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University of Iowa News Release

March 6, 2003

Belin-Blank Center Gets $1.5 Million In Federal Grants

The University of Iowa's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development has secured nearly $1.5 million in federal grants to extend the reach of Advanced Placement courses to some of Iowa's poorest schools and to partner with Israel in expanding the center's curriculum services to gifted middle school students.

The largest of these, a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, will be used to bring AP courses and related training to 50 Iowa middle and high schools where more than 40 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunches. In July the Belin-Blank Center will begin training teachers how to identify students who might benefit from taking AP courses and how to teach and administer AP courses (either personally or via the web-based Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy). As well, teams of middle school and high school teachers can learn how to prepare students to succeed in challenging classes in the areas of mathematics, English and writing and communication skills.

"The Advanced Placement Incentive Grant brings Advanced Placement courses to Iowa students who would have missed this opportunity in their lives," said Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., director of the Belin-Blank Center. "In order to have excellence, there has to be access."

AP gives students an opportunity to take college-level courses and exams while still in high school. The Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy, administered by the Belin-Blank Center, delivers AP courses to high school students across the state via the Iowa Communications Network and online technology provided by Apex Learning.

The academy has been extraordinarily successful. A report last fall by the College Board, which administers the national AP program, noted that for the first time ever more than 40 percent of Iowa's schools were participating in AP. Nationally, Iowa is ranked third in the nation in the percentage of growth of its AP programs.

"The AP Incentive Program is really an outreach effort to the schools who have students who don't necessarily see themselves as having potential, of excelling academically," said Laurie Croft, Ph.D., the Belin-Blank Center's administrator for professional development. "Research has shown that students who participate in AP courses have a greater chance of graduating from college with a four-year degree. This is especially true for minority and low-income students."

A separate federal grant of $200,000 will be used to partner with Israeli educators to offer challenging mathematics and science curriculum to middle school students, not only during the center's summer programs for students, but also during an innovative year-round program. Students will be identified through the Belin-Blank Exceptional Student Talent Search (BESTS), using above-level testing for talented students in grades four through nine in an effort to discover students who need further educational challenges to fully realize their academic abilities.

Last October, Colangelo and other representatives of the Belin-Blank Center, the UI department of statistics, UI department of biomedical engineering and a Dubuque-area teacher and mathematics-textbook author traveled to Jerusalem to see firsthand the Israel Arts and Science Academy's (IASA's) Excellence 2000 program.

Excellence Iowa, the Belin-Blank Center's modification of Excellence 2000, will provide for the discovery of able and motivated middle school students as well as develop their abilities through challenging curriculum. Excellence Iowa will engage middle school students in math and science experiences that will motivate and prepare them to take the most advanced math and science courses available in high school.

For more information about the Belin-Blank Center, visit its website at

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,