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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 17, 2003

UI Praised For Big Jump In Iowa Advanced Placement Participation

The number of Iowa high school students taking Advanced Placement courses and exams has skyrocketed this year, and much of the credit is going to the University of Iowa College of Education's center for gifted education.

In 2003, 17.6 percent more Iowa students took AP exams than in the previous year. By comparison, the number of AP exams taken nationally rose just 10.1 percent over the same period.

Participation in the AP program also jumped. In 2003, 5,139 Iowa students participated in AP programs, a 14.2 percent increase over the number of students who took part in 2002 -- well above the national increase of 9.3 percent. Iowa also leads the national average for new schools participating.

The Midwestern Regional Office of The College Board, which publishes AP course materials and tests, recently sent a letter to the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development praising the Belin-Blank Center for promoting the AP program through the center's Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA).

IOAPA makes it possible for students from every high school in Iowa, especially those in rural areas, to take AP courses online or over the Iowa Communications Network (ICN). It also provides training and support to educators across the state who are teaching, or who want to teach, AP courses.

"Access to AP is essential to generating opportunities for Iowa students," said IOAPA Administrator Clar Baldus, Ph.D. "Providing support for teachers and schools helps them sustain a culture of excellence across the state."

In a letter to Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., Galen W. Johnson, chief educational manager of The College Board's Midwestern office, said: " Official data received in the Midwestern Regional Office of the College Board indicates another tremendous Advanced Placement Program year for the State of Iowa. I wish to commend the efforts of the Belin-Blank Center and the Iowa Online AP Academy for a significant part of this success."

The Belin-Blank Center established the IOAPA two years ago with an initial $1.6 million grant from U.S. Department of Education. A more recent $2 million extension grant will fund the program's continuation -- and the expansion of student participation -- through 2006. U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has been a leader in supporting the establishment and continuation of IOAPA.

Student involvement in the IOAPA has been consistently high since the academy's inception in 2001. In the 2001-2002 academic year, 498 students took Iowa Online AP classes. In the 2002-2003 academic year, 719 students took AP classes. And as of this fall 462 students have taken Iowa Online AP coursework -- a trend that, if repeated in the spring, will put participation for the 2003-2004 academic year at well over 900 students.

The number of schools involved in IOAPA has also increased. In fall 2001, 64 schools participated. By fall 2002, 204 schools were registered with the academy. This fall, over 270 schools across Iowa are involved.

Additionally, more than 200 Iowa teachers participated this summer and last in the Belin-Blank Center's AP Teacher Training Institute, learning how to design and teach AP courses. The tuition costs were fully covered for teachers developing AP courses in a school registered with the IOAPA program.

The participation levels suggest the program is accomplishing what the Belin-Blank Center set out to do when it began IOAPA: give talented students the opportunity to advance more quickly when they sufficiently understand a subject area.

"Iowa AP Online Academy is a cutting edge program demonstrating the effectiveness of technology in overcoming barriers of geography," Colangelo said. "This is an exceptional opportunity for Iowa. Research has indicated that performance on AP courses and exams is the best indicator of preparation and success at select colleges and universities. Now this opportunity to prepare oneself at the advanced level is a reality to all Iowa students."

Johnson of The College Board said IOAPA also saves students the cost of tuition they would otherwise pay to take the courses in college. And research shows that students who participate in AP courses are more likely to go on to college and complete a four-year degree.

"Based on the average cost of $200 per semester hour, these exams could represent well over $4,500,000 in direct savings to Iowa students and parents," Johnson said.

Johnson says The College Board is "keenly aware" of the Belin-Blank Center's involvement in supporting AP programs among Iowa's schools and students.

"The efforts (and continuing efforts) of your program and its staff are truly making a difference in the lives of Iowans and are setting a standard for programs across the nation," he said.

Colangelo says he expects the Iowa Online AP Academy to become a national model for encouraging students to make great leaps academically.

"I believe over the next several years that the success of the Iowa AP Online Academy will place Iowa at the national forefront in the use of technology and providing AP opportunities for students and teachers," he said. "Iowa is respected as a leader in education and IOAPA will further enhance this reputation."

Educators who want more information about upcoming AP course offerings, or who want to learn how to participate in the program, may contact Baldus at 1-800-336-6463, or via e-mail at clar-baldus@uiowa.edu.

The Belin-Blank Center, established in 1988, specializes in programming and research to meet the educational needs of exceptionally talented children and their teachers. The Center conducts an extensive roster of talent searches, precollege programs, teacher training workshops and counseling programs.

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, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.Writer: Becky DeCourcey