• In 2012, the AHES teaching and learning community collaborated to generate a working definition of academic rigor. We also read professional texts and selected our favorite quotes about rigor.  We also believe that each key teaching and learning action in the City Schools' Instructional Framework is essential to engagement in academic rigor. 2015-2016 we will continue to revise this definition and work and begin to build shared understandings around the meaning of student engagement.
    Alexander Hamilton Elementary School #145


    Academic Rigor: Building Shared Understandings


    What is Academic Rigor?


    Academic rigor is the degree to which students are being intellectually challenged. Rigorous instruction should motivate each student to develop high expectations for academic progress. Academic rigor is facilitated by well-planned instruction but driven by student interest, learning styles, and vigorous effort. It results in the development of critical and creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Rigorous instruction generates achievement-motivation, inquiry, and innovation. Rigorous teaching and learning cultivates the capacity of children to set learning goals, self-monitor their learning, and persist through challenging academic tasks. Rigorous instruction means engaging children in developmentally appropriate content that allows them to connect prior knowledge with new learning, and leads them to asking more questions, and discovering more information.  In an academically rigorous classroom, the teacher anchors student learning around a core curriculum that requires high thinking demand. With teacher modeling and scaffolding, learners are able to acquire and apply core knowledge and skills. The teacher facilitates the process of helping each learner develop and actively use enduring understandings around major concepts.


    Our Favorite Quotes from Related Readings about Academic Rigor


    While all are expected to achieve at high levels, school staff, parents and community members acknowledge that some students will need more help than others to reach their goals.


    Academically rigorous schools do not just raise the bar, they also provide the supports necessary to ensure that all students can meet more stringent course and graduation requirements.


    Schools can demand rigorous intellectual work from students only if they give up the goal of superficially covering as much content as possible.


    How to Recognize Rigor in Every AHES Classroom:


    l  Engagement in Standards-Based Lesson Objectives

    l  Clear Communication of Content

    l  Questioning for Deep Understanding/Text-Based

    l  Responding to Student Misunderstanding

    l  Student-to-Student Interaction and Academic Talk

    l  Differentiated Strategies and Tasks

    l  Project-Based Learning

    l  Performance-Based Learning

    l  Independent Learning

    l  Challenging Formative and Summative Assessments


    How did we construct this definition?


    As a teaching and learning community, we engaged in related readings on academic rigor. We combined our prior knowledge and new learning to create several definitions. We then synthesized the information and had conversations about the evidence of rigor in our classrooms and next steps for instructional improvement.


    Why the focus on academic rigor?


    The Alexander Hamilton vision is, in partnership with our families and community, we are creating a culture of college readiness where everyone is a learner, everyone is a teacher, and everyone is a leader! Our mission is to become a high performing community school that engages all learners in exemplary teaching and learning experiences that are rigorous, differentiated, meaningful, memorable and take place in a safe and orderly environment. Each AHES student will be prepared to enter and graduate college and make invaluable contributions to the 21st Century workforce. We believe the person doing the work in the classroom is the person doing the learning. Students learn and retain deep understandings when they have the opportunity to apply their knowledge through practical and relevant teaching and learning experiences. When students are aware of their academic goals and continually challenged to monitor their progress as they work hard to increase their knowledge, understandings and skills, they are set up to persist through intellectually rigorous work. Too often students are sitting in classrooms being taught material they have already learned or have disengaged from mind-numbing instruction that requires them to simply memorize and regurgitate information rather than analyze, synthesize, evaluate and apply it to new tasks. Academic rigor requires teachers to use various assessment methods to determine student strengths and challenges and provide targeted demanding instruction that will accelerate student learning.




    AHES Professional Learning Next Steps


    1.      Continue professional reading around academic rigor.

    2.      Analyze teaching and learning videos for evidence of academic rigor in a balanced literacy classroom (through the lens of the City Schools Instructional Framework).

    3.      Engage in a best practice visit to Mary Ann Winterling around T4.

    4.      Peer intra-visitation using the City Schools’ Instructional Framework and the AHES Depth of Understanding Rubric.

    5.      Align with Common Core Standards

    6.      Implement Grade Level Instructional Team Cycles of Professional Learning and align with the work of the Instructional Leadership Team.