with mentors for flash (one-time consultation) or long-term mentoring (on-going mentoring) year-round.
  • Receive valuable resources that help you get the most out of your mentorships.
  • Set up virtual meetings, ask questions, and manage your mentorships online or through the Chronus app.

How do I sign up?

Visit https://virtualmentoring.jshs.org/chronus to register today or reach out at admin@JSHS.org!

Mentorship for High School STEM Teachers

For STEM teachers, the Advancing Science Research Teaching (ASRT) program is accepting applications for their free, in-person, educational outreach program. This program is designed to equip high school teachers with the knowledge, insights, and activities to increase the amount, type, and scope of science research projects for their high school students.

Is the ASRT program for me?

The ASRT program is customized to help high school teachers who provide science research opportunities within a traditional STEM classroom setting, or helping those with a small, growing research program/club, or even helping those with more established Science Research Programs/Clubs. High school teachers may apply individually or as a group.

How are participants selected?

Applicants will be evaluated by a committee from Regeneron and/or ZEISS, based on a number of different criteria including, but not limited to:

  • Their interest in increasing the number of activities that build understanding & critical thinking, technology-based skills, networking skills, presentation skills, and lifelong skills.
  • Their interest in increasing the number of high school students who carry out projects and participate in regional, state, national and international science fairs.
  • Their interest in increasing the quality/level of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their interest in increasing the types/categories of the projects that their high school students are involved in.
  • Their level of support from the school community and their administration for creating science research/STEM opportunities for high school students.

How do I apply?

Visit https://forms.gle/W3335h1vRFP6aojVA to apply by November 14, 2021. The FAQ section of the www.ASRTprogram.com website has additional information.

Computer Science for Talented Students

We are hard at work creating new computer science opportunities for academically talented students! We can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, check out these popular options. Registration is open!

Advanced Computer Science
4th – 6th grade students,
Starts November 1st

Advanced Computer Science currently has one course open for registration. Explorations in Computer Science is an introductory course based on Project STEM curriculum that empowers students to engage with computer science as a medium for creativity, communication, problem solving, and fun. Through a series of real-world scenarios, projects and challenges, students are introduced to foundational concepts that they will return to repeatedly throughout the course.


Computer Science Python Fundamentals
7th – 9th grade students
,
Self-paced; start anytime

Computer Science Python Fundamentals is an entirely self-directed learning experience to complete whenever and wherever you want. Computers are simple. They do only what you tell them. Through a series of interactive online modules, with built-in support from experienced programmers, you will learn to talk to computers using the Python programming language. You can progress through the modules at a pace that is just right for you, with access to an exclusive expert forum to have your questions answered along the way. During the course, you’ll learn more about programming, create programs of your own using Python, and have a lot of fun along the way. And, who knows, you may end up writing the next big program!

Welcome to Another Year of Invention!

Are you a teacher who works with students during the invention process? Invent Iowa will return in a virtual format on April 18, 2022. Now is a great time to make sure your budding inventors and entrepreneurs are getting started on their projects!

We are excited to announce a new platform from our colleagues at Invention Convention WorldwideInHub is a collection of professional development, curriculum resources and information about experiences and field trips. This is a free resource to learn and share with other inventive educators and students. 

If you are a student or have a student who would like to participate in Iowa’s State Invention Convention, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates:

  • January 20, 2022: Registration opens
  • February 22, 2022: Competition materials are due
  • March 22, 2022: Students are notified of their qualification status
  • March 28, 2022: Qualifying students must commit to State Convention
  • April 18, 2022: State Invention Convention

For a helpful overview of the Invention Convention program, be sure to check out this helpful How-To Guide. Happy inventing!

Professional Learning Continues this Fall!

Photo by Max Andrey on Pexels.com

In Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery declared, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” (Anne of Green Gables is a great read for young gifted readers, as well as for you, if you haven’t read the classic!)  We look forward to collaborating with you this October and beyond!

October brings the midway point in the fall semester, but we have more offerings coming up than classes that are ending.  If you have at least one other person from your school/district interested in taking a class with you, in the spirit of a Professional Learning Community (PLC), contact us at educators@belinblank.org, and we’ll give all the members of your PLC a 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290/hour).

For those who are interested in continuing their professional learning about gifted education (whether earning the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement or not), consider some of these options, all critical for your practice. (All credits apply to one of the strands for the endorsement.)

Workshops

For these options, the cost is tuition without any technology fees.

Programming Strand

EDTL:4153:0WKA Gifted and General Education Collaboration (1 semester hour)
October 11 – 29
Instructor: Gerald Aungst
What is more important than collaboration to ensure the best for our gifted students?

EDTL:4025:0WKA Differentiated Instruction for Gifted (1 s.h.)
October 25 – November 12
Instructor: Debra Judge
One of the foundations of gifted education, especially since all educators have a responsibility to differentiate for gifted learners (e.g., see MTSS for Advanced Learners)

EDTL:4096:0WKB Empowering Underrepresented Gifted Students (1 s.h.)
November 22 – December 14 
Instructor: Antonia Szymanski
HOT off the press, from Dr. Joy Lawson Davis, to help empower students who have been overlooked for gifted programs.

Administrative Strand

PSQF:5194:0WKB Leadership in Gifted Education:  ITAG Conference (1 or 2 s.h. )
October 21 – November 10 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange
Those interested in Iowa Talented and Gifted Conference credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

PSQF:5194:0WKA Leadership in Gifted Education: NAGC Convention (1 or 2 s.h)
November 17 – December 9 
Instructors: Laurie Croft & Randy Lange 
Those interested in NAGC credit, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  Automatic 50% tuition scholarship (applied to graduate tuition, so $290 / hour).

Practicum Strand

EDTL:4189:0WKA Practicum in Gifted/Talented Education (1 s.h.)
November 8 – December 3 
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Those interested in practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

Extension Classes

The cost of these classes is tuition plus technology fees.

EDTL:4067:0EXW Conceptions of Talent Development (3 s.h.)
October 18 – December 17  
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Psychology strand (2 sh); Programming (1 s.h)
This credit applies to both the Psychology and the Programming strand, exploring issues that are important to the focus on talent development in our field.

RCE:4188:0EXW Practicum in Gifted Education (1, 2, or 3 s.h.)
October 25 – December 3
Instructor: Laurie Croft
Practicum strand
Those full-time students or those interested in more than one hour of practicum, email educators@belinblank.org to override the enrollment restriction.  You can get started as soon as you enroll!

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement.  Visit our website for instructions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148!  We look forward to collaborating with you this fall to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

How Do We Prepare a Student for Academic Acceleration?

Josie is a 3rd grade student who gets high grades, has several good friends, and is in the school’s gifted program. It’s obvious to her parents and teachers that she is not challenged by the 3rd grade curriculum. The team of parents, teachers, and administrators met several times to talk about acceleration for Josie. They decided to move Josie up to 4th grade. BUT WAIT. Nobody has talked with Josie about this.

Let’s do a rewind and set this transition up for success.

At the beginning of the school year, Josie’s parents met with the gifted coordinator, Mrs. Fernandez, and talked about the possibility of acceleration for Josie. Mrs. Fernandez talked with Josie’s parents about discussing acceleration with Josie, and she made a plan to talk with Josie as well.

How might Mrs. Fernandez approach Josie with the idea of a possible grade skip?

  1. It’s helpful for both the parents/guardians and a teacher to have one or more conversations with the student before a formal meeting discussing acceleration.
  2. Change can be hard, even when we really want that change. The student might need some extra time to think about and discuss the change, even if she’s been complaining bitterly about not being challenged in school.
  3. How do educators talk with the student about acceleration? If you ask a student, “Do you want to leave your class and go to another one?” the tendency is to say no. It’s more helpful to ask broad questions, such as “What do you like about school?” and “What parts could be better?” or “If you were in charge of the school, what would you change for yourself?”
  4. Think about how much we should tell students before any changes are made, so they understand they are being considered for acceleration. Younger students need less information. Older students need more. Ask the student what he or she thinks about the possibility of subject acceleration or moving up into a higher grade.
  5. In conversation, you might ask the student if he or she knows older kids inside or outside of school (maybe older cousins or older kids in the neighborhood). Help them to realize they already know some older students and can build relationships with them.
  6. It’s helpful to let the student know that there are many ways to think about offering additional challenge, and academic acceleration is one of them. Let them know that you are having a meeting to talk about this possibility and to gather more information. 
  7. Answer the student’s questions. Let them know, “We want to make sure this is the right decision for you, and we are finding the right place for you.”
  8. If you ask, “What worries you?” the answer might be going into a room with a new teacher or being uncertain if they will know any of the other students in the new class. The student might be concerned that “The older kids will laugh at me.” What is a big issue to a 6-year-old isn’t necessarily a big issue to adults. But to this student, it is a big deal, so it should be addressed as a legitimate question or concern.
  9. Before the team meeting occurs, it’s helpful to prepare the student for different possibilities. If the decision is made not to skip a grade or move ahead in a certain subject, it doesn’t mean the student failed. It’s all about finding the right match for the student.
  10. No matter what the outcome, someone needs to talk to the student after the meeting to let him or her know (in age-appropriate terms) about any decisions made.
  11. If the student is accelerated, an educator should be assigned to the student to help with the transition for acceleration. This special teacher has the opportunity to develop a relationship with the student and be viewed as a trusted person who can help out on a hard day. Additionally, it’s important to consider what specific skills the student will need in order to make a successful transition to acceleration. These skills might be learning how to work a locker, figuring out lunchroom routines, or doing three-digit addition. A thoughtful transition period plan is key to success.
  12. Students will be reassured if they learn that other students have already done this successfully. It might even be helpful for the student to have a phone conversation with an older student who accelerated previously.
  13. Parents will also appreciate the opportunity to talk with other parents who have experienced acceleration with their children. If it isn’t easy to make these parent-to-parent connections,  they might enjoy reading some of the stories of acceleration included in Volume 1 of A Nation Empowered.
  14.  Acceleration decisions must be the result of a team approach. The adult members of the team need to remain student-focused during the process. This is best employed through open communication with the student, including during the transition period.

Integrated Acceleration System

Experts at the Belin-Blank Center have developed a tool to help you through the acceleration decision-making process. The Integrated Acceleration System is an interactive online tool that brings together all the relevant information to help you decide if acceleration is a good fit for your student. It generates a multi-page report that offers evidence-based recommendations, provides resources, and helps the student, parents, and educators better understand the student’s academic needs.

Sign up here to receive updates about this new online system and more information about academic acceleration. We post a blog about acceleration approximately twice a month. If you have questions, contact us at acceleration@belinblank.org.

We’re planning an online professional development session about the Integrated Acceleration System in Spring 2022. Send an email to acceleration@belinblank.org if you would like to be notified about the date of that session.

Who is Ready for Early Entrance to Kindergarten?

How do we know which children might be ready to start kindergarten early? We hear lots of stories from parents about children who seemed to learn to read spontaneously – one parent said her 3-year-old started reading the back of the shampoo bottle in the bathtub. Other parents notice their child demonstrating an early interest in time (“Grandpa, only 17 minutes until we leave for the playground!”) or a facility with numbers and sophisticated vocabulary. These anecdotes might lead us to wonder if a child is indeed ready to enter formal schooling at an age younger than typical.

Before getting into this process, it’s really helpful to learn about the policies concerning early entrance to kindergarten in your state. Some states actually prohibit early entrance to kindergarten in public school. (Note: families might work around that by sending their child early to a non-public school for a year or two, then transferring to public school later.) Learn about your state’s early entrance to kindergarten policies here.

We’ve mentioned some of the characteristics of young, bright children: early reading, facility with numbers, and advanced vocabulary. Typically, researchers have found that the best candidates for early entrance are at least 4 ½ years old. Other characteristics include long attention span, extraordinary memory, and an ability to generalize and make connections between different areas of learning.

Won’t early entrants “burn out” on academics or become social outcasts? In a meta-analysis of  research studies focusing on acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, researchers found that students did very well academically and were better adjusted socially and emotionally compared to older students. In other words, as a group, students who entered kindergarten early did just fine socially, putting to rest our concern about accelerated students becoming social “misfits.”

When thinking about making this important decision, we might weigh the pros and cons. On the “pro” side, students entering school early won’t experience the social disruptions or concerns about gaps in their educational background that we would have for students skipping a grade at a later time.  The biggest negative is probably centered around the fact that 4-year-olds don’t have much of a track record in school; since we don’t have much school history to analyze, we tend to be cautious and recommend early entrance to kindergarten for only those students who are clearly ready. It seems prudent to wait and consider acceleration later for others.

The decision about early entrance to kindergarten can be made after collecting objective test data as well as measures of psychosocial functioning.  The Belin-Blank Center Assessment and Counseling Clinic uses a full intellectual battery (WPPSI-IV or Stanford Binet-5) and full achievement test (Woodcock Johnson-IV). Achievement test results should be calculated using grade level and above level (usually one to two years) norms. This information can then be entered in the Iowa Acceleration Scale, 3rd edition, which is a tool designed to help educators and families make effective decisions regarding a grade skip. Families and educators need to work together to discuss the results of the assessment and collaboratively discuss appropriate strategies for meeting the child’s needs. The final decision must be made between the family and the school.

The Belin-Blank Center has recently developed the new online Integrated Acceleration System to help schools and families make decisions about various forms of acceleration, including early entrance to kindergarten, subject accelerationearly entrance to college, grade-skipping, and acceleration with twice-exceptional students. The grade-skipping form of acceleration has already been launched. Early entrance to kindergarten and the other forms of acceleration will be coming soon. The Integrated Acceleration System provides an interactive online system designed to help educators and families gather the needed information and weigh the necessary factors in making these decisions. To sign up to receive more information about acceleration and the new Integrated Acceleration System,  click here!

Resources

10 Reasons to Get Started on JSHS Projects

Now that the school year is underway, it’s time for Iowa high school students and teachers to get started on projects for the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. Your future selves will thank you!

If you are a high school student thinking that you would like to solve a problem, stretch yourself, and stand out – now is the time to get started on an original research project so you can present it at the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

If you are a teacher looking for opportunities for your students to present their work to an authentic audience of experts, explore STEM careers, and build a sense of belonging, start planning for JSHS now

Top 10 Reasons to Join Us at the 2022 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium:

  1. The symposium is returning to the University of Iowa campus!
  2. Learn how you can use publicly available data sets or working on a citizen science project to conduct research without a lab.
  3. Get hot tips from the brains behind a video series we made to teach you how to conduct a data science project. Check it out!
  4. Get a backstage pass to cutting edge University of Iowa research facilities like the National Advanced Driving Simulator. Since we know you can’t wait, here’s a 360 virtual tour to tide you over. 
  5. Trivia night is back! Geek out with nerds from across the state in a friendly competition. 
  6. Experience the wonders of the newest dining hall on campus where you can have sushi, a made to order burger, a Southwest salad, and pancakes all for lunch.
  7. Be inspired by research presented by students in Iowa who win big scholarships at National JSHS.
  8. Every high school in Iowa can bring 5 students and a teacher for FREE. We sponsor housing, meals, and all activities – including a trip down the lazy river
  9. Five students will win scholarships and an all expense paid trip to National JSHS in Albuquerque, NM.
  10. If we can’t meet on campus, we will meet online for virtual presentations, tours, and activities that span the globe. 

Join us on Monday, March 7 and Tuesday, March 8, 2022. 

Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education

The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) hosted a virtual conference over the summer, and one of the most exciting things shared was the new “Global Principles for Professional Learning in Gifted Education.” 

In the United States, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has provided sets of standards to help define best practices in Pre-K – Grade 12 Programming, Teacher Preparation in Gifted Education (in collaboration with the Council for Exceptional The Association for the Gifted [CEC TAG], and Knowledge and Skills in Gifted & Talented Education for All Teachers. The new WCGTC principles suggest the 10 most important concepts for professional development in gifted education, to strengthen local and regional practices on behalf of gifted children around the world.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Several scholars involved in the development of the principles share a presentation available to the public. A poster with the 10 global principles is available to download and share or post. The full document, with research-based rationales that could be of interest to educators anywhere, is available at https://world-gifted.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/professional-learning-global-principles.pdf.

The last of the 10 principles, Empowering, is one of the most important to the Belin-Blank Center. The Center has long committed its professional development opportunities to empowering the gifted community, and throughout the academic year, educators can enroll in a variety of classes, including three-semester-hour coursework as well as one- and two-semester hour “workshops” that expand understanding about themes significant to identifying and understanding gifted children and their unique needs. Coursework, aligned with NAGC standards, encourages professionals to adopt best practices for meeting the needs of advanced learners, from acceleration to classroom differentiation to homogeneous grouping. Classes also provide insights into programming options that facilitate optimal learning environments.

The current schedule of courses is available at belinblank.org/courses; specifics about the State of Iowa Talented and Gifted Endorsement are available at belinblank.org/endorsement. Visit our website for directions about registering with Distance and Online Education to take coursework as a non-degree-seeking student.  Share questions with us at educators@belinblank.org or give us a call at 319-335-6148! We look forward to collaborating with you to provide the best possible programming for gifted/talented children!

What’s the Best-Kept Secret in Gifted Education? Above-Level Testing.

We have said it before: the secret of above-level testing is really not much of a secret. It’s used extensively by university-based centers of gifted education.  Unfortunately, it is under-utilized by schools. This secret is hiding in plain sight!

What is above-level testing and how can it be used? Above-level testing is useful for decisions about:

  1. Identifying a student for a gifted program
  2. Determining what a student is ready to learn next
  3. Informing decisions about subject-matter acceleration
  4. Informing decisions about readiness to skip a grade

“Above-level testing” is exactly what it sounds like:  Give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. 

This idea was pioneered over one hundred years ago by Dr. Leta Hollingworth, sometimes called the “mother” of gifted education.  This concept was fully developed by Dr. Julian Stanley in the 1970s when he devised the “Talent Search” in which 7th and 8th graders took the college admissions exam, the SAT. 

Fast forward to the present day, and above-level testing is used extensively in outside-of-school programs for gifted students. In fact, hundreds of thousands of students around the world take above-level tests each year as part of university-based talent searches, such as the one offered by the Belin-Blank Center.  Some of these tests used are the SAT, ACT, and I-Excel.

Unfortunately, above-level tests are not used extensively in typical school gifted programs, but we would like to change that!

Academically talented students tend to perform extremely well on tests developed for their own age group. They do so well that they get everything (or almost everything) right, and we don’t really know what the extent of their talents might be. 

Psychologists call this “hitting the ceiling” of the test.

Think of it like a yardstick: The grade-level “yardstick” measures only 36 inches. If the student is 40 inches tall, we can’t measure accurately by using only a grade-level yardstick. What we need is a longer yardstick, and a harder test. An above-level test, one that is developed for older students, provides that longer yardstick and successfully raises the ceiling for that talented student.

above-level testing

The advantages of above-level testing include discovering “talented” and “exceptionally talented” students. In the figure, the bell curve on the left shows a typical group of students. A few students (the dark blue portion of the group) earn very high scores. They score at the 95th percentile or above when compared to their age-mates.

These are the students who “hit the ceiling” of the grade-level test. 

If that group of students takes a harder test — an above-level test that was developed for older students — voila! We see a new bell curve (the one on the right). The harder test spreads out the scores of the talented students. Now, we can better see what these students have already mastered and what amount of challenge they are ready for.

Why does this matter? Knowing how students performed on an above-level test helps us to give the students, their families and their educators better advice about the kinds of educational options the students might need.

For example, does this student need educational enrichment? Would that student benefit from moving up a grade level or two in math? Would yet another student benefit from grade-skipping?

Organizations such as the Belin-Blank Center who have used above-level testing for years. We have developed rubrics to help educators and parents understand the student’s above-level test scores and relate them to appropriately challenging educational options. In just one or two hours of testing, we are able to get important information about the student’s aptitudes.

Imagine you are working with two 5th grade students, Jessica and Mary.

Both of them have scored at the 99th percentile on the mathematics portion of their state test when compared to other 5th graders. They are both strong in math, but we don’t have specific information about the extent of their skills.  What should they learn next?

Psychologists say that these students have “hit the ceiling of the test” because they got everything (or almost everything) right on the grade-level test. What we need is a harder test that would more accurately measure their talents and help us to tailor instruction to their specific needs.

Rather than creating a special test for these students, we gave them I-Excel, which contains 8th grade content.  Jessica scored at the 85th percentile when compared to 8th graders, and Mary scored at the 20th percentile when compared to 8th graders. 

Both students have shown on the 5th grade-level test that they are very good at math compared to typical students in their 5th grade regular classroom. But their above-level test scores show that Jessica is ready for much more challenge in math than Mary.

Jessica likely needs acceleration, while Mary may benefit from enrichment. It would have been impossible to see this difference if we had only been using their grade-level scores.

Above-level testing is key to helping us tailor educational programs for gifted students. It helps us to understand a student’s need for challenge in specific subject areas and to act on the information appropriately.

We at the Belin-Blank Center are thrilled to be able to provide educators with specific information about your students via the in-school testing option for I-Excel, an above-level test for talented 4th – 6th graders.

For more information about how this could work in your school, see www.i-excel.org and www.belinblank.org/talent-search, or contact assessment@belinblank.org.

Students in 7th – 9th grade also have an opportunity for above-level testing by taking the ACT through the Belin-Blank Center. Above-level testing opportunities allow students to showcase their talents and help educators and others to make good suggestions about appropriate educational options for these students.

Save the Date for Summer

Summer means sun, fun, and learning at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for TAG educators and gifted students.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021
  • Individual Study: Leadership in Gifted NAG/NDE Virtual Conference
    • July 26 – August 13, 2021

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

Summer 2021 Belin-Blank Chautauqua

“The Chautauqua movement pioneered the idea of extending learning opportunities to adults and nontraditional students.”

Scott Howell and Alma McGinn

The Belin-Blank Chautauqua offers a choice of six classes in a fast-paced (accelerated) format.

The first two days of each Chautauqua class include time for participants to interact with each other and the instructor on Zoom. Each class continues online for three weeks of asynchronous opportunities designed by each instructor to maximize the value of each class.

During the Belin-Blank Chautauqua (virtual in 2021), we are offering two new classes about meeting the needs of a broader range of gifted learners:

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB) focuses on the preparation required for gifted performers in the fields where these students stand out.
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners discusses ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities. More than one educator has acknowledged the importance of identifying traditionally underserved students, but they are not sure what to DO for these students, since traditional programming will not match their strengths.

Chautauqua Week 1 includes:

Family Issues and Giftedness (RCE:4119)
Jul 5, 6 – 23 (Psychology strand)
Dr. Haley Wikoff and Dr. Erin Lane, Team Teachers

Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB)
Jul 7, 8 – 27 (Programming)
Kathy Green, Instructor

Serving Visual/Spatial Learners (EDTL:4096:0WKC)
Jul 9, 10 – 29 (Programming)
Dr. Vince Moore, Instructor

Chautauqua Week 2 includes:

Creativity (RCE:4129)
Jul 12, 13 – 30 (Psychology)
Dr. Clar Baldus, Instructor

Programming: Facilitating Student Research Projects (EDTL:4073:0WKA)
Jul 14, 15 – Aug 3 (Programming)
Lora Danker, Instructor

Evaluation of Gifted Programs (EPLS:4111)
Jul 16, 17 – Aug 5 (Administrative)”
Dr. Kim Chandler, Instructor

Automatic Scholarships

Scholarships for the cost of one class are available to those who enroll in three classes in either week. Those who take all six classes over the two weeks receive a full scholarship for the cost of one class each week.  

Registration

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student.

For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg.

All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

Excellence Gaps in Education

On June 22, we are offering a three-week book study about Excellence Gaps in Education (Plucker & Peters, 2016). This online class (asynchronous) focuses on strategies we can use to eliminate the achievement gaps that exist even among the students who perform at the highest levels (EDTL:4096:0WKD).  

This is a new class, and if you haven’t read Excellence Gaps, this is the time!  Excellence Gaps won the 2017 Book of the Year award from NAGC, and our need to understand excellence gaps—going beyond achievement gaps—is more important than ever.  The Harvard Education Press posted:

In Excellence Gaps in Education, Jonathan A. Plucker and Scott J. Peters shine a spotlight on “excellence gaps”—the achievement gaps among subgroups of students performing at the highest levels of achievement. Much of the focus of recent education reform has been on closing gaps in achievement between students from different racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by bringing all students up to minimum levels of proficiency. Yet issues related to excellence gaps have been largely absent from discussions about how to improve our schools and communities. Plucker and Peters argue that these significant gaps reflect the existence of a persistent talent underclass in the United States among African American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor students, resulting in an incalculable loss of potential among our fastest growing populations.

This is one of the Belin-Blank Center classes this summer intended to help educators ensure that their districts are doing everything possible to ensure that they are identifying and serving ALL their gifted learners—including those that have been traditionally underrepresented.  The other two classes include 

  • Talent Development: Arts, Academics, and Athletics (EDTL:4096:0WKB), focus in on the preparation required for gifted performers, and 
  • Serving Visual/Spatial Learners, discussing ways to provide programming for students identified for advanced abilities beyond mathematical and English/Language Arts abilities.

To take part in our classes, you must register one time each year with Distance and Online Education as a non-degree seeking student. For the State of Iowa Endorsement in Talented and Gifted Education, you may register as either a graduate or undergraduate student, regardless of your professional status. If you won’t benefit in other ways from the graduate credit, you can save tuition dollars. Once you have your HawkID and password, you can follow the directions to register for the courses that interest or benefit you. Follow belinblank.org/educators/reg. All our classes fulfill strands required for endorsement, and the study of Excellence Gaps can apply to the Administrative strand.

Questions?  Email educators@belinblank.org!

We look forward to having you join us for this one-semester-hour workshop, and for other classes available through June and July.

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.

Message from the Director: Blue Sky Beyond

Susan Assouline

by Dr. Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center Director

“Even when the sky is filled with clouds, the sun still shines above.”

Janet Donaghy

This sentiment strikes me as an apt description of our personal and professional lives during the past year.

We experienced literal clouds with the August 2020 derecho. We saw the figurative dark clouds of social injustice through systemic racism and health and economic disparities.  Yet, our university’s campus leadership steered our students, faculty, and staff through the clouds of the past year.

Through it all, they never lost sight of the notion that the sun still shone above.

We discovered not only blue sky beyond the clouds of lockdown but many silver linings.

We stayed connected through Zoom meetings. We stepped up with creativity and resiliency to convert our on-site services and programming to online opportunities. We collaborated to create new, innovative programs and services.

Last April, it seemed daunting to sustain our mission without one of our most visible services: summer student programs.  Yet, our team of creative and dedicated professionals committed to providing students the specialized programming for which the Belin-Blank Center is known.

The student programming team re-imagined opportunities for K-12 students, which have been available throughout this past year. To do our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic, we have moved our signature high-school residential programs online this summer. While a bit different from our traditional on-campus experiences, our team has worked hard to create impactful programming that students will remember for a lifetime.

Our excellent Assessment and Counseling Clinic professionals continued to see clients through telehealth technology.

As soon as they were able, with appropriate safety protocols in place, they resumed in-person assessments and have been conducting these for nearly a year.  We have even added new services and hired two new licensed psychologists, Dr. Amanda Berns and Dr. Katie Schabilion.

Professional learning opportunities had already transitioned to online learning over the past several years and were well-positioned to continue. In addition to the many courses and workshops planned, we will host an online Advanced Placement Summer Institute. Additionally, individuals attending the upcoming Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality can earn a semester hour of credit for the course associated with it.

By being online, the Summit will share crucial research with many more people throughout the world. Because we will record each presentation, a broader group of people will have access to the knowledge for a longer time.

Photo by Sunsetoned on Pexels.com

During this year of unprecedented challenges, UI President Bruce Harreld and his leadership team demonstrated excellent governance. The College of Education (our academic home) also offered significant leadership during the pandemic.

President Harreld’s service to the campus and the state gained admiration because he fostered transparency and shared governance. People appreciated his service as a staunch supporter of public universities, recognizing their importance at both a state and national level. President Harreld has served our campus for five years. When he announced last fall that he planned to retire, new clouds of uncertainty about the future appeared on the horizon.

Now those clouds have dissipated.

The University of Iowa expects to announce its 22nd President later today (update). We are looking forward to working with new leadership to move into the future. We also wish President Harreld and his wife, Mary, the best as they embark on this next phase of their lives.

Today, the sky is blue.

Opportunities for students, educators, and families seem unlimited.  We know there will be clouds again, but we will find new opportunities to be supportive and collaborative when they appear.

We will remember that there are silver linings and blue sky beyond.

Mark Your Calendars for Summer!

Summer means sun, fun, and summer programs at the Belin-Blank Center! Check out our many classes and events for educators, students, families, and gifted education researchers.

FOR EDUCATORS

Professional Learning Courses / TAG Endorsement:

  • Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality
    • May 17 – 18, 2021
  • Neuroscientific Implications for Gifted: Neuroscience of Twice Exceptionality
    • May 20 – June 10, 2021
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students
    • May 25 – June 14, 2021
  • Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted
    • June 7 – 25, 2021
  • Reading for High Ability Students
    • June 14 – July 2, 2021
  • Academic Acceleration
    • June 14 – August 6, 2021
  • Belin Fellowship
    • June 21 – 25, 2021
  • AP Summer Institute (online); credit option will be available
    • June 28 – July 2, 2021
  • Teacher Training for Advanced Placement Courses
    • July 1 – 22, 2021
  • Family Issues in Giftedness (Chautauqua)
    • July 5 – 23, 2021
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level
    • July 6 – 26, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Talent Development: Arts, Academics, Athletics”
    • July 7 – 27, 2021
  • Topics in Teaching and Learning: “Serving Visual/Spatial Learners in Gifted Ed”
    • July 9 – 29, 2021
  • Creativity: Issues and Applications in Gifted Education (Chautauqua)
    • July 12 – 30, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week I
    • July 12 – 16, 2021
  • Programming/Curriculum for High Ability Students: Real World Problem Solving
    • July 14 – August 3, 2021
  • Chautauqua: Week II
    • July 19 – 23, 2021

FOR RESEARCHERS

FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES