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 year...no, 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 items...it 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 below...read 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
•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