January 25, 2019
Last week I wrote about colleagues that are taking risks that provide tremendous benefits for students. These amazing educators not only take risks they incorporate student voice. They integrate technology into their instruction. Additionally, they ensure that each lesson is academically rigorous for their students. Academic rigor is the fine line from being challenging and frustrating students. It means that students must work to develop and be challenged to develop skills, understanding and thought power to constantly achieve at higher and higher levels.
The first phase of academic rigor is that of setting the standard. To be clear we teach standard mastery using various curricular tools. These tools may include, but not be limited to, prescribed math and literacy, science and social studies. These tools vary in their ability to reach each student, but that’s where our incredible staff comes in. You all work hard to collaborate and align the standards with the tools you have been provided. This alignment between the tools and standards is the critical component of teaching and learning.
So this first phase of setting the standard is critical to ensuring student success while maintaining academic rigor. As I mentioned we know there is a a certain standard that is implicitly expected from students. There are certain methods used to make these standards clear, that include rubrics, directs and direct instruction. Instruction that may include teacher led, think, pair and share or I do, we do and you do. Regardless of the instructional pedagogy students are led to clearly understand the standard they are expected to master. These in turns means that as educators, we establish the appropriate degree of rigor in our classrooms and making sure that rigor is overtly demonstrated to students what the expected outcome is.
There are many characteristics of a classroom that clearly communicates expected mastery. We must develop classroom environments that endorses and expects a high-degree of performance from each student. In this first indicator reflects that the teacher believes in the potential of each student’s success and consistently communicates that belief. This belief leads teachers to review data and develop lessons and learning tasks that are specifically designed to lead students to high level outcomes. Teachers explicitly use examples of the desired outcomes, that also includes what is not desired. Students don’t simply receive a grade but are offered opportunities to revise and make corrections that lead to mastery.
In this instructional rigor model teachers have truly thought through the expected outcomes. They work collaboratively to develop thought-provoking questions to lead students to think in-depth, well beyond surface level. Therefore, students come back with high-level thoughtful answers that promote additional questions to lead to greater learning while connecting content areas. At no time does a teacher accept a surface level or one-word response but constantly gently nudge students deeper into learning.
Next week I’ll write about methods through which we as educators develop our repertoire to support rigorous outcomes. As always, thank you for your tremendous commitment to tremendous academic mastery of standards for Every Student, Every Day.
Have a great weekend.
Adam Taylor, Superintendent