MARQUETTE - As students inside Gwinn High School and Gwinn Middle School walk the halls between classes, it's not unusual to hear them ask each other about "ICU," wondering if they'll be going to it that day.
"Everybody talks about ICU," said GHS senior Caleb Flores, who has been called down to ICU a few times this year. "We'll be at lunch, talking about ICU, asking if we're on it. Not a lot of my friends have been on it, so they're asking me a bunch of stuff about it."
The students are talking about a new program the district implemented this year called "Power of ICU," which is based on one, simple premise - every student turns in every assignment, period.
From left, Gwinn Middle School students Riley Purcell Jr., Shelby Boyer and James Valiquette work on some homework assignments during school. (Journal photo by Jackie Stark)
"We're feeling very good that students are actually learning what they need to learn, and building a sense of community within the school, because everybody knows who is on the list and it's done in a positive way rather than a negative way," Gwinn Superintendent Kim Tufnell said of the program, which was used in the middle school last year and went districtwide this year. "Kids get that positive feeling of completing assignments and seeing that it really does help your grades."
The program utilizes a database that has every assignment from every teacher listed on it. When students don't turn in an assignment, a text message or email is sent to their parents and they are placed on the ICU list, which is announced just before lunch everyday over the PA system. Students on the list must report to ICU to either hand in the assignment or work on it during part of their lunch hour.
Flores said he's been sent to ICU this year and thinks the program has helped him keep up on his schoolwork.
"It's really helped me stay on top of my work," he said. "I don't really have time to not do my homework, because I'm always getting called down to ICU."
The program also offers students who do poorly on tests and quizzes a chance to retake the test. Both the student and teacher find time for a little extra tutoring on whatever may have tripped up the student on the exam. Sometimes that means working during their lunch hour or showing up after school for tutoring.
Flores said that aspect helps take some of the pressure off his shoulders on a test day.
"I don't go into the test thinking, 'Oh, if I don't do great on that test, I'm sure I'm going to fail the class,'" he said. "I just try my hardest. Whenever I don't do good, I capitalize on that next time."
For Tufnell and middle school English teacher Stephanie Hindman - who first introduced the program to Tufnell two years ago - the best part is that it ensures that the grades students receive reflect a knowledge of the material.
"Kids are taking advantage of the extra opportunities they have to learn," Tufnell said. "They're looking at redoing tests. We're not looking at (tests) as a 'one-shot gotcha.' It's more of a learning tool.
"They know, for the first time, the student's grade actually reflects what they know. That was such a huge positive for them."
By taking behavioral issues out of the equation - turning in late homework for example, or not turning in assignments at all - Hindman said the teachers are able to more effectively address issues the students may have with certain schoolwork.
As a student, Hindman said, "I might know the material at an 'A' level, but my grade might be a 'C' because of my various behaviors, like turning in late work or having a missing assignment, or something like that."
By taking those things out of the grade and addressing them as a separate issue, Hindman said her gradebook now reflects exactly what her students know and don't know.
"As a teacher, I kind of like that, because then I know when the parents look at my report card, they know with 100 percent certainty that if their kid gets a 'B,' that that is their knowledge of English, not, well, they know it at an 'A' but they had that one late assignment."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.