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We hear a lot about how our curriculum, instruction, and assessments need more rigor. The argument is that our students need to be challenged more and master more difficult content and skills. This may be true, but rigor alone misses the point.

Anyone can make something harder—add more rigor. But just because something is hard does not mean it is worth pursuing. In fact, there is little evidence that making standards, benchmarks, or objectives harder lifts learning. Most students are not motivated simply because something is difficult.

What we need are goals, objectives, and standards that learners see as worth pursuing, that have value, and are useful and worthy of achieving. In short, we need to put more vigor in the outcomes we establish for learners, not just more rigor.

As you and your staff are reviewing and revising your curriculum, setting learning expectations, and designing assessments, think about how students view what we are asking of them. If we care enough and are willing to take the time to make learning valuable to students—make it vigorous—we are likely to find teaching easier and more impactful, and student learning easier to generate.


Article taken from NorthStar for Principals. To learn more about this publication, please visit:

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