B-UHS battling student apathy

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon-Upshur High School is working to combat student apathy through The Power of ICU – a program it began being implemented at the beginning of the school year.

The mission of ICU is to defeat student apathy through a culture where mastery, completion and accountability are the standards for learning.

Garrett Friend, who is part of a team implementing ICU at the high school, recently presented at a board of education meeting about what has happened so far this year.

“We have a real issue at our high school,” he said. “Mr. [Eddie] Vincent [principal] asked us what the real issue was. He thought it was test scores. Mr. Hill [co-founder of ICU] thought it was test scores. The answer is student apathy. That is something we have been combatting.”

While the high school has not fully implemented ICU, it has began to lay the framework of what will be a several year process.

Another team member Jamie Davis said the conference she and others attended with Hill was fantastic and she took a lot away from his presentation.

He said, ‘it’s not about me,” she said. Davis said she questioned that because she thought it was about her as an educator.

However, Hill emphasized that it’s about the students.

“It’s about what you are doing and teaching them but it’s not about you,” she said. “It’s about them.”

The Power of ICU mission statement includes that every student completes every assignment.

“That is our goal,” she said.

Usually students take a 0 if they don’t turn in an assignment but that can actually mean letting the student off the hook, according to Davis.

“By going back and saying no zeros allowed, that’s accountability for them,” she said. “They have to complete the assignment.”

Another teacher, Ann Clem, said it was ironic that the two leaders of the team, she and Friend, were dead set against ICU in the beginning. But both changed their minds as they delved into the material.

“The very first thing that was a dagger into my heart was ‘it’s not about you,’” she said. “ It brought me back to my student teaching days where I said if I’m not doing a good enough day then I need to change professions.”

Clem said she became a believer in the program.

“It’s a great program,” she said. “It has made me a much better teacher.”

“I want my kids to learn the material,” she said. “I want them to learn the content. One of the biggest persons that was against it 100 percent, is now in it for the long haul.

It has made me rethink how I teach and how I look at my students in accepting late work and not counting off points for it.”

Friend said that the one-day training in August brought more faculty and staff on board with the program.

“There are 107 adults in this building who are willing to help any student at any given time,” he said.

Part of that are life guards, teachers Mike Donato and Nicole Cerullo, who have been allotted time to focus solely on ICU.

“We are working on it,” Friend said. “We are really building a culture.”

At the Nov. 13 board meeting, Friend said there had been 4,573 assignments completed but 2,491 remained outstanding.

“We have 502 students who owe a teacher at least one assignment,” he said. “That’s approximately half the school but the great thing about it is I know about it….our cooks know about it and their parents know about it.”

The idea is that the students will be reminded about their missing work and encouraged to turn it in by all the people they interact with at the school.

Parents are alerted to their student being placed on the ICU list via email and text message – if they sign up for the text option.

When the student completes their work and are removed from the list, the parents are also notified.

Several weeks ago, a blitz day was held where extra time was given to students to complete their work. Those students who were not on the ICU list were rewarded with a movie in the auditorium.

Davis said one student went from the top of the list of assignments to be completed to the top 10 list of students who have completed their assignments.

“This program works,” she said. “I am absolutely obsessed with it.”


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