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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 31, 2003

Waterloo's Expo High School New Partner In UI Gifted Program

Expo High School in Waterloo has joined six other alternative high schools across the state in a University of Iowa College of Education project aimed at identifying academically gifted students.

With the help of a three-year, $790,035 federal grant, the college's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development is working to determine how many students in alternative high schools may be academically talented and in need of specialized educational opportunities that will help them succeed -- and even excel -- in school.

The project is especially timely as the student population of alternative schools continues to grow. In Iowa there are more than 100 alternative schools serving an estimated 8,000 students.

Expo High School has 260 total students, and its mission is to be an ever-improving learning community promoting connections, caring and competency.

Alternative high schools are typically a last resort for students with chronic truancy, drug use, disruptive behavior, failing grades or other serious problems. But Belin-Blank officials believe that such behavior may mask hidden talents among some students.

"This project will build awareness of the academic talent that exists in alternative high schools and hopefully provide a vision for what these students are capable of achieving," said Joe Cilek, M.A., administrator of the Alternative High School Program.

The project was made possible by a Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to the Iowa Department of Education on the Belin-Blank Center's behalf. U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was instrumental in winning passage of an expansion of Javits funding under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which holds alternative schools to the same academic standards as other schools.

The Belin-Blank Center and Iowa Department of Education is working this first year of the grant with approximately 2,500 students in seven alternative high schools across the state: Expo High School; ECHO Alternative High School in Tiffin (in the Clear Creek Amana School District); Central Alternative in Dubuque; Kanesville High School in Council Bluffs; Metro High School in Cedar Rapids; Kimberly Center in Davenport; and Scavo Campus in Des Moines.

The project has five elements. The first involves creating a process for identifying academically talented students in alternative programs. The second involves documenting and describing information about the characteristics of these students. Teachers in alternative schools will then be trained to support such students, and schools will be guided in developing high-level courses and content for talented students.

The final phase of the project calls for distributing information to other alternative schools and developing a model of assessment and professional training.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007, Program: Joe Cilek, Alternative High School Program Administrator, 319-530-0444,