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Release: Immediate

Iowa Talent Program produces some of Iowa's highest achieving high school students

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Iowa Talent Project, a program aimed at decreasing the dropout rate among minority high school students and increasing minority enrollment at the University of Iowa, has produced some of the highest achieving high school students in the state.

The Iowa Talent Project (ITP) is a four-year program that allows talented minority eighth-grade students to enroll in an accelerated high school and college curriculum.

"The Iowa Talent Project was conceived as a model of cooperative partnership in education," says Nicholas Colangelo, director of The Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Colangelo also serves as an ITP co-director.

The ITP was started in 1994 by the UI's Belin-Blank Center, Des Moines Central Academy and the AmerUs Corporation. AmerUs, which initially contributed financial support when the program began, provides employment and other incentives for participating students.

Galen Johnson, director of Des Moines Public Schools' gifted program and ITP co-director, says the three entities partnered in response to a need to provide additional educational opportunities for highly talented minorities.

"We knew we had talented minority students. We believe those six who will be the first to graduate from the program next May will be a success at the UI," Johnson says.

Egan Hill, a senior at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, is an ITP student. Hill is one of only 25 students in the state who has earned an Advanced Placement (AP) Scholar with Distinction honor. Hill is also being considered for a National AP scholar award. Each year about 1,000 students nationwide are eligible for the award, and in its history, fewer than 50 Iowa high school students have received it.

ITP students Alexandria Rocha from East High School in Des Moines, and Grace White, from Roosevelt High School are seniors who both were named AP scholars during their junior year of high school. Three additional ITP seniors on-track to earn the AP scholar award this academic year are Jonathan Howell from Hoover High School, and Roosevelt High School students Ronnie Caldwell and Tiffany Bradley.

In 1998 only 370 Iowa high school students were named AP scholars by the College Board, the Princeton, New Jersey-based education testing company.

To be named an AP Scholar with Distinction, a student must take at least five AP exams in college-level subjects such as English, foreign languages, calculus, physics and must average at least a 3.5 on all exams. National AP winners must take at least eight exams with a 4 or higher average.

To be eligible for the ITP, a student must attend a school in the Des Moines School District; be recommended by their seventh grade teachers; be prepared to enter the eighth grade; have earned a "B" or better average on all previous coursework; and must have taken courses at the highest curriculum level available at their respective schools.

Selected students attend the Academy for one-half day where they are enrolled in accelerated academic courses and all attend a Des Moines high school for a portion of the school day.

At least 40 percent of the Academy's eighth grade math students take accelerated geometry or a higher mathematics course, Johnson says. By the ninth grade, most have completed high school curriculum requirements, and by the tenth grade, students begin to take college-level courses.

Some 14 students enrolled in the program when it began in 1994. Colangelo expects more students will participate in the future and notes that retention has improved since the program's inception. Students can elect to withdraw from the program at anytime and are not obligated to enroll at the UI.

Johnson says the students are encouraged to enroll at the UI and are encouraged to remain in the state.

"We know the UI will support the students when they come in. It looks like four or five will matriculate to the UI. We want to make sure they are successful UI graduates, not just entrants," Johnson says.

Students from Central Academy traditionally enter post-secondary institutions with numerous college credits. Johnson estimates that each Central Academy student will have earned between 15 and 30 semester credits prior to enrolling at the UI or another college next fall, and nearly all of the Academy's former AP scholars have completed a degree in four years or less.

For more information about the ITP program, contact Belin-Blank Center Director, Nicholas Colangelo at (319) 335-6150 or Galen Johnson at (515) 242-7856.