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Brackets of a different kindFree Access




Gaffney Middle students react in excitement as T-shirts are thrown into the crowd during an i-Ready pep rally ahead of the final interim testing in reading and math. (Ledger photo by SCOTT POWELL)

Gaffney Middle students react in excitement as T-shirts are thrown into the crowd during an i-Ready pep rally ahead of the final interim testing in reading and math. (Ledger photo by SCOTT POWELL)

The madness of NCAA tournament brackets bursting might have passed for college basketball fans.

But it’s far from over for Gaffney Middle students competing against themselves in the drive towards academic excellence when another year in school culminates in state testing in May. The school launched its own 64-team single elimination NCAA style tournament in March in conjunction with the premier college basketball postseason tournament.

Gaffney Middle started the effort with their own tournament bracket. Yet the results in this event have nothing to do with a student’s ability to hit free throws or avoid a costly turnover on a basketball court.

Classes have advanced based on their students academic performance on the i-Ready interim tests in English and math this school year. It’s a research-based program where students in kindergarten through eighth grade are given unique lesson plans to help them improve their reading and math skills.

Gaffney Middle principal Dr. Eric Blanton and his staff decided to hold their own version of “March Madness” to help motivate students to make strides in improving academically in the critical weeks before state testing. Students could chart the advancement of their classes in brackets modeled after the NCAA tournament.

“We wanted to create the same excitement and interest in academic achievement that our students have when they watch the NCAA basketball tournament in March,” Blanton said. “Our students have been so diehard into this.”

Gaffney Middle announced the top classes advancing to the “Elite 8” April 1 based on their English and math results on i-Ready.

The school will conclude its iReady competition this week to determine the Final Four teams who will go to the Big E. They will be joined by the top 20 students with the most passed lessons.

Blanton offered additional motivation for students to think about while enjoying their spring break.

“I have added a plot twist because I like to do a little extra for our students from time to time,” Blanton said. “When we come back from spring break, the top 5 students showing the most growth on their i- Ready scores from the fall to the spring in reading or math will be going to the Big E as well.”

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