Barbara R. Blackburn

Right-Sized Rigor

My favorite question to ask students is, "If you were in charge of the school, what would you change?" At one middle school, a student named Gabrielle replied, "For people who don't understand as much . . .  [they should] be in higher-level classes to understand more [because] if they already don't know much, you don't want to teach them to not know much over and over." Isn't that insightful? A 6th grader recognizes a crucial point: each student, including those who are struggling, deserves to be taught at a rigorous level.

At the core of our quest to increase rigor is creating a common understanding of rigor that speaks to all students. Too often, we dismiss struggling students as unable to work at rigorous levels. In fact, "Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels; each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels; and each student demonstrates learning at high levels" (Blackburn, 2013). Teachers can follow two major steps to achieve this goal of rigorous work for each and every student.

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ASCD Express, Vol. 12, No. 11. Copyright 2017 by ASCD. All rights reserved. Visit www.ascd.org/ascdexpress.

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