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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 12, 2005

Belin-Blank Center Given Outstanding Organization Award

The state Iowa Community Education Association (ICEA) has given the University of Iowa's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development its Outstanding Organization Award in recognition of the center's Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA).

ICEA promotes the concept of community education, which among other things seeks to increase meaningful parent and community involvement in the classroom and learning support systems for children. Members include both professional staff members and non-professionals.

The ICEA's award, co-sponsored by the Iowa Department of Education, recognizes outstanding individuals, organizations and partnerships that have demonstrated exceptional commitment and service to lifelong learning community involvement.

Barb Reilly, a science teacher and Online AP mentor at Regina High School in Iowa City, nominated the Belin-Blank Center for the award for its work promoting Advanced Placement (AP) among high school students through the IOAPA.

The center, along with the UI College of Education and the Iowa Department of Education, established the IOAPA in 2001 to provide online AP courses and exams at no cost to all high school students in Iowa, with a special focus on rural schools.

Since then, IOAPA has seen the percentage of schools with access to AP increase dramatically, moving Iowa up 10 spots from 45th to 35th in the nation. IOAPA increased the number of Iowa high schools that offer AP exams from 156 in 2001 to 213 in 2005. In 2001, 5,995 AP exams were taken by 4,069 Iowa students and in 2005, 8,986 AP exams were taken by 6,047 Iowa students.

As one of the IOAPA's many trained mentors across the state, nominator Reilly says she's seen first-hand the impact the program has had on encouraging students to think about - and take advance classes for - college.

“It’s just the ticket for a smaller school like ours,” Reilly said. “We can’t afford to offer all those classes, so it’s nice that our students can take them online. We had 17 Online AP participants this semester and we expect to have even more next semester.”

Reilly also praised the Belin-Blank Center for making the courses available and providing support to Regina.

“They’re so nice at the Belin-Blank Center,” she said. “You call and they’re right there to help you.”

Developed by The College Board, AP allows students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school and is considered one of the most successful and respected academic programs in the nation. More than 3,000 colleges accept AP exam scores for either college credit or placement in higher-level courses. Last year, more than 1 million high school students nationally took almost 1.9 million AP exams.

Numerous studies have touted the advantages of AP. AP test scores have been found to be excellent predictors of college grades and likelihood of graduation. In a 1999 study, U.S. Education Department researcher Clifford Adelman suggested that simply taking AP courses and exams -- even if exam scores were average -- provided students with advantage in terms of higher graduation rates from college. More recent research has shown the benefits AP courses and exams offer minority students and those living below the federal poverty line.

The ICEA presented its award to Belin-Blank Director Nicholas Colangelo, Ph.D., during the organization's annual conference Oct. 27 near Des Moines.

"I am very happy about the recognition from ICEA and it is an honor to serve the education community of Iowa," Colangelo said. "Dr. Clar Baldus, head administrator of IOAPA, has done a tremendous job of bringing AP opportunities to Iowa's students particularly in the rural schools. This award is a recognition of the entire staff at the Belin-Blank Center who work with passion and commitment to serve Iowa and the nation."

More information about the Iowa Community Education Association is available online at http://www.iowacommunityeducation.org/

More information about the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy is available at http://www.iowaapacademy.org/

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, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu.