WATERLOO — Advanced learning opportunities continue to expand in Waterloo Community Schools, including a program focusing on academically gifted students who also have a disability.
District educators have been rolling out the Twice Exceptional program this year, advanced programs coordinator Sherice Ortman told the Board of Education this week. Also known as 2e, she noted “it’s gifted with a disability. So we turn it into a strengths-based instead of a deficit model.”
Expanded Learning Program teachers, who lead talented and gifted education in the schools, work with identified students as part of the 2e team.
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“We were provided with some private donors to start the work,” said Ortman. A $10,000 grant was received from the Waterloo Schools Foundation to help get the Twice Exceptional program started.
That is just one of the ways the district is increasing services for advanced learners, she told board members in an update on the programs. The number of Advanced Placement classes has been increased at both East and West while a growing number of district staff are teaching concurrent courses provided at the schools through Hawkeye Community College.
ELP at the middle schools has changed from solely focusing on the approximately 10 percent of students identified as gifted in all academic areas. Those teachers also work on talent development with a larger group to help advance their learning. ELP teachers at the elementary schools work with both groups along with serving as a general resource in classrooms to help differentiate instruction.
Additionally, students not enrolled in the International Baccalaureate diploma program can now take single IB classes rather than go off campus to the University of Northern Iowa for a similar class that isn’t otherwise offered at their school.
Ortman provided some general statistics about the two-year IB diploma. The district is now in its fourth year of offering the rigorous college preparation program at East and West high schools. IB students take classes in six academic areas along with completing a half-year theory of knowledge class, writing a 4,000-word extended essay and doing a service component outside of school.
“We are currently, with our juniors and seniors, at 53 students in the International Baccalaureate program,” said Ortman. Since the program started, 36 students have graduated with the full IB diploma.
“This is a very rigorous path for them, to receive the IB diploma,” she explained. “All Waterloo students in the IB diploma program end up with a Waterloo Schools diploma, but this is on top of that. If you receive a certain number of scores, International Baccalaureate also provides you with a diploma.”
Ortman highlighted the 16 2017 graduates who were in the program. Thirteen of them, or 81 percent, earned the IB diploma. She noted that is 2 percent higher than the average of IB programs around the world that have graduated students for at least five years.
Their college entrance exam scores demonstrated greater preparation for post-secondary education than Waterloo Schools’ peers.
“The ACT average of students in the IB program last year was 27.13 composite (out of 36),” said Ortman. “The district average is about 20 right now. We have a lot of kids who ended up with 30 or higher.”
She said if students score high enough on their IB exams, many colleges or universities will accept those credits.
“It’s about $359 per credit and we recovered 151 hours, estimated tuition around $54,000,” said Ortman, based on the cost of credits at the University of Iowa. “This is only from 16 students.
“Also, we received over $300,000 in scholarships from those 16 students this year. I always boast that it’s because they can write an incredible essay and colleges want them.”
She noted the University of Northern Iowa has increased its college credit acceptance rate for IB courses and now recognizes every class offered by the district. A third of all district IB graduates enrolled at a state university in Iowa.