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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 8, 2005

UI School Counseling Program Is First To Offer Gifted Education Emphasis

Next summer the University of Iowa College of Education's nationally ranked school counseling graduate program will become the first program in the country to offer an emphasis in gifted and talented education.

UI education professor Tarrell Portman said school counselors are in an ideal position to identify and guide students in need of greater academic challenges. The 12 credit hours of additional training, which lead to an endorsement or certificate, will equip prospective school counselors to help prevent such students from slipping through the cracks of the K-12 education system.

"Counselors have such a wide variety of tasks," said Portman, who coordinates the master's program in school counseling and the doctoral program in counselor education and supervision. "We work with students in the academic, personal, social and career areas. With the additional training, our counselors will not only be knowledgeable about general and special education, but about gifted education. As a result, they can act as catalysts for increased identification of gifted students, especially in the areas of diversity."

That's certainly the hope of the program's co-developer, the UI's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Last year the Belin-Blank Center issued a dire warning in the form of a national study that said academically gifted students and their parents rarely find support among educators when they inquire about accelerated education options, such as grade-skipping.

Funded by the John Templeton Foundation and endorsed by the National Association for Gifted Children, "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students," further suggested that some educators actively discourage gifted students because they believe -- misguidedly, the study says -- that accelerated education support costs too much or that students who skip grades will be harmed emotionally by moving beyond their chronological peer group. (A copy of the report is available for free download at

"This new program is a national breakthrough," said Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo. "School counselors have not had training in understanding the social/emotional and learning needs of gifted students. Our graduating school counselors will have a distinct advantage in the job market. But more importantly, they will be qualified to offer a very important service that parents, administrators, and teachers will welcome. Our College of Education again takes an important lead, and I commit the resources of the Belin-Blank Center to assure the success of the new program."

School counseling students accepted for the fall 2006 semester will actually begin taking gifted education classes at the Belin-Blank Center in summer 2006, one an introduction to gifted education and another on school culture and classroom management. That will be followed with a practicum in counseling skills at the center and a class titled "Counseling Gifted and Talented Students."

Portman said the UI's school counseling program, which has been ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Graduate Schools" guide for several years and currently stands as 13th best in the nation, began pondering the special endorsement several years ago. She said it made perfect sense to offer much of the specialized training for prospective school counselors through the Belin-Blank Center, which brings hundreds of gifted students to campus each summer for a variety of programs.

She said the new training will be far more intensive than the single unit of gifted education school counseling students in Iowa are currently required to take. She also expects the special endorsement program to make the UI's school counselor program even more attractive to prospective graduate students. Because of its competitive admissions standards, the program only accepts about 25 percent of its applicants.

"This will allow the voice of gifted education students to be heard," Portman said. "We're getting lots of feedback about our program. People at national conferences for school counselors are really excited about it. We've had a program that's been highly ranked for several years by U.S. News, but this will definitely set us apart."

Five UI College of Education faculty members with expertise in school counseling and gifted education are currently on the team that will design and teach the additional classes needed for the gifted education program: Portman, Colangelo, assistant professor David Duys, lecturer Malik Henfield and Deb Johnson, a clinical faculty member in counselor education. A candidate search is under way for a new faculty member in counselor education who will, once hired, join the team as well.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,