“Doing Half the Work for You”

“The ICU Database might seem like double the work; however it’s doing half the work for you! Instead of being on your student 24/7 and the student only hearing the reminder about missing work from the classroom teacher, the student is hearing the reminder from 4th period teachers, coaches, club sponsors, lifeguards, and more. The student is more likely to turn in the missing work with everyone being on them about it. This overall benefits the classroom teacher because it takes less time to get the assignment in and the teacher is able to assess the student’s mastery of the standard.”

– J. W. (2nd year Math teacher)

“Frustrated With Apathy”

“We were becoming frustrated with the apathy toward completing assignments by a significant percentage of our students.  Obviously, the incomplete assignments adversely affected grades, which in turn affects scheduling for a school our size.  After receiving some much needed direction from a neighboring Middle School, we implemented the Power of ICU approach during the course of the 2017-2018 school year at the High School.  We chose not to set it up exactly as the Middle School, but we formatted the plan to what works for us and our schedule.  Among the staff, we had our ‘doubters’ as to whether ICU would be beneficial.  However, having a strong ICU leadership team has greatly impacted the success of the program.  For me, as the principal, it places some of the control into the hands of the teachers who are on the ‘front line’ in the classrooms.  And as far as the ‘doubters’ are concerned, they are far and few now.  In comparing some baseline data from the 2016-2017 to this year, we have noticed a significant drop in Ds and Fs for each grade level. For example, last year’s juniors, 44.2% were receiving a D and/or F during the first semester.  This year, that current group of seniors, only 24.1% are receiving a D and/or F.  Obviously, the number is still considerably higher than we would like it to be, but positive steps need to start one at a time.  So, we look at it as a positive movement.”

– K. P. (High School Principal)

“The Right Kind of Work”

“Using the ICU database is the right kind of teacher work. It holds students accountable for their practice, it helps ensure that teachers have authentic examples of student mastery (or a lack of mastery), and it challenges teachers to create high-quality, relevant, practice. In short, the ICU database (and the philosophical approach behind it) has helped me be a better educator. Because of this, using the ICU database is the right kind of work – ensuring that every student does every practice every day! I have found that the small amount of time that I spend inputting missing work is the most efficient use of my time and helps support both student mastery and student accountability, but without the punitive approach that too many teachers and schools use.”

– R.D. (History Dept Chair)

And the success continues!

The Power of ICU stretches way beyond just your campus school. The strategies and supports taught through the ICU approach will stay with many students and teachers for a lifetime. We have received consistent feedback about how ICU has helped brand new and seasoned educators shift their thinking towards impactful intervention and learning based practices. As a principal, the greatest compliment is often that you have developed lead learners that grow and move on to become leaders themselves. This is the case for many of our schools. However, what is even more of a compliment for us is when these new leaders bring the Power of ICU to their new schools.

This is AWESOME! One of our teachers from FMS left and went to Fredericktown School District. She took her knowledge of defeating student apathy with her.

This is what it is all about! I just wanted to share with you her excitement and joy of bringing this to another school.

And the success continues! We were fortunate to receive feedback from the teacher, as well. She was able to share the ICU approach with her new school district and once again, the students are demonstrating their learning while developing accountability.

I just wanted to share with you guys that today we kicked off our 1st day of Working Lunch/ICU.  We are only doing freshman and core classes to begin with as part of our transition plan. Well, these freshmen teachers listened and bought in. So today we had 32 kiddos on our list.  Except for the boy who was absent, we collected EVERY SINGLE ASSIGNMENT.  The MTSS guy for our building was astounded. He spends his life chasing down missing work, and he’s been working closely with me on this. He said, “This is the most effective intervention in the history of the world!”

Another teacher was shocked as well.  He said, “I don’t understand. I told them yesterday I was putting them on the list if I didn’t get it. What was different about today?” Well, obviously, we were getting into their lunch time, but I told him, “There is something magic about THE LIST.”

Thanks for listening to me. I just wanted to share with people who truly understand how excited I am!

Spotlight School: Stewarts Creek High School


Celebrating learning differences is at the heart of Stewarts Creek High School’s culture. Only six short years ago, Principal Dr. Clark Harrell opened SCHS with the mission of achieving academic excellence by fostering the belief that every child learns differently. He knew that many schools struggle with helping students learn the standards when educating them following the status quo. This rigid system didn’t align with Dr. Harrell’s vision and he knew there must be a better educational model available.

The summer prior to the school’s opening, the leadership team met with Danny Hill who introduced them to the Power of ICU. The book presented layers of support for positioning student differences as strengths and a focus on standards’ mastery, not grades. Applying the Power of ICU formula to Stewarts Creek High meant fostering a culture where students were served through daily individualized support by all faculty members from front office personnel to teachers, coaching staff to administrators. Last year, a visit from the Power of ICU team introduced the SCHS staff to Danny’s newest book, Grade Cleanse. This gave teachers the final piece of the formula needed to refine and develop quality practice that truly assesses learning and produces work that authentically reflects what students know, not how they behave. Principal Harrell contributes the school’s culture of excellence to the layers of support, positive student-teacher relationships, and a commitment to celebrating individual successes together as One Team. “Power of ICU has offered the school a systematic plan to build this culture, and SCHS has experienced positive changes in student attitudes toward learning every year since it’s adoption,” says Harrell.

Academic lifeguards, the ICU database, and notification messages keep parents informed of their child’s progress, an important component that is often missing after students transition into high school. SCHS families know that teachers and administrators are not going to let their students sink beneath the academic demand, but rather work along side them to meet rigorous expectations. Each year, Stewarts Creek High School has given 100% to build layers of support focused on every student succeeding. Acting as OneTeam, the staff has made ICU the backbone of their school culture and is all-in toward giving students every opportunity to complete every assignment everyday. In honor of their significant achievement and long-standing focus on personalized student learning by creating a unique, relational ICU school environment, Stewarts Creek High has earned the distinction as a Spotlight School.

Power of We

The greatest of educational leaders value the importance of reflection and refinement as they look forward to the next school year. Schools across the country have started this practice by working on their school-wide improvement plans and needs assessment to address student achievement. Many of these institutions have begun rewriting the education narrative, promoting a culture of student accountability, and eliminating “grades” from their vernacular. As the author of their outcome, they have chosen not to allow apathy to be the antagonist of their school’s success story. Instead, these innovative leaders have twisted the plots and turned conflicts of failures into happily-ever-afters of completing assignments, demonstrating learning, advancing student achievement, and increasing graduation rates. Although each success story is unique, the one common theme is that no one single person solely claims the character of hero. Rather, the champion’s tale of student success is a school-wide collaboration appropriately titled the Power of We.

With pen in hand, districts across the nation have committed to edit the ending of their story by bringing the ICU Database to their schools and teachers. Like a sword to a knight, the ICU Database equips every faculty member with the power to support students and defeat apathy by creating, monitoring, and managing missing assignments in one accessible location. Armed with the ICU Database, the responsibility to help a student doesn’t fall solely on the teacher. The ICU list makes every minute count with all students in all classes. Student achievement becomes the focus of the whole school community and each staff member pursues students to turn in missing assignments by creating opportunities to demonstrate their learning. Teachers are grateful for the extra help believing that more can be achieved when working together. Students and parents appreciate knowing that the entire school is working toward the same goal, the student’s success. For ICU schools, every faculty member can be the hero and responsibility for student learning no longer falls on “me” but is achieved through the power of “WE“. Lifeguards Michelle Mack and Noelle Heuer share about the success that comes from having a school-wide culture where each faculty member is working for every individual student.

“Our ICU culture raises the bar. We are just trying to hold students accountable and give them every opportunity to learn!”

– Michelle Mack, Lifeguard

“Communication is not only between the teachers and the students, but also with coaches, administration, and most importantly the parents. It’s important to remember that ICU is not a negative intervention. It’s a chance to address academic issues quickly and in a timely manner so that other educational gaps do not arise.”

– Noelle Heuer, Lifeguard

At the end of this year, will your school improvement narrative be one of tragedy or triumph? The Power of ICU team would like to partner with you to rewrite your school’s success story and help turn the responsibility of “me” into the Power of “WE”.

Brick House Achievement Award: Watertown Middle School

watertownWhat initiative can we take today to cultivate a culture of success tomorrow? No school better embodies this question than Watertown Middle School. Building a Brick House school culture originates from a labor of love, a commitment to a firm foundation, intentional decision making to secure each brick is in the right place at the right time, and complete trust in those leading the charge. When done right, the result is a strong, solid, supportive Brick House that can stand the test of time. Each year, the Power of ICU team recognizes a school that has a proven history of successfully supporting student learning. We are honored to announce Watertown Middle School as the recipient of the 2018 Brick House Achievement Award.

For the past 11 years, Watertown Middle School has proven they have built and sustained a strong, solid, supportive school culture that places student needs as the keystone of learning. Many school improvement strategies are a top-down action plan. However, what makes Watertown unique is the fervor behind the teacher-led initiative that brought about their success. With the support of their Principal, Todd Brist, it was Watertown Middle teachers that sought out a system to inspire dramatic change in their school culture.

While attending the SREB 2009 Summer Conference, a team of teachers participated in sessions focused on combatting student apathy. Following Danny Hill’s presentation, based on his book Brick House, they were convinced that Power of ICU was the intervention approach their school and students needed. Despite the challenges of launching an initiative in the middle of the school year, the teachers insisted Danny and several members of the Power of ICU team travel to South Dakota and begin developing the plan to inspire a culture shift at WMS. Almost immediately after incorporating built in intervention time and a team of lifeguards, the faculty could see a difference in student performance. These changes became the cornerstone of their Brick House culture and they took aim at “building an army of support that removes obstacles and emphasizes accountability in order to create success for all involved.”

It wasn’t long before the teachers requested the final piece, the ICU Database. According to Principal Brist, “Since then we have continued to improve our quality of work, grading practices, and assignment completion; ending the past five years with a 99.99% closing rate.” Parents and teachers now work collaboratively using notifications sent from the ICU Database similar to a blueprint communicating the student’s needs and the plan to get the work done. Watertown students are expected to do quality work on every assignment supporting the mission of making learning the focus, not points or grades. Over the past 5 years, the Power of ICU has laid a firm foundation with layers of support to improve student achievement raising the passing rate for all classes to 100%. However, it is the unmeasurable that has made the biggest impact.

The Power of ICU has equipped Watertown students with confidence in receiving academic lifeguard support, a sense of ownership and responsibility for their assignments on the list, and perseverance in remediating towards mastery. Because of their consistent commitment to excellence, Watertown Middle School has earned the distinction of receiving the 2018 Brick House Achievement Award.

Lifeguards On Duty

Have you ever watched kids swim towards a drifting beach ball?  The harder they try, the further away it seems to get. Eventually, they decide the effort is no longer worth the reward.  Overwhelmed and tired, the kids start caring less about the lost ball and more about survival.  The classroom isn’t that different for some students.  Many students start with a committed effort, but over time they fall behind and zeroes begin to lose their meaning since they are already too far in the hole.  Under the weight of zeroes, their motivation is just to survive and students begin to sink.  However, just like our swimmers could benefit from a lifeguard, so could your students.  Academic lifeguards work with students to rescue missed opportunities to demonstrate their learning.  Working with an academic lifeguard prepares students by giving them support and modeling that obligations just doesn’t go away and get replaced by a zero.  Responsibility lingers and you have to learn how to pick yourself up and face it.  This is where an academic lifeguard becomes an invaluable and consistent reinforcement of the school culture.  Adding academic lifeguards to your intervention initiative changes the status quo of education for most schools by altering the sink or swim mentality and replacing it with competence, choice, and a community of support.  This type of school culture fosters social support and produces students that can persevere, be resourceful, rise and overcome obstacles, and be success seekers.  “No matter how large or small your school is academic lifeguards can provide the necessary set of eyes” to target underachieving groups of students. (Brick House, p. 43)  Students will reap the rewards, teachers will be grateful, and parents will appreciate knowing that lifeguards are watching out for their students.  For more information about integrating academic lifeguards into your school culture contact info@poweroficu.com. We have schools from across the country eager to share their success stories with you.

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