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Release: July 15, 2002

Belin-Blank Center Awarded $2 Million For AP Online Program

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the University of Iowa's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development a $2 million grant extension for developing and delivering Advanced Placement (AP) courses over the Internet and the Iowa Communication Network (ICN). The program is known as the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA).

It is the second substantive grant from the Department of Education this year. The Belin-Blank Center's Invent Iowa program had previously received a $100,000 grant to encourage children in kindergarten through 12th grade to create inventions and hold fairs at the school level. Last year, more than 30,000 Iowa students participated in the Invent Iowa program.

The AP funds, which come from the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, come a year after an initial grant of $1.6 million to aid the Belin-Blank Center in increasing student participation in AP courses and exams in Iowa high schools. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, was the leader in securing funds for this program for Iowa's students. AP gives students an opportunity to take college-level courses and exams while still in high school.

"Geography has been a barrier to the access of AP courses for Iowa's students. This funding provides opportunity for all of Iowa's students who want the challenge provided by AP courses. It is a powerful example of equity," said Professor Nicholas Colangelo, director of the Belin-Blank Center.

The center used the previous funding to begin delivering courses to 11th and 12th graders online and through the ICN starting in August 2001. APEX Learning Corp. is assisting the Belin-Blank Center in delivering the on-line courses. The money has also been used to allow any teacher in Iowa to be trained in designing and teaching AP courses. This summer nearly 100 Iowa teachers are taking AP teacher training at no cost, thanks to the federal funding.

Rising participation levels among schools suggests the program is accomplishing what the Belin-Blank Center set out to do: give talented students the opportunity to advance more quickly when they sufficiently understand a subject area.

Last fall, about 30 schools and 65 students were participating in Iowa AP courses. By this spring, more than 400 students were taking AP courses online, and more than 1,000 participated in the online AP exam review. Currently, almost 200 Iowa schools are registered to participated in AP online programs; 87 of those had no previous AP program involvement.

"That's significant because in 2001, only 156 schools out of the 420 or so high schools in Iowa had given AP tests in Iowa," said Clar M. Baldus, Ph.D., administrator of the Belin-Blank Center's AP Online Academy. "So we've increased by more than 50 percent the number of schools involved in or introduced to Advanced Placement."

The Belin-Blank Center's involvement in Advanced Placement programs began in 1999, when it received a $300,000 grant from the Wallace Foundation to begin a program for offering advanced courses to students in rural schools.

By taking advantage of the Internet and the ICN, the center is now able to reach more schools, teachers and students than ever before. The ICN is a statewide, state administered communications network with more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cable reaching into all 99 counties in Iowa, putting every citizen within 15 miles of a video site.

The Belin-Blank Center, established in 1988, specializes in programming and research to meet the educational needs of exceptionally talented children and their teachers. The center conducts an extensive roster of talent searches, precollege programs, teacher training workshops and counseling programs.

Educators and others who want more information about upcoming course offerings, or who want to learn how to take part in the program, may contact Clar Baldus at 1-800-336-6463, or via e-mail at