Feb. 10, 2010
UI nets $1 million Templeton grant, expands acceleration policy initiatives
A $1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation will allow gifted education researchers at the University of Iowa help students nationwide advance in school at a rate that matches their potential.
Cody Shafer (left), a UI senior political science major from Wapello, Iowa, is one student who would benefit from the three-year grant. The grant begins this year and extends the policy and outreach efforts of the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration (IRPA), part of the UI College of Education's Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
Shafer said acceleration "saved him" when he was struggling with boredom in elementary and junior high school because he wasn't academically challenged. He was admitted one year early, at age 17, into the UI's National Academy of Art, Science, & Engineering (NAASE). He credits acceleration with much of his success.
Academic acceleration is defined as the practice of advancing students in subjects at a rate that matches their potential and places them ahead of where they would normally be in school.
"This grant is another significant step in the Belin-Blank Center's ongoing research and advocacy on behalf of academic acceleration as an effective intervention for highly capable students like Cody," said Nicholas Colangelo, Belin-Blank Center director.
IRPA is dedicated to the study of curricular acceleration for academically talented students. The institute is unique in that its sole focus is research and policy on acceleration as an academic intervention so teachers and administrators can implement an effective and research-based curriculum, Colangelo said. The Templeton Foundation also funded the IRPA when it was created in 2006.
"Giving advanced students the chance to learn what they are ready for, at a faster pace, is the core of acceleration as an academic intervention," Colangelo said. "This is the essence of differentiation for meeting individual needs, which is the theoretical cornerstone of American education."
Since its inception, IRPA has established a comprehensive Web site on acceleration (http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/); co-published "Guidelines to Develop an Academic Acceleration Policy"; encouraged acceleration internationally by translating a major report into seven languages; and conducted new research on acceleration.
Colangelo said the new grant presents a great opportunity to continue the work on acceleration initiated with the publication of "A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America's Brightest Students." The Belin-Blank Center published the two-volume, national report in 2004. The report highlights the disparity between scholarly research on acceleration and the educational policies and practices that often run contrary to that research.
"The new grant is going to have a very strong outreach component that includes translating research into policy and practice so that school districts nationally can develop guidelines for instituting acceleration opportunities for their students," Colangelo said.
Currently, only eight states have a policy that specifically permits acceleration. Other states leave it up to the school districts to develop the practice of acceleration.
"Also, IRPA will be working to develop guidelines and procedures for assisting schools to determine which students are ready for acceleration and the type of acceleration most suitable for that student," Colangelo said.
Shafer said he knows how important the opportunity to accelerate was to his success, and he's glad his family discovered the Belin-Blank Center as a resource. He was accelerated in mathematics in sixth grade, social sciences in seventh grade and in high school, where he was able to skip his senior year. But he knows not all students are as fortunate since there are not consistent guidelines for providing accelerated classes in every school district.
"What acceleration did for me was most vital before I came to the UI, and it simply allowed me to remain engaged," Shafer said. "In an environment where I was struggling with boredom and disengagement, acceleration saved me and gave me a renewed sense of purpose in the pursuit of my education."
Grant co-investigators include Susan Assouline, associate director of the Belin-Blank Center; David Lohman, IRPA research director; and Maureen Marron, IRPA associate research scientist.
For more information on the IRPA, visit http://www.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Research/Acceleration_Research/.
For more information on the Belin-Blank Center, visit http://www.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank.
The mission of the John Templeton Foundation is to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life's biggest questions. The foundation has a long history of support for research on exceptional cognitive talent and genius. For more information, visit http://www.templeton.org/.
The Templeton Foundation grant was made through the UI Foundation. The UI acknowledges the UI Foundation as the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the university. For more information about the foundation, visit its web site at http://www.uifoundation.org.
See related release: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/2009/november/110909acceleration-guidelines.html
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Center One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500