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Release: Oct. 7, 2002

Belin-Blank Center receives $205,000 grant to study academic acceleration

The Templeton Foundation has awarded the University of Iowa's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development a $205,000 grant to assess nationally the state of academic acceleration, a term that covers such practices as "grade-skipping," early entrance, single-subject acceleration and advanced placement courses and programs.

As a first step toward generating a report on its findings, the Belin-Blank Center will host in May 2003 a seminar that brings together some of the country's top researchers and practitioners in the area of academic acceleration. Participants will make recommendations on the study's scope and content and subsequently serve a role as advisors throughout the study's research, writing and editing. The study is expected to be completed in 2004.

Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., says academic acceleration is an important and often controversial topic. In the interest of educating gifted students to the level of their potential, schools may allow them to bypass one or more grades or to take advanced coursework. However, some parents, educators and mental health professionals have expressed concerns that doing so may have adverse psychological, social or emotional effects, particularly in the case of "grade-skipping" where younger students are placed with older students.

To date, educators and school administrators struggling with such decisions have had to look to a patchwork of research, policies and practice, not all of which is readily accessible. The Belin-Blank Center study, says Colangelo, will pull together into one document all existing research, summarize the findings, make policy recommendations, and provide suggestions for future research.

Colangelo says the Belin-Blank Center is uniquely qualified to lead this study. Center Associate Director Susan Assouline, who will coauthor the acceleration report, is the principal author of The Iowa Acceleration Scale, the nation's only tool for helping educators determine whether gifted and talented students in kindergarten through eighth grade should bypass a grade level. And the center is one of the nation's leaders in promoting the use of online Advanced Placement classes through its Iowa Online AP Academy. This fall, 355 Iowa students are taking AP courses online and via the Iowa Communications Network and 100 Iowa teachers participated in the summer AP Teacher Training Institute at the UI.

The Templeton Foundation was established in 1987 by renowned international investor Sir John Templeton to encourage a fresh appreciation of the critical importance -- for all peoples and cultures -- of the moral and spiritual dimensions of life. The foundation seeks to act as a critical catalyst for progress, especially by supporting studies that demonstrate the benefits of an open, humble and progressive approach to learning in these areas. The foundation currently funds more than 150 projects, studies, award programs and publications worldwide.

Information about the Templeton Foundation is available online at http://www.templeton.org/. Information about the Belin-Blank Center can be found online at http://www.uiowa.edu/~belinctr/