Spotlight School: East Fairview School

East FairviewEarning the recognition as a Spotlight School, East Fairview has demonstrated proven success with each aspect of the Power of ICU formula: Completion, Quality Assignments, and Healthy Grading. Now in their third year of following the ICU approach, East Fairview students and teachers are reaping the rewards of consistent academic achievement by finishing each year with zero assignments left incomplete. Principal Derek Gakel first discovered the Power of ICU in the summer of 2015 after searching for a professional development opportunity for his faculty. Quality assignments have always been a focus of the school, but something was missing. The strategies developed by Danny Hill in his book Power of ICU provided the answer. After finishing the book study with his teachers, East Fairview began to experience a conversational shift towards everyone speaking a common language centered around student learning, instead of focused on grades. As a result, the school began to refine their assignments to fit the vision of the school and tie learning directly to the state’s standards. Teachers began to experience cleaner grading and increased authenticity in student learning by separating the academic value from the non-academic filler. Now, student grades are the best reflection of their learning and East Fairview is not only meeting, but exceeding the standards. The students have come to expect that they will routinely receive feedback on their performance and daily support to complete every assignment. With school-wide buy-in and a growth-mindset, the culture has earned a reputation for student advocacy and achievement. It is because of this commitment to excellence, East Fairview School has earned the distinction of being named a Spotlight School.

What is ICU Blitz?

What happens when you give students a structured, objective-based time period to complete or get help for missing assignments? Many students see this as a gift and will take advantage of this time to complete anything they may have been missing.

Stacey Gaydos, a high school English teacher at Shenandoah High School in Sarahsville, Ohio, has explained how their school does a Blitz Day. Each school can modify how they run Blitz Day to their needs.

“Our principal makes the list of students that need to be in “The Blitz” prior to Blitz Day. He considers who is on the ICU list and students who have D’s or F’s. Once the students are on the list, he divides them up according to what teachers they need to see (either missing work, reassessment, or intervention). We run 4 “rounds” that are divided up at around 45-50 minutes each. Students are in  “The Blitz” for as long as they need based on what/how they are doing with getting all of the work completed, getting the intervention they need, etc. The students who are in good standing are given the choice to be in our media center, in the gym, or outside (weather permitting), in the auditorium watching a movie, or they can study/get help for any other teacher they see fit. Our students absolutely LOVE Blitz Day (I think it’s supposed to be the opposite!), but they love having the extra time to get work done!”

A true example of ensuring students are given ample opportunity to learn the standards that are expected of them. The culture that is build shows at this school. As teachers, we know that the standards that are given for students to learn are abundant. Giving them opportunities to keep up with the rigorous schedule and demands of all of their other teachers relieves stress and allows for more learning!


ICU Blitz

A Culture of Support

Every student in your school has his or her own story… living their own life.

Each life is different. Remember this when wondering why students behave or learn the way they do. An effective way of ensuring that every student has support from every angle is to have multiple “cheerleaders” throughout the school building. This allows students from all walks of life to be able to be helped and cheered on. Some students don’t respond well to their classroom teacher but may respond well to their athletic coach. Many students respond well to teachers who they do not even have, simply because that teacher said hi and showed kindness. This can sometimes change the day of that student. Teachers can even ask if the student needs any help with a missing or upcoming assignment, even if it is not their student.

If every person in the school building did this, the culture would be unstoppable. Imagine students feeling empowered and unafraid of failure. Imagine students holding their heads high, knowing that every person in the building has their back. This is no longer a culture of student and teacher. This is a culture of learner and supporter.




New School Year, Clean Slate

The beginning of a school year is a clean slate!

This is the time of year to ensure students know the expectations in your classroom and your school. Do students know that they are to complete every assignment? Do they know that the assignments that are being given are tied to a learning standard? Do they know what the learning standard is and where to find it?

As we ask those questions to students, we must also ensure that we ask ourselves these same questions as educators. Do I know the expectations of my school? Are the assignments that I am giving tied to a learning standard? Have I shared where these learning standards can be found with my students?

Questions like these can help check the pulse on the learning culture in your classroom and in your school. Students need to know that there is a goal that we are all trying to reach together and that there are layers of support in the school to help them get there. This begins the year with a clean slate, clear expectations, and motivated students.



Thoughts for the New School Year

A new school year is approaching, and a new group of students come with it.

It is imperative that this incoming group of students know the high expectations that you have set as teachers. It is just as imperative for them to know how much you care and how much you want them to learn. Students will start to become apathetic if the sense that you do not care for them to learn. One way to achieve this is to simply change the language you use in your classroom. Using phrases such as “getting a good grade”, can have a negative impact on how they learn. Students seem to feel like failures if they do not get the grade they want. Instead, use phrases such as “let’s master this standard/skill”. This leaves learning more open-ended, instead of their grade being the end-all-be-all.

Prepare to “beep” your students and get missing assignments, and we hope that this year will be amazing!




High Schools That Work Staff Development Conference

Be sure to join us July 12th and 13th at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Sessions Below

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York High School Does It Again

York High School did it again, though it’s no ‘oops’.

To accomplish healthy grading, it takes a lot of work from administrators, teachers, and students. Year-over-year, York High School in Nebraska has proven that their students are a notch or two above the rest. The assignments are geared toward student learning, and they require all students to turn in all of them. This time is no different. They once again gathered every missing assignment that would otherwise be zeros in the grade book.


Another Zero Missing Assignments School – Cleburne County Middle

Another school has pushed for student success by requiring every student to complete every assignment. Cleburne County Middle School in Heflin, Alabama is the latest to join the rest of these amazing schools who will end the year with ZERO missing assignments. Excited to see what next year has in store for your school. Keep up the good work!


Ending the Year Right at FMS

Farmington Middle School has pushed for every student to complete every assignment and they have achieved this goal! This school will continue to improve and show students that when they complete the work, they LEARN! Congratulations on this achievement.


Jackson Jr High Ends With Zero Assignments

Jackson Jr. High School in Jackson Missouri ends the school year with a healthy grade book as all of the missing assignments have been collected. Students have shown that they are willing to learn and do the work. The motto of “the consequence for not doing an assignment, is doing the assignment” rings true at this school. This is an amazing accomplishment that requires everybody in the building to pull for students’ success. Great job!