Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What does the word rigor mean to you?

I've always been a decent student...rarely made all A's but worked hard and got mostly A's and B's. I made a few C's along the way and those are the grades that, when brought home, elicited a reaction from my parents, such that I didn't want to earn C's any more. In fact, the one that sticks out in my memory the most is the C earned in conduct the first grading period of first grade. I will never forget going into my mother's classroom at the high school, handing her my report card and WAITING for her to realize I had a C in conduct. Her face LIT up...she was so proud of me...I had earned A's in everything else! Then her eyes scanned over to the conduct column and all the joy just left her face immediately. She was devastated!

The point of this story is not to tell you that I was a talkative first grader and got a paddling every day during that school, it's to explain that school was not easy for me. I had to work at it. It was rigorous...and satisfying for me to work hard at something and earn decent grades!

Since I've been teaching I've struggled with working hard to teach, and expecting my students to master what I've taught, but not feeling like I had a way to gauge that mastery. As fate would have it, the Superintendent in our district has set a goal for herself of seeing a common grading system in place in our district between middle and high schools. This goal led to the formation of a task-force of about 40 teachers from all the secondary schools in our district, who were charged with reviewing the current grading policy (which is very broad and open for interpretation) and fleshing it out so that it can be used by all teachers in order to be more fair when grading our students.

We worked for about a year, meeting approximately ten times to hash out was not easy nor was it always fun, but it was always rigorous and led to lots and lots of communication and compromise from committee members. We were able to have good, solid collegial conversations about what we value for our students...and it turns out, we all value rigor for our students!

On Monday, December 13, I joined five other colleagues in making a presentation to our school board about our meetings and suggested changes we came up with. It was a very interesting meeting that you can read about right here.

I have read several books on rigor and have definitions that I like, but the one we used Monday night in our presentation is posted this and tell me what you think. What does the word rigor (as it pertains to education) mean to you?

What is rigor?
•An environment where EACH student is expected to learn at high levels
•Complex, ambiguous, personally challenging
•Content mastery
•Applied skills and critical thinking
What is NOT rigor?
•Special program for select students
•Severity, inflexibility, or hardship
•A measure of quantity of content
•A measure of adherence to rules


Kim Eckhardt said...

I think that rigor is the ability for each student to reach his or her potential putting forth their best possible maximum effort that they can. The result will probably be different for each kid. But the result is not what you are really striving for. It's the effort that is put in. If the best that a student CAN do with maximum effort and rigor on their part is a "c" then you've done your job as a teacher.

Conversely, if a student is capable of making an "a" but isn't putting for their maximum effort then the expectations for them would be higher.

I'd be more proud of the student who extended maximum effort and got a A than the other student (let's call him Shane) who puts forth little effort and makes an A.

It's all about effort.

And good to see you back. :)

PennyCandy said...

I just happened to trip across your blog.

Wonderful post about rigor. I like that your district wanted to find a way to standardize the grading.

I think that is so important in HS. Parents that say "I do not my student to have teacher X; because they won't get an A." or the parent that wants that wants teacher X because their child will have to work hard.

Each student should be pushed to reach for their potential and graded accordingly.

Just my two cents worth.