ACT recently released the report The Forgotten Middle: Ensuring that All Students Are on Target for College and Career Readiness before High School. It is the latest in a series of reports documenting the need for increased rigor. However, this one focuses on a key point: rigor is NOT just for high school. In fact, if we wait until high school to increase rigor for our students, we have failed. The authors of the report are clear: "Our research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school."
Most teachers I work with know this already. At the end of one of my workshops on rigor, a first grade teacher in Baltimore shared how she planned to increase rigor when her students read The Three Little Pigs. She said, "After we read the story, I usually mention something about the three types of houses, but now I'm going to have my students do some basic research about houses built of straw, wood, and brick." Now that's the perfect formula for success: high expectations for students plus creative activities.
How are you increasing rigor in your classroom?