Sometimes middle school students just need a little time in the intensive care unit to get their homework done....
How does an educator get a student to do their homework when they just don’t want to?
This question has been posed many different times over the years, and myriad proposals have been presented and attempted.
Some work, and others don’t.
For the Redwood Area School District, a program which has been implemented at RVMS may just be the solution they have sought.
Called ICU, the program was initiated as an effort to provide those students who are behind on assignments an environment where they can get things done.
According to Wade Mathers, RVMS principial, the program actually has its roots in a different program which was implemented during the 2011-12 school year.
Called zeroes aren’t permitted (ZAP), students who were missing assignments were given time during their lunch hour to work on those tasks with a bag lunch provided while they did the work.
“ZAP just became unmanageable for us,” said Mathers, adding logistics issues with having to make as many as 50 bag lunches was creating a lot of work for the food service staff and many times parents raised concerns about lack of communication. “The program was reactive and was not as supportive for students as we wanted.”
So after four members of the RVMS staff went to a presentation about a different program that looked to address the same issue, the idea was proposed. Mathers also attended a training, and as a result a new program called the Power of ICU was started.
“We waited until the beginning of the second quarter to implement it,” said Mathers, adding that gave the staff time to get used to how it worked and how it could best be used by the school as a whole.
ICU, said Mathers is not about consequences of missed work.
The premise, he said is the school is academically unhealthy (as the ICU concept would suggest) due to apathy.
No, he added, not every student who is part of the ICU program is there because of apathy, but the overall idea is to create a climate where students do not have an “I don’t care” attitude.
Mathers said the current model is punitive, as students are given an assignment, and when they do not get the assignment done on time they get a zero for the work.
Then they don’t have to do it, either.
What ICU argues is students gain a sense of responsibility when they know regardless of when the work is done it always has to be completed.
Mathers equated it to home where a parent requires a student to clean their room. If they don’t get the job done, parents do not just tell them after a period of time that they don’t need to do it anymore. The task still needs to be completed.
ICU requires students to get all of their work finished. Those who are missing an assignment are given a chance to get it finished, but if it is not yet done at the end of the day following the days it was originally due, the student then must go to ICU.
Mathers said when a child has the potential to be sent to ICU, parents are notified of that fact, and a day is given for that work to be done. Those who do not do the work stay after school in an environment where they can accomplish it.
Mathers said the data is already showing it is working, as the number of failures at the end of the second quarter dropped dramatically. He also said the teachers are buying into ICU, too
Mathers recognizes this program is a work in progress, but he added it seems to be helping the middle school head in the right direction.