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University of Iowa News Release


Jan. 14, 2008

UPDATE: This visit has been postponed due to inclement weather and will be re-scheduled at a future date.

Grassley to view Belin-Blank Center program during Jan. 17 school visit

Middle school students and educators in Williamsburg will have the opportunity to thank U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley first-hand for his role in connecting them with a program that encourages excellence through advanced course work.

Students and educators at Williamsburg Jr./Sr. High School will show Grassley the benefits of their involvement in the Iowa and Israel Partners in Excellence Program from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, during a visit to the school, located at 810 W. Walnut St. in Williamsburg.

The program, operated by the University of Iowa College of Education's Connie Belin and Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, was established in 2003 with funding from the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Education. It uses curriculum developed by the Israel Arts and Science Academy in Jerusalem, Israel and adapted by UI math and science professors for use with Iowa school districts.

The purpose of the program is to enrich mathematics and science curriculum for rural, high-ability middle school students in the state of Iowa. This program, informally titled Iowa Excellence, serves more than 100 high-ability middle-school students. These students receive opportunities for academic challenge to prepare them for advanced course work in high school and college. Currently, 23 seventh- and eighth-grade students from Williamsburg participate in the program. Other Iowa schools that participate are Shenandoah, Mediapolis, Winterset and St. Ansgar.

Belin-Blank Center Director Nicholas Colangelo said this is a great opportunity for Grassley to view the results since he was instrumental in obtaining Iowa Excellence program funding.

"I am grateful to Sen. Grassley for his leadership and support of this important program that benefits many students in rural Iowa school districts," Colangelo said.

During the one-hour visit, Grassley will meet with educators to discuss the program and view its success first-hand. He will also meet with students to explore their feelings about their involvement with the program. As time allows, he will receive a tour of the chemistry lab.

Erica Wilkinson is the current teacher of the Iowa Excellence program and teaches high school chemistry and science elective courses at Williamsburg. She meets with the students from 7 to 8 a.m. once a week, exploring the nature of science, scientific enquiry and objectivity.

Megan Schulte, the Iowa Excellence coordinator at Williamsburg, said the biggest benefit of the Excellence program has been an increased awareness among administrators, teachers, parents and students of the advanced academic needs of the talented and gifted students.

"Since beginning the program, Williamsburg has begun to implement accelerated math and science classes for advanced students, which allows them the opportunity to take more Advanced Placement courses during their high school careers," Schulte said. "Those students who have already 'graduated' from the Iowa Excellence program have scheduled three to five Advanced Placement courses in their four-year plan."

These pilot districts were issued the initial invitation to participate in Iowa Excellence because of their proactive participation in the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy.

Students in grades six to eight participate. To date, more than 200 students have been involved in the program.

To qualify for participation in the program, students had to demonstrate high aptitude in math and science and take the EXPLORE (r) test, which is administered through the Belin-Blank Center.

Grassley will be available to the news media for 15 minutes after the visit.

For more information about this school visit, contact Schulte at; Wilkinson at; or call Williamsburg Jr./Sr. High School at 319-668-1050.

For more information on the Belin-Blank Center, visit

The Belin-Blank Center is part of the UI College of Education. Founded in 1872, the University of Iowa College of Education was the nation's first permanent college-level department of education. Since then, the college has gained an international reputation of excellence in programs as diverse as Rehabilitation Counseling, Statistics and Measurement, Counseling Psychology, Elementary and Secondary Teacher Education, Higher Education, and Educational Administration. The College of Education is also home to the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. For more information, visit

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Susan Assouline, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6130,; Catherine Blando, Belin-Blank Center, 319-335-6148,; Lois Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,