Steven Weber

Superintendent or Asst Super

Fayetteville, AR

Interests: Curriculum design and...

  • Posted 27 Days ago
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Number 1 Seed

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This is the third in a four-part series on March Madness. 

(3 of 4)

At the end of the college basketball season, Americans become fixated on the NCAA Tournament. March Madness begins with fans and non-fans, who don’t watch college basketball during the regular season, completing their brackets. Some people choose the number one seeds to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, while others select the underdog or ‘sleeper’ teams to upset the teams with the best records. Education closely mirrors March Madness. Every classroom has a student that is number one in the class, based on GPA, academic achievement, or class rank. How are educators supporting the number one seed and the rest of the student body?

In the 2018 NCAA tournament, there were four number one seeds. The number one seeds included Virginia, Kansas, Villanova, and Xavier. Kansas and Villanova were the only number one seeds who advanced to the Final Four. The number one seed indicates that a team is one of the top four teams in the nation entering the tournament. When number 16 seed UMBC upset number 1 seed Virginia it marked the first time in tournament history that a number 16 seed defeated a number 1 seed.

We can learn from the number one seed. In education, it is easy to get wrapped up in the number one seed. There are families in the United States who begin planning their child's journey in order to achieve the status of valedictorian. There are also educators who work hard to teach the top 10% of students, while providing an entirely different curriculum and instruction to the remaining 90% of the student body. While we need to praise students who strive to be at the top of the class, we need to remember that there is more to education than praise and recognition for the number one seed. We also need to remember that all students deserve a chance to receive a quality education so they can compete when they enter the workforce. The United States and our economy cannot afford to have number one seeds and then the remaining students. Our country needs number one seeds and number sixteen seeds (think UMBC in this year's tournament)......

The comprehensive high school was “designed to process a great number of students efficiently, selecting and supporting only a few for ‘thinking work’ while tracking others into a basic-skills curriculum aimed at preparation for the routinized manufacturing jobs of the time” (Darling-Hammond & Friedlaender, 2008, p. 15). “During the early twentieth century when vocational education programs were introduced on a wide scale….Students needed to make a choice whether to pursue an academic or vocational future” (Conley, 2010, p. 4).

Today, according to Murray (2012), “Many high schools continue to operate on an old premise – that only the best and the brightest will go on to college, with the rest needing a lower dose of academics sprinkled with some occupational training” (p. 60). Achieve (2013), an independent, bi-partisan, non-profit education reform organization led by governors and business leaders, defined college and career readiness as being prepared for the next steps, that all doors remain open as students continue to pursue their education and careers. The challenge is not to simply get students into postsecondary programs, as daunting as that challenge might be in some high schools and communities. In essence, it means students ready to learn beyond high school, not simply to complete high school. (p. 14)

Every student deserves the right to learn and educators should make each student feel like a number one seed. We should not place bets on which students will go to college and which students will fall out in the first round of high school, in the manner that thousands of people place bets on college teams. Students and teachers need to have clear goals. In order to achieve district’s goals, schools will need a clear game plan and they may need to call an occasional time-out to help students refocus on the main goal. When we provide students with multiple opportunities to succeed, they will gain confidence and skills which prepare them for the next level.

While our favorite teams are eliminated from the NCAA basketball tournament, we do not need to sort and select or eliminate students from public schools. “Although the American high school has experienced a remarkable transformation…it still has a considerable way to go to achieve its current mission – to prepare all students for further schooling or training” (Balfanz, 2009, p. 32).“

Benefits of Focusing On Number 1 Seed and Number 16 Seed

  • Equity

  • Opportunity to Learn

  • Guaranteed Curriculum

  • Increase the High School Graduation Rate

  • Decrease or Eliminate Dropouts

  • Build Relationships with All Students

  • Help Students Design a Road Map For High School Readiness

  • Help Students Design a Road Map With College and Career Options

  • High Expectations For All Students

  • Academic Interventions and Support

  • Behavior Interventions and Support

  • Tier I and Tier II Instruction

  • Close Achievement Gaps

  • Focus On Student Understanding

  • Emphasis on Supporting the Whole Child

4 Questions For Teacher Teams


     1. How will we measure student understanding?


     2.  What will we do if students don’t learn?


     3.  Are we providing a guaranteed curriculum to all students?


     4. How do we measure “On-Track” Readiness for the next grade level?

This is the third in a four part series on March Madness.

(3 of 4) 

Series Topics

1 of 4   Full Court Press

2 of 4   Productive Struggle

3 of 4   Number 1 Seed

4 of 4   4th Quarter Mindset

Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Fayetteville Public Schools (Arkansas). Connect with Weber on the ASCD EDge social network, or on Twitter @curriculumblog.

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