Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Fastnacht on 17-05-2017

1960powellIn 1987, when I graduated from high school, I recall a few unwritten rules in the classroom.  One of these was I knew my teachers cared about me and how I progressed in school.  The second was they were never going to hunt me down or go beyond the lecture to ensure I was learning.  It was on me.  My teachers had the viewpoint that if you don’t do the work, you will fail, and so be it!  But, it was a different time.

During that time student apathy to learning existed but there were also other pressures in place (grandma, mom, dad, siblings) to keep a wayward student in check.  At that time advancement to college was not viewed as much as a right but a privilege that many aspired to.  Lets be honest though many of our classmates did not go to college, some joined the military, some went directly into work, and others dropped out entirely.  In that time dropping out of school was much more common than today and probably had less economic impact on the student than it does now.  The world has changed.

Student apathy still exists.  Despite changes in instructional practices, technology, individualized learning, online learning, STEM and others advancements, educators still struggle with students that have not yet found the pathway of learning.  Many of us have watched for years at what we feel are an increasing number of student with struggles that prevent them from be ready or willing to learn.  Today that is not always a lack of desire to learn (apathy).   It could be hunger, drug abuse (child or parent), mental illness, or a lack of a positive pressure to succeed, or maybe something entirely different.   What cannot be the same as it was in 1987, is our actions toward it.  No longer can we simply write a student off and let them effortlessly fail or drop out.

image-20160331-28462-qliwnlThe past couple years educators at Ellendale Public School have been working on how to address these issues.  This past year the high school implemented the ICU program.  Similar to ICU in a hospital it was designed to strategically ensure that teachers recognized, identified, and addressed student academic needs.  ICU, or We See You, simply assures we are not going to watch you fail without our intervention.  The 1987 model of I teach, and you get it or not, is out!  ICU encompasses many actions but one of the paramount elements is that “Every Student Passes Every Summative Assessment”.   New learning is built upon previous learning.  When a student fails to fully understand previous concept they have a lesser chance of adding new knowledge successfully.  The ICU model asks that teachers take the time and resources to reteach students, reassess, and if needed continue this until students show understanding of the concepts.   Often students suffering from the roadblocks shared before are not the first to come and ask for help or even want help.  This results in another element of ICU being deployed and that is time before, during, and after school being used aggressively to remediate and relearn.  We no longer accept that you can only learn during the set class period.  If a student needs more time, we will give it and often demand it.  This can be uncomfortable for the student.  Sometimes they would rather just dismiss the work and move on as just ignoring something is often easier.

Here is specifically what I see that is different than good ‘ole 1987.  With ICU in place all teachers are communicating about each student who has academic needs and working together to address them.  As I walk down the hall now it is not uncommon to see teacher A talking to a student about needs in teacher B’s class and directing them to use their ICU time with that teacher.  I now see teachers and students here as early as 7:45am and as late as 4:30pm working on relearning vital concepts.  The high school as recently implemented an ICU database to share information and communicate directly with parents so they know how their child is progressing.  This ICU database automatically emails and texts parents providing almost instant communication.  I hear students commenting about ICU and how they need to get some work completed.  In one instance a student stopped in my office and told me he now knows that his teachers care about how he is doing, and want to see him succeed.

In addition to ICU at the high school Ellendale Public School has taken action with similar intentions in other areas.  These are MTSS in your elementary and a program called CREAM for our students focusing on college.  I will share more about both of these in upcoming blog posts.