Tag Archives: Iowa students

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!


Iowa Online AP Academy: What Are the Options for Online Learning?

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) is a great resource for Iowa students who are interested in AP opportunities beyond what is offered at their high schools. Through IOAPA, students are able to take AP courses and receive guidance and feedback within the classroom setting. However, for some students, IOAPA may not provide the type of experience they are looking for. As students plan their schedules for next year, what about other opportunities for online learning?

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are courses typically offered by colleges and universities (often for free) with the goal of providing increased access to education. Although an increased interest in MOOCs has encouraged universities to provide credit for individuals who take these courses, there is no consistent way to ensure that the work put forth in these classes will result in cost savings or credit at college. Nevertheless, MOOCs continue to be a popular and growing option for people of all ages. More on MOOCs can be found here.

EdX courses are another option for free online courses (including MOOCs) that cover a wide variety of disciplines. Again, the developers of EdX hope to provide users with access to online courses regardless of geography. Recently, EdX has begun adding options for AP Biology coursework on their website. Although this offering is relatively new, the course provider noted that this does not translate to high school credit or give students opportunities for completing science labs at this time.

Online schools are another way that students might be able to seek out higher level coursework in areas that are of interest to them. In the past few years, several external agencies have partnered with school districts in Iowa to offer alternatives for Iowa students at all levels. Although online schools often offer AP courses, the quality tends to vary significantly, and some argue against the for-profit nature of online schools, so students interested in this option should carefully research their options.

Iowa high schools also often partner with local community colleges or four-year institutions to offer concurrent enrollment courses or post-secondary enrollment options. We have discussed the pros and cons of these options in past posts, one of the main drawbacks being uncertainty about how credits might transfer for specific courses, especially those coming from community colleges.

Why choose IOAPA over these other options?

IOAPA offers several things that other online programs do not. First, it provides consistently high-quality Advanced Placement coursework that is designed to fit within an existing high school student’s class schedule. IOAPA classes are also designed to provide students new to online coursework with on-site support through site coordinators and mentors. These staff members help IOAPA students adjust to the nuances of online courses, and also aid students in finding resources and communicating with their course instructors. IOAPA courses are provided free of charge to Iowa high school students, and IOAPA students also have the opportunity to participate in AP exam review sessions for their IOAPA courses at no cost. IOAPA has very high completion rates (84%) compared to other online programs, and students tend to perform as well on the AP exam as students in traditional AP classes.

Interested in learning more about IOAPA? 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

Immersing Students in Technology and Innovation

The Belin-Blank Center is pleased to announce a new summer program for talented high school students!

The Innovation Institute (II) is for Iowa students currently enrolled in grades 9-11. All students must be nominated by a teacher or school administrator to participate. The Innovation Institute is a two-week residential summer technology and innovation immersion program at The University of Iowa. Students work in teams led by industry experts to become full stack web developers, meaning they will learn the skills to not only design, but build, a website. Students design dynamic database driven content and create a web application. Students will pitch innovative technology design ideas and have an opportunity to bring their web application to life. The Innovation Institute is administered by The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education, the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship, and the Iowa Centers for Enterprise. Each student selected will receive a $2,400 scholarship to cover the Institute’s cost and will have the opportunity to secure seed funding for their project.

Go to www.belinblank.org/summer to learn more!


AP Report to the Nation: Highlighting Iowa

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

The 10th Annual APTM Report to the Nation was published this February, bringing with it positive news on the expansion of APTM. In the past decade, the number of U.S. students enrolled in courses—around 500,000 students in 2003—has almost doubled to a million in 2013. Another exciting finding is the number of participating students who come from low-income families has quadrupled in the past ten years to a total of about 275,000 students now.

Looking at Iowa specifically, student involvement in APTM has grown from about 3,000 Iowa students to over 5,700 since 2003. Students who score highly on the exam—or who receive a 3 or higher—has jumped about 1,500 students in that time frame as well.

College Board reported some of the recent great growths Iowa has made include our state’s commitment to teacher development and targeted assistance to traditionally underserved schools. For teachers seeking opportunities through the Belin-Blank Center, we recommend looking into our summer AP Teacher Training Institute.

At the same time, College Board notes that nearly 300,000 students in the 2013 graduating class who had the potential to take APTM did not take advantage of these opportunities. For some of these students, there continue to be obstacles that stand in the way of access and opportunity—like we discussed a few weeks ago for Black Male Achievement Week and we often reference with respect to rurality. As APTM develops further, we will strive alongside schools and districts to increase the program’s accessibility to all high-achieving students.

Black Male Achievement Week Spurs a Necessary Dialogue

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

The goal of APTM is to challenge students and to better prepare them for higher education. Yet this program and others like it traditionally underrepresent students who are Black, Hispanic, American-Indian, and low-income, despite an awareness of these inequities and efforts to expand educational access.* Examining the 2013 graduating student cohort, only 28% of young black men who demonstrated potential for success in APTM took one or more APTM courses in high school (see College Board and American Promise infographic here).

Black Male Achievement (BMA) Week took place last week, drawing attention to barriers that prevent young black men from accessing APTM programming in addition to a host of other societal supports and opportunities. To incite conversation on this topic, the award-winning American Promise, a documentary examining the experiences of two friends at a prestigious private school as they move from kindergarten through high school, is now available for streaming online.

Events will continue through February and March (e.g., a Teach for America and American Promise Google Hangout on Tuesday, 02/11), bringing people together across the country to better understand these issues and what can be done to bring about change. Be a part of this conversation, and become a stronger advocate for your students, peers, and/or self.

*To read more about the high-end achievement gap and recommendations to help combat these inequities at a district- and school-level, download The Education Trust’s “Finding America’s Missing AP and IB Students” here.