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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 2, 2005

Iowa-Israel Education Partnership Nets $145,000 Federal Grant

The Iowa and Israel: Partners in Excellence (Iowa Excellence) program, a partnership created in 2003 by the Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, has received $145,000 in federal funding.

The grant was secured with the help of U.S. Sen. Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-Iowa) and Belin-Blank Center Board member Robert Asher. The Belin-Blank Center is part of the University of Iowa College of Education.

"At a time when we have trouble attracting students to math and science fields, the Iowa and Israel: Partners in Excellence program is a welcome addition," Grassley said. "The Belin-Blank Center has a history of bringing new and innovative ideas to help talented and gifted students in Iowa achieve success."

The Iowa Excellence program is an enrichment program in mathematics and science for middle schools students that has been implemented in five rural districts in Iowa with the primary goal of engaging students in challenging curriculum so that their interest is sustained through high school, where they will be able to take advanced placement classes.

Taking advanced placement classes in high school impacts a student's success in college. Rural students do not take advanced placement classes in high school at the same rate as students from suburban high schools.

Students are identified as prospective participants in the Iowa Excellence program 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.

The curriculum that is used in Iowa Excellence comes from Jerusalem and was developed at the Israel Arts and Science Academy, a residential public high school in Israel. The Belin-Blank Center has a partnership with the Israel Arts and Science Academy.

Last October three top educators from Israel, including the director general of the Israel Ministry of Education, visited the Belin-Blank Center to observe its many programs. The visitors were Ronit Tirosh, director general of the Israel Ministry of Education; Hezki Arieli, director general of the Society for Excellence Through Education, an Israeli non-profit organization that is responsible for the Israel Arts and Science Academy; and Rami Sulimani, a senior executive of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) of Israel.

The JDC is one of the most famous rescue organizations funded by the Jewish community and whose activities cover the globe. In Israel the JDC is concerned with immigration, education and outreach to the disadvantaged communities.

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,