Getting To Rigor

My ears are burning. Stephanie Sandifer over at Leader Talk has a post about compliance and rigor. Just this coming week I was developing ideas on how to broach the topic with my staff.

Stephaine asks two important questions about rigor –

  1. How do you, as a campus administrator (or instructional coach/lead teacher) monitor for effective implementation?

  2. How do you monitor for deep, rigorous implementation as opposed to just simple compliance?

I’m not even discussing the subject of compliance (the connotations and images that word brings is too ugly to deal with), but I would like to add my thoughts about rigor.

I replied to Stephanie’s post with this:

As a principal of a high school looking to increase rigor, I am preparing to involve the staff in a serious discussion and initiative about what rigor is and how it can be established and monitored. After much research, reading, and thought, I [broke it down] to this simple statement: “Rigor is achieved through expectations and assessment.” It’s not all encompassing about the subject of rigor, but it’s a statement that a large faculty can understand and digest. (I like to keep things simple and palatable).

One way you can measure rigor is through assessing assessments. I will ask all faculty to structure exams and projects at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Quizzes and Homework should be relegated to the lower four quadrants of the taxonomy. We can then measure the level of rigor by monitoring the quality of assessments. And using UBD ideology, if your assessments are developed using essential questions prior to the teaching, then the rigor should flow throughout the unit.

My reply was quick and pointed. I know that rigor is also defined as getting students to develop the ability to understand content that is complex, provocative, and challenging. But that concept is too academic and stale… you need to get to the heart of establishing rigor – assessments.

In order to motivate and move faculty to assess at a level of rigor that is acceptable, it’s important to frame the discussion in a way that generates thought, not compliance. I use this simple visual to help faculty understand how to develop rigor by using what they already do.

Looking at the visual, you have to understand that a faculty do not need, or deserve, more demands, compliance, or do-it-or-elses. This framework can serve as a mapping tool for faculty as they begin to collaborate and work in PLCs to develop a plan for ramping up the rigor in their classrooms, departments, and school. But what do these PLCs look like when discussing and focusing on developing rigorous assessments?

One example is the peer-review model. Teachers form teams and peer review eachothers assessments. Using an assessing assessments tool, teachers can then honestly gauge their level of rigor and make improvements or give assistance to others. I have seen it in action before. It’s tough to do, but worth it.

Bottom line is this: look to the assessments to measure rigor. Assess the assessments, then assess your practice.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

One thought on “Getting To Rigor”

  1. Mike,

    Looks like great work. We've been having similar discussions and are in the process of implementing some common assessments based around desired learning outcomes for certain course. Should be fun. May I borrow (with credit of course) your graphic?


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