Tag Archives: Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy

New Requirements for IOAPA Middle School Courses

As you may know, the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services, and to help Iowa teachers find talented students and develop their abilities. There are extraordinary benefits in identifying students who are in need of an additional challenge, and we at the Belin-Blank Center and IOAPA want students to experience these full benefits. According to research, above-level testing is one of the best methods to make these identifications.

After examining previous years’ completion and passing rates for IOAPA middle school courses, the Belin-Blank Center is implementing a new policy regarding IOAPA middle school courses. Beginning in the 2020-2021 academic year, all students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 6th grader* will be required to have completed the I-Excel assessment. All students taking an IOAPA middle school course as a 7th or 8th grader will be required to have completed the ACT.

By requiring these above-level assessments, we are hoping to provide teachers with an effective tool to identify students who would benefit from advanced coursework through IOAPA.

Students must have taken I-Excel or the ACT in the past two years or will need to sign up for testing in order to register for the Fall 2020 IOAPA courses.  Teachers need to begin the above-level testing process now. Registration for Fall 2020 IOAPA courses will be open April 1 – August 15, 2020. Below we discuss the two different above-level assessments and the process of signing up.

I-Excel

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90th percentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments or ISASP, are strong candidates for above-level testing.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 1 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. If you have 6th-graders*, contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing after reading through the details at belinblank.org/inschooltesting. 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/act for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s) and IOAPA spring registration. Please allow approximately 6 weeks from the time of registration to having the assessment results in hand.
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing.
*If next year’s incoming 6th graders are currently in a separate building, please feel free to share this information with the appropriate person in that building.

I-Excel Costs

The cost of I-Excel in Iowa is $45 per student if groups of 4 or more students are tested. The cost is $22 if the student is eligible for free/reduced cost lunch. For students test individually, the cost is $90 ($45 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch). If students test on the University of Iowa campus in June at our testing session on campus (June 11, 2020), the fee is $70 ($35 for those receiving free/reduced cost lunch).

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

ACT

The ACT is a test that many students take in 11th or 12th grade as part of the college admissions process. The ACT has also been used since the 1980s to discover younger students who are ready for greater academic challenges. Students testing through the Belin-Blank Center are provided with the individualized report mentioned above. Scores on the ACT can be used to qualify students for a wide variety of academic programs, including IOAPA courses.

Registration / Test Date Process

To make this process easier, parents can sign their child up for the ACT through our BESTS program. Click here for more information on this process. In doing so, we remove the guesswork from the registration process, we file the registration paperwork with ACT, and we also send you a coupon for a free IDEAL Solutions for STEM Acceleration report that provides an extensive interpretation of your child’s scores.

The ACT test dates are less flexible than I-Excel testing dates. Below are the available test dates through May 2020 (Note: we do not offer the July or September ACT test date through our registration system).

Test DateInitial Deadline (Late fee after this date)Final Deadline
Saturday, April 4, 2020Wednesday, February 26, 2020Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Saturday, June 13, 2020Wednesday, May 6, 2020Wednesday, May 20, 2020

ACT Cost

The fee for ACT testing is $70 ($35 for students who qualify for Free/Reduced-Cost Lunch). If the reduced fee for qualifying students is still too great a financial burden, the Belin-Blank Center will work with the family to make a financial arrangement that allows the student to participate. Registrations not paid as of the initial deadline will incur an additional $30 fee.

After testing, eligible students may sign up for an IOAPA course, and IOAPA covers the course fee (up to a $700 value).

For more detailed information about this new requirement of above-level testing for IOAPA middle school courses, check out our recent IOAPA-BESTS blog that highlights the most common FAQs. Please do not hesitate to contact us at ioapa@belinblank.org if you have any questions.

Register for APTTI and Apply for Funding Opportunities!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

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

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

APTTI is a College Board-approved AP Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit current teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course. Teachers who attended our previous institutes shared some of their valued experiences:

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

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

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

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

Funding

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

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

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

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

IOAPA: Spring Registration Opens Soon

Spring registration for Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) courses open November 1st and will close December 7th, 2018, or when seats fill, whichever comes first. There are limited seats in each course, and we expect them to fill up fast. Be sure to register as soon as you can! 

As a reminder, IOAPA courses are intended for cases in which the course can not currently be offered through the school district (or, in the case of middle school students, the course is not offered at the student’s grade level). Schools that offer a course on-site are not eligible to offer that course through IOAPA.

Available courses for high school students for spring 2019 include: AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Psychology, and AP US Government. 

Available courses for middle school students for spring 2019 include: Creative Writing, Introduction to Computer Science, Probability and Statistics, Psychology, and Honors U.S. History to the Civil War.

SSTP Musselman Lab 2018-5

For guidance in making course selection decisions, check out our high school and middle school course infographics here!

To register on November 1st, visit our website! 

Specifics: 

  • If your school registered with IOAPA in the fall, there is no need to re-register the school. Just click “Enroll Your School” on our website, and you will be redirected to the student nomination step.
  • Students enrolled in year-long classes will be automatically enrolled in the second semester of their course, unless they inform us that they would like to drop, or receive a failing grade for the fall term. For a step-by-step registration guide, check out this post.
  • Middle school students interested in enrolling in IOAPA courses should take an above-level test to determine eligibility: 6th graders can take I-Excel; 7th and 8th graders can take the ACT. For eligibility guidelines, see the Requirements page. For more on above-level testing in general, see this page and this post.
  • Our website includes helpful information about IOAPA courses and registration. Visit the Getting Started page first, and click around to find the IOAPA handbook, information about how to talk to administrators and students about IOAPA. 

Stay connected with us!

  • Subscribe to our blog for more on IOAPA courses and other topics relevant to IOAPA teachers, parents, and students.
  • Follow us on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA
  • Email us at ioapa@belinblank.org 

October is Gifted Education Awareness Month!

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

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

How will YOU celebrate?

shutterstock_71855890_sm

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

As you may know, IOAPA and the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS) have teamed up to provide identification and programming services in order to help Iowa teachers find talented middle school students and develop their abilities. For more on how BESTS and IOAPA work together, check out our IOAPA-BESTS blog roundup. In order to use above-level testing scores to inform eligibility for IOAPA courses, make sure to begin the above-level testing process soon. There are four basic steps for participation in BESTS:

  1. Find the students who are ready for additional challenge; these are the students who will be recommended for participation in BESTS. Typically, students who have earned scores at or above the 90thpercentile on grade-level standardized tests, such as the Iowa Assessments, are strong candidates for above-level testing.
  2. Notify the students identified in Step 2 and their families about the opportunity to participate in BESTS.
  3. Contact assessment@belinblank.org as soon as possible to set up testing. Note that if you have 7th-9th grade students in need of above-level testing, they will be taking the ACT, and there are specific deadlines for registration; visit belinblank.org/talent-search for specific information. I-Excel testing sessions for current 4th-6th graders are more flexible to schedule, but it’s still important to reach out soon to ensure that the process can be completed in time for your desired test date(s).
  4. Inform students and parents about test results and the recommended course of action following testing. Families receive above-level test score reports and an extensive interpretation of results that can help with these discussions.

shutterstock_71855890

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

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

A Visual Guide to Middle School IOAPA Courses

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

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

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

IOAPA Fall 2015 MS Data Infographic

 

Interested in IOAPA? Learn more about registration!

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

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

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

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

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

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

IOAPA

Resources for IOAPA Mentors and Students

We are excited to welcome our students, mentors, and site coordinators to another great year of online classes! This year, IOAPA has again partnered with Apex Learning Virtual School (AVLS) to offer higher-level classes at the high school and middle school levels. Often, additional questions arise about the online AP class process, ALVS system, and information about IOAPA. The following documents can be a good starting point for facilitating and completing IOAPA classes.

ALVS AP Resources for Mentors and Site Coordinators

ALVS AP Resources:  This document provides information about policies, suggestions for site coordinators, and tools for mentors in order to ensure student success.

ALVS AP Resources for Students

ALVS Student Resources: Students can access tips and suggestions about how to maximize their AP Online experience, as well as Apex policies and procedures.

Additional information about Apex AP courses can be found on their website.

College Board Resources for Teachers

The College Board coordinates Advanced Placement classes and offers several ways for teachers to connect and learn more about AP courses. The search tool can be a great resource for teachers when looking for specific information related to AP.

AP Teacher Communities are another great way for teachers to connect with other AP teachers and learn about AP teaching.

Visit AP Central for more information related to AP.

IOAPA Resources

IOAPA offers several great resources for administration of our classes as well. In addition to our staff, we have an IOAPA handbook which is a great starting point for questions related to IOAPA. We also manage a Twitter account (@kflanaryIOAPA) which can be a great source of additional information that may be of interest to AP teachers and students.

IOAPA also offers professional development training for teachers interested in improving their AP teaching skills over the summer. Information about APTTI is generally released in February or March.

For more information about IOAPA, please visit our website at belinblank.org/ioapa.

In Case You Missed It: Study Techniques That Work

This post was previously published in December 2013. Enjoy!

Students may already bubble with excitement as we approach winter break. Before this break becomes a reality, though, most will have to face exams. The end of the semester can be stressful, but having the right study skills can assuage some anxiety.

As Scientific American Mind reported this fall, there are numerous ways to study—some of which are less useful than others. For example, many students highlight text while studying, perhaps to emphasize important information that may be on exams. Although highlighting is a common practice, it does little to improve performance. Another dubious study practice is rereading.  Rereading a textbook chapter or class notes once may lead to some learning gains, but rereading text more frequently is a poor use of study time.

Before the panic sets in—“But I spent all Tuesday night highlighting and rereading my U.S. Government notes!”—consider more effective options. Some researchers argue that the best study strategies are those that require the learner to manipulate the information to be learned. One way students can accomplish this is through self-testing, such as using flashcards or answering questions at the end of the chapter. Another suggested strategy is interleaved practice, which encourages learners to compare different kinds of problems.  For instance, a student using this method to prepare for a math test alternates between practice problems of different key topic areas rather than completing all problems of one set in one go.

Lastly, distributed practice, or spacing study sessions across longer periods of time, is an effective way to structure study time. Unfortunately for the inner procrastinator in us all, the longer the learner spreads out short, intense study sessions, the more likely the learner will acquire and retain information.

Selected References 

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E. J., Mitchell, J. N., & Willingham, D. T. (2013, August 29).  Psychologists identify the best ways to study. Scientific American Mind, 24(4), 47-53.

Winne, P. H. (2013). Learning strategies, study skills, and self-regulated learning in postsecondary education. In M. B. Paulsen (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 377-403). New York City, NY: Springer Publishing.

Writing Study Skills Suggested by College Board

The 2014 Iowa AP Index

The Iowa AP Index was developed ten years ago by the Belin-Blank Center. The Index assesses Advanced Placement (AP) participation among accredited public and nonpublic schools in Iowa.

For the fifth consecutive year, George Washington High School in Cedar Rapids is the top Advanced Placement school in Iowa, according to the Index. Rounding out the top 5 schools behind Washington are John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Regina High School in Iowa City, Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, and Ames High School in Ames.

The Iowa AP Index is designed to give a fair comparison of AP opportunity across Iowa schools. An index score is calculated for each participating school based on the ratio of AP exams taken by all its students divided by the number of its graduating seniors.

The top 25 schools will be honored during the annual Belin-Blank Recognition Ceremony on Oct. 5, 2014, at the University of Iowa.

“Advanced Placement opportunities make a big difference in the lives of the students and their teachers. The rating reflects participation in the AP program at a school, not the overall quality of the school. However, one indication of a high school’s commitment to preparing high-ability students for college is access to advanced courses. Schools that make these opportunities available to the students are clearly committed to the success of the entire student body,” says Susan Assouline, director of the Belin-Blank Center.

The number of schools in Iowa offering AP opportunities and the number of AP exams taken has increased substantially since 2001, with 212 high schools having at least one student take an AP Exam and 14,629 AP Exams taken in 2013. In 2013, the percentage of Iowa exams with a score of 3 or higher was 64.7%, which compares favorably to the 2013 national average of 57.4%.

Through the Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA), funded by the State of Iowa, all accredited schools have access to free tuition for online AP courses and online AP Exam Review. During 2013-2014, Iowa’s 6th graders had access to free above-level testing, which indicates readiness for pre-AP advanced coursework. The Belin-Blank Center provides outreach and professional development for teachers through the College Board-accredited Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute.

To view the top 50 AP schools in Iowa, visit www.iowaapindex.org.

Facilitating Success in Students of Military Families

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online. IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes. Educators can learn more here.

When it comes to AP programming, we are always looking to learn about innovative ways to better support students (e.g., our recent iPad initiative). In this pursuit to enhance our programming, we sometimes come across instances of schools excelling at this mission. A Maryland high school’s dedication to improving educational opportunities and increasing student success is one such example.

Students of military families who move frequently face the challenge of trying to maintain quality, consistent educational experiences. The National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), which seeks to improve student performance in STEM areas, has responded to this concern. Specifically, NMSI has teamed with White House programs to target teenagers of military families—and students of other backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in AP—with its Comprehensive AP Program. Participating schools receive incentives to encourage student AP involvement and teacher and student supports to promote ongoing success in AP courses.

Maryland’s Aberdeen High School has recently received attention for its great successes under the Comprehensive AP Program. Students of military families at Aberdeen High report highly positive experiences. Moreover, students across all backgrounds at the school have shown large gains in passing scores on the AP exam, particularly in math and science. Congratulations, Aberdeen High, and thank you for setting a great example!

Iowa Online AP Academy: Taking Small Steps to Bridge the Digital Divide

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online. IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes. Educators can learn more here.

There are sizable gaps between those in the United States who have easy access to the Internet and those who do not, as recently displayed in this infographic created by OnlineITDegree.net and then shared by Mashable. Class, race, and geographic location all factor into accessibility of the invaluable resources that can be found online.

As our interests lie in helping rural students gain access to challenging academic opportunities, we at the Iowa Online AP Academy and the Belin-Blank Center more generally are concerned with this discrepancy in access for many Iowa students. Accordingly, we have teamed with one local high school to pilot a project that places access to cutting-edge iPad technology in the hands of students already enrolled in online AP courses. iPads were selected for this program as they were evaluated to leave the smallest technology burden on the shoulders of school staff.

Each student in this semester-long pilot will receive an iPad on which e-textbooks and course-relevant programming will already be downloaded. These iPads will be for their use at school and at home, allowing students who do not have access to technology at home the option of finishing online coursework outside of the classroom. Notably, a portion of these students will also participate in an online community in which they will connect with other Iowa students to attack course content together and even meet one another at the University of Iowa for interactive class projects. Through this pilot, we hope to explore the potential of providing high-tech devices to students with supports in place to increase access to emerging technologies and to build student communities across the state.

Preparing for Exams: Study Techniques That Work

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online. IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes. Educators can learn more here.

Students may already bubble with excitement as we approach winter break. Before this break becomes a reality, though, most will have to face exams. The end of the semester can be stressful, but having the right study skills can assuage some anxiety.

As Scientific American Mind reported this fall, there are numerous ways to study—some of which are less useful than others. For example, many students highlight text while studying, perhaps to emphasize important information that may be on exams. Although highlighting is a common practice, it does little to improve performance. Another dubious study practice is rereading.  Rereading a textbook chapter or class notes once may lead to some learning gains, but rereading text more frequently is a poor use of study time.

Before the panic sets in—“But I spent all Tuesday night highlighting and rereading my U.S. Government notes!”—consider more effective options. Some researchers argue that the best study strategies are those that require the learner to manipulate the information to be learned. One way students can accomplish this is through self-testing, such as using flashcards or answering questions at the end of the chapter. Another suggested strategy is interleaved practice, which encourages learners to compare different kinds of problems.  For instance, a student using this method to prepare for a math test alternates between practice problems of different key topic areas rather than completing all problems of one set in one go.

Lastly, distributed practice, or spacing study sessions across longer periods of time, is an effective way to structure study time. Unfortunately for the inner procrastinator in us all, the longer the learner spreads out short, intense study sessions, the more likely the learner will acquire and retain information.

Selected References 

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E. J., Mitchell, J. N., & Willingham, D. T. (2013, August 29).  Psychologists identify the best ways to study. Scientific American Mind, 24(4), 47-53.

Winne, P. H. (2013). Learning strategies, study skills, and self-regulated learning in postsecondary education. In M. B. Paulsen (Ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research (pp. 377-403). New York City, NY: Springer Publishing.

Writing Study Skills Suggested by College Board

No AP Classes in Your Iowa School, But Have Aspiring AP Students?

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) is best known for offering online, College Board-audited AP courses to Iowa’s high school students to give students an opportunity to take college-level courses while in high school. IOAPA delivers AP courses using Apex Learning’s digital curriculum.

IOAPA still has openings for the Spring 2014 semester:

  • Psychology
  • U.S. Government
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

Registration ends December 13th – contact Lori Hudson to register.

Iowa Online AP Mentors: Course Changes Ahead

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes.  Educators can learn more at www.belinblank.org/ioapa

Changes will soon roll out for two of our courses—APTM U.S. History and Physics.  These changes will not affect current students; however, they will affect students in the 2014-15 school year.

Changes to the Physics course include a new focus on Newtonian mechanics and a greater emphasis on student-led inquiry.  Considering U.S. History, the revised course centers on use of historical thinking skills, and it incorporates more structure through defined learning objectives.  The U.S. History exam, which will launch for all students in May 2015, has also been redesigned to include more multiple-choice items.  To prepare for this transition, mentors and teachers can review examples of teacher-developed course planning and pacing guides for U.S. History and Physics, and they may review the timeline below.

Fall 2013 – Spring 2014 Workshops will be available that present the changes and help teachers and mentors prepare for the revised courses.  These workshops will focus 20% of their time on the new courses and exams and 80% on the current courses and exams.  Workshops will also be available that center on developing students’ reasoning skills for Physics and historical thinking skills for the U.S. History course.

Summer 2014 AP Summer Institutes, such as the AP Teacher Training Institute provided by the Belin-Blank Center, will focus solely on the new courses and exams.  At this time, practice exams containing course updates will also be available through the AP Course Audit website.

Fall 2014 The revised courses will debut in classrooms.

May 2015 Students will take the new AP Physics and U.S. History exams.

Don’t forget! Spring 2014 course registration is now open for Iowa Online AP courses.

AP Mentors: What to Do When Students Struggle

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes.  Educators can learn more here.

An IOAPA mentor provides guidance to students as they complete their APTM coursework, interact with instructors, and self-monitor progress across the semester.  Given this support role, what should mentors—especially those whose expertise lies in areas outside of their students’ APTM coursework—do to help struggling students?

Mentors may choose to do some research on their own or actively seek out training opportunities, as mentioned in a previous post.  However, we must stress that it is okay when a mentor cannot answer a question about instructional content.  A mentor should not take on the responsibilities of the student or the instructor.  Rather, he or she facilitates students’ growth toward independence.  Mentors should guide students toward tackling college-level content and toward approaching professors about difficult work on their own.

For example, a mentor can take the following actions to help a struggling student:

  • Ask the student whether he or she has already contacted the instructor.  If the student has not, provide encouragement to do so.
  • If the student has contacted the instructor but still appears confused, ask him or her if you could read through the instructor’s responses together.  Talking through the instructor’s reply may help the student better understand the information presented.
  • If the student is still unsure what to do next, you and the student can work through the instructor’s replies to determine which information specifically does not make sense.  Helping the student to explicitly communicate to the instructor where he or she feels lost may facilitate a productive interaction between instructor and student.

Although we hope that mentors can assist students in becoming more independent, we strongly encourage mentors to be cognizant of larger issues, like poor communication between student and instructor or technical issues.  In these cases, mentors should step in to not only support students but also to advocate for them.

How Can Students Earn College Credit While Still in High School?

Taking college-level coursework while still in high school is an important opportunity for high-achieving high school students who are ready for an extra challenge in high school.  The benefits of college-level coursework include enhanced preparation for college and, in some cases, reduced college tuition costs, because students are able to accumulate college credit free of charge while still in high school.  Many colleges and universities award college credit for such coursework.

At first glance, it might seem like enrolling in community college credit coursework and APTM coursework are two different means to the same end.  In some cases this is true, but in other cases there are subtle differences that are important for students, teachers, parents, and school counselors to know.

Q.     Isn’t college credit the same whether I earn credit through a community college course, or through an APTM course?

A.     Many times students earn college credit from a community college course, if they have earned at least a C- in the course.  Once students graduate from high school and transfer their community college coursework to a post-secondary institution the way the credits transfer is not uniform.  Each post-secondary institution has a community college credit transition guide.  Students should consult the transition guide to see how their community college credit will be applied to graduation requirements at their post-secondary institution.  In some cases coursework may be transferred in as general education credit, in others the credit may count toward a liberal arts core requirement.  Very rarely does the credit transfer in to replace a specific course (unless of course the student is attending the institution granting the concurrent credit in the first place!)

Q.        How do I get college credit for an APTM course?

A.         Post-secondary institutions have policies for accepting APTM test scores to replace required credits for first-year required courses.  Many times, in order to earn college credit from an APTM course, students must score at least 3 on the APTM  exam(some schools have more restrictive requirements).  Students transferring in APTM scores of 3 will find that these scores are applied in much the same way that community college credits are applied to required coursework (general education or liberal arts core credit).  However, an important difference between community college credit and APTM scores is that in some core areas students earning a score of 4 or 5 on an APTM exam can use the score to replace a particular course, instead of being transferred into the institution as general education or liberal arts core credit.

Q.     Isn’t there a lot of pressure to perform well on the APTM test, in order to earn credit at my post-secondary institution?

A.     If your post-secondary institution awards credit for APTM courses, students earn credit based on the exam they take at the end of the course. To enroll in APTM coursework The College Board strongly recommends that students have completed all prerequisite courses, but any student regardless of an exam score can enroll in the course (and thus be exposed to the rigorous curriculum).  Regardless of the APTM exam score at the end of course, the student has been exposed to the expectations and workload of a college course.  Students enrolling in community college courses, with transferable credit must earn a qualifying score (or have a qualifying ACT score) to enroll in the course.  Students who do not earn a qualifying score are not eligible to enroll in the course.  Once students have earned a qualifying score for the community college course they will earn some type of college credit, as long as they maintain the minimum grade requirements for the course.

Check out Iowa Online APTM Academy’s APTM coursework table here:

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Check out the APTM Student post about the role of APTM coursework and getting in to college:

 https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/exploreap/the-rewards

Say Wut? Digital Tool Use Can Improve Ur Students’ Writing?

The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA) allows Iowa students to take APTM classes online.  IOAPA is especially meant for rural schools that do not have the resources to support APTM classes.  Educators can learn more here.

In recent years, there has been concern that high school students are unprepared for college-level work, particularly in the area of writing.  As parents, educators, and professionals seek an explanation for this unpreparedness, it has been proposed that teenagers’ writing skills may be hindered by frequent use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Some claim that use of these websites leads to reliance on “very compressed” language.  For example, the website Twitter may inadvertently encourage users to ignore rules of grammar and to opt for abbreviations rather than standard written English in order to fit a post into a limited number of characters.  This shortened and informal style can then trickle into academic writing, which is supported by anecdotal reports of student integrating “text speak” (e.g., ‘btw’ instead of ‘by the way’) into written work.  Yet research from the Pew Research Center suggests that digital technologies also positively influence students’ writing skills.

This past summer, the Pew Research Center surveyed Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers to better understand teacher perceptions about the impact of digital tools on student performance.  Their findings demonstrated that teachers are indeed concerned about the “creep” of informal style into formal academic writing.  At the same time though, teachers believe digital tools boost student creativity and personal expression while encouraging collaboration among peers.  In addition, letting students share their written work through online social mediums may even increase student motivation to create quality and unique written products.  Evolving technology appears to shape the way we perceive and utilize written language, but its influence may be more positive than initially thought.