Looking for ways to support your high-achieving students in math and the sciences? The Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), a prestigious national science competition, offers substantial opportunities for scholarships. At the regional competition here in Iowa City, students can win up to $2,750, and finalists can go on to win an additional $12,000 at the National JSHS in April. Last year, Iowa high school students took home a 1st place win at Nationals and more than $20,000 in scholarships!
2018 Iowa JSHS winners at the National JSHS competition
Iowa student Cheryl Blackmer won 1st place at Nationals in 2018!
To compete, Iowa high school students must submit papers describing original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by January 14th, 2019, so there’s still time to get projects started. The Iowa Regional JSHS competition will be hosted by the Belin-Blank Center on March 4th and 5th, and top presenters will earn scholarships go on to compete at the National JSHS competition!
Regardless of whether submissions are selected for competition, we invite all interested students and teachers to attend the regional event. Those who attend can participate in laboratory tours, informational sessions for students and teachers, and learn about Iowa students’ research. This is a great way to introduce students to the idea of doing their own original research and prepare them for future projects. It also gives them an opportunity to see the kinds of world-class resources and ideas that are available to students on a university campus. Students and teachers alike leave feeling inspired every year!
The first five students in attendance from each district attend free of charge, including overnight lodging and some meals, while the fee for each student beyond the first five comes to just $25.
For details, please visit our website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS, and don’t hesitate to contact us at JSHS@belinblank.org if you have any questions.
A new group has been organized in the I-380 corridor to provide an informational support network to parents and educators of twice-exceptional (2e) learners.
Understood.org has partnered with Amanda Freese to offer monthly meetings that provide information about strength-based advocacy for 2e individuals as well as resources and services related to enrichment academic opportunities and learning and attention challenges.
The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month from 6:30-8:00 p.m. Odd monthly meetings are held in North Liberty and even monthly meetings are held in Cedar Rapids. The April meeting, “Building a 504/IEP Success Binder Workshop,” is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17 at Grant Wood AEA.
In addition to the monthly meetings, a Facebook group has been established to help parents and educators connect and collaborate. To join the Facebook group, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/487101151673454/.
Further questions can be directed to Amanda Freese at Amanda_Freese@hotmail.com.
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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
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.
Invent Iowa, one of the premier programs of the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa, serves the needs of talented young inventors. The Invent Iowa Program encourages students to think creatively and solve problems through the invention process. Now in its 27th year, the program has celebrated the work of thousands of students in grades K-12. These novice inventors, whose inventions range from solar stock tank heater and pop can counter to devices that make life easier for those with disabilities, continue to amaze and inspire.
Twenty-four students from across Iowa will be competing for top honors at the State Invent Iowa Meritorious Scholarship Competition to be held on Saturday, April 19, from 12:30-4:20 at the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Students will present their inventions to a panel of judges, who will then interview each student and ultimately award six $500.00 College of Engineering Scholarships to the University of Iowa or Iowa State University.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks – we’ll be featuring an invention every day until the State Invent Iowa Meritorious Scholarship Competition!
Recently, we sat down with the Belin-Blank Center’s STEM Initiative Team to talk about their vision for the future of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the Center, in Iowa, and beyond. The team is made up of Kate Degner, Administrator for IOAPA and SSTP; Leslie Flynn, Clinical Assistant Professor, Science Education, and Administrator for STEM Initiatives, Belin-Blank Center; and Lori Ihrig, Administrator for Summer Program Faculty and Commuter Programs.
Can you talk a little bit about your background in STEM?
Kate: I began my teaching career in 2003 in Lone Tree, Iowa. I was the only regular education 9-12 mathematics teacher in the building, meaning I taught every mathematics course offered from Consumer Mathematics to Pre-Calculus. During the summer of 2005, I was invited to be part of a 6-person writing team for the University of Chicago Mathematics Project 3rd edition Algebra textbook. Shortly after completing that project I began teaching upper-level mathematics courses (AP Statistics, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and Discrete Mathematics) in Williamsburg. During that time I also went back to school and earned my M.A. in Mathematics. I’ve also had experience teaching concurrent credit classes, as well as night classes at a community college. During the last few years I also taught Calc I and II at the high school and college levels. Last year I graduated from the University of Iowa with my PhD in Curriculum and Supervision, with an emphasis on Mathematics Education and Educational Leadership.
Leslie: I have worked in STEM education for 25 years as a high school and college science and mathematics instructor, school administrator, professional development director, and professor in our STEM K-12 licensure programs. I became interested in STEM as a 4th grader engaged in specialized courses in STEM. I was fortunate to have programs where I could attend college courses and STEM competitions while still participating in school athletics and general education courses. My exceptional STEM female teachers opened my mind to the idea that girls can excel in STEM and they provided me with the skills and confidence to pursue college degrees in Chemistry.
Lori: I graduated with a B.S. in Science Education in 1999 from the University of Iowa and worked as a grades 7-12 science teacher for the Williamsburg Community School District. In Williamsburg, we participated in Iowa Excellence through a partnership with the Belin-Blank Center, and I began teaching an AP biology class. During this time period I also worked with the Center, teaching for the Junior Scholars Insitute (JSI) and WINGS, and earned my MS in Science Education from the University of Iowa. In 2007, I began working at ACT writing science curriculum and facilitating science teacher professional development for Quality Core, a project that was a partnership between ACT, the Gates Foundation, and the National Governors Association. In 2010, I began working on my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University with an emphasis in Science Education. My doctoral emphasis is on secondary science teacher education and the implementation of reforms-based science instruction by novice science teachers.
The Belin-Blank Center recently hosted 13 administrators from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Moscow. The visit allowed the university administrators to learn more about policies and practices at The University of Iowa and benefit from the wide array of expertise here, especially in the College of Engineering. A second group of administrators from NUST will be visiting in late April.