Garfield First Iowa School In No Excuses University Network

June 8, 2017 01:30 PM

Garfield Elementary School has earned membership to the prestigious No Excuses University Network of Schools.  To earn membership into the network of “like-minded” schools, Garfield staff completed an extensive online application focused on the “Six Exceptional Systems” the school has developed around the No Excuses University model. A video was submitted to demonstrate the “Culture of Universal Achievement” developed on the campus. See Video here.

Garfield earned the recognition by demonstrating a commitment to college readiness and through efforts to ensure all children meet standards in reading, writing and math, no matter their challenges. The Cedar Rapids elementary school is the first school in the state of Iowa to receive the designation and is part of a growing No Excuses Network of Schools across the country.

With leadership from the Garfield Marketing the Message Team, school staff spent five years developing systems aligned with the program’s 40 Next Steps to become a No Excuses University.  Staff committed to teaching in a way that allows students not only to excel, but also to know they are important and capable of going to college and building a future for themselves.   

“Garfield is a school on the rise,” said Joy Long, Garfield Principal. “There is a great sense of intentionality here that drives all of our work with the ultimate goal that Garfield students will be future ready.  We are honored and excited to partner with No Excuses University as we implement strategies for continuous improvement.”

“It is exciting to have Garfield as the first school identified in Iowa with the title of No Excuses University School,” shared Val Dolezal, Executive Director of Elementary Education. “The work that Garfield has done and will continue to work toward align with the state definition of ‘Iowa Students who are College and Career Ready.’  This means that students are proficient on essential content, developing cognitive strategies, and a strong understanding of how to engage in learning all of which will make them successful as they transition to whatever that next step is after high school.”

“Setting a course for college and workplace readiness is an important part of our work,” added Dr. Brad Buck, Superintendent. “The high school diploma is often described as “the new minimum” and we need to instill a mindset in students and families that credentials, certifications, and degrees beyond that diploma are the ticket to accessing the new economy. This is an important step in that process.” 

The No Excuses University Network of Schools was founded by Damen Lopez in 2004 in San Diego, California. This endeavor helps to build a bridge for all students to attend college as it begins promoting a comprehensive college readiness model starting in pre-kindergarten. Ten years after Lopez first began sharing this message with thousands of educators across the country, there are now hundreds of schools participating as part of the No Excuses University revolution. To date this work, which is now influencing the lives of more than 130,000 students in eighteen states, has received national attention and has been featured in numerous television and newspaper stories.

“We are proud to partner with Garfield Elementary,” noted Frank Nardelli, Vice President of No Excuses University. “We are inspired by the school’s commitment to college readiness and we respect their relentless pursuit of success for all of their students. We believe all children deserve the opportunity to be educated in a way that prepares them for college if they so choose to attend. We believe all children can be academically successful. Most importantly, we believe that Garfield has the POWER to make this dream a reality.”

The schools in the NEU Network are not asked to pay any membership dues. Before Garfield could apply to become a member, Long and a team of school staff attended an NEU Training Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.  Damen Lopez presented the keynote address on each day of the 2-day training experience. NEU Associates presented Breakout Sessions to share ideas with schools on how to develop their Six Exceptional Systems. The No Excuses University presents several Institutes in various locations around the country each year.

Garfield Elementary School, located in Northeast Cedar Rapids, is one of 21 elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. Some 230 students attend the K-5 building.  Garfield is composed of a population of 75% free/reduced lunch, 40% minority and 25% Special Education.  During the 2016-2017 school year, Garfield decreased the number of office referrals by two thirds and was in the top 4 buildings of the school district in fewest office referrals.

More school information visit here. 

No Excuses University (NEU) hosts a number of events that share ideas from practitioners to practitioners with “Six Exceptional Systems” at the heart of their work. From institutes to annual national conventions, NEU is constantly on the road bringing this message to life. The NEU Network of Schools is made up of schools that choose to apply for official NEU status as part of their desire to be a part of a movement far bigger than what might take place on their campus alone. Not all schools that have attended a No Excuses University event make the choice to apply for this status. In addition, not all schools that do apply are accepted. The thousands of educators at these very diverse schools (Pre-K, K-5, K-6, K-8, middle, junior high, high school, college, and charter) collectively support more than 130,000 students, many living in challenging environments where poverty is the standard. Only schools that have been recognized as official NEU campuses are allowed to use the trademarked No Excuses University name and logo associated with this endeavor. More information at

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