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Toronto Catholic District School Board

Pillar #1: Rigor

Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word (1st Edition, 2008 shown here)

by Barbara Blackburn



St. Albert Catholic School with work towards becoming an educational institution with a rigorous program of instruction – Students actively explore, research, and solve complex problems to develop a deep understanding of core academic concepts.


“Rigor” does not mean more work; nor does it mean longer hours at home spent doing homework assignments; Rather, it means more time and varied opportunities for each student to develop essential learning skills and apply work habits of mind as they navigate more sophisticated and reflective learning experiences.  Students weigh evidence, consider varying viewpoints, see connections, identify patterns, evaluate outcomes, speculate on possibilities and assess value. Rigor is not something done only in grade 8 - It is a process that begins in Kindergarten and is threaded throughout all grades. 


Rigor is the process of:
  • Creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels
  • Each student is supported so that he/she can learn at high levels
  • Each student is expected to demonstrate learning at high levels
Rigor means our classrooms are MOTIVATING
Rigor means our lessons are ENGAGING
Rigor utilizes a “GROWTH MINDSET” on a daily basis
Rigor is something LEARNED, PRACTICED, and USED in all aspects of life
Rigor is a set of STANDARDS, PRACTICES, and EXPECTATIONS that we establish for our students and for ourselves
Rigorous work begins with a clear message:
            School work is important.
            Yes, work is hard, but you can do this.
            We will help you to succeed.
            Life is work, but it’s worth working for.
Essentially, in the 21st Century, this means for students, staff, and parents:
"It's not good enough to just show up - we all need to give and do more in order for success and achievement to happen!"


In education, continuous and progressive change is important. Teachers should be responsive and foster individuality, creativity, innovation, and endeavours that foster student achievement in order for students to be successful not only in school, but also in work and life in general. 
Few people question the need for schools and classrooms to be more rigorous. But there is little agreement about what rigor is and what it looks like.  Our plan is to explain what it is (and what it is not), what we need to do in order to make it present in our school, and how to do it so that it is meaningful and authentic… This includes doing things that are engaging and motivating.
At St. Albert, rigor in the school / classroom is the process of:
  • Creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels;
  • Each student is supported so that he or she can learn at high levels;
  • And each student demonstrates learning at high levels. 
We are proponents of a "Growth Mindset" with the understanding that all students can and will learn ... failure is not an end; rather it is part of the process of learning.
The Four R's: Rigor in Twenty-First-Century Schools 
Carol Dweck:  The Power of “Yet”
 The School and parents are charged with the responsibility of supporting student learning with creating the conditions to motivate and engage students to want to learn, and to encourage and inspire students to readily demonstrate their learning (even if failure is involved, and it will be sometimes).  Students take a crucial role in this learning as well - in our philosophy of learning, a student does not "get" an A or B or D even ... the student "earns" the mark.  This makes us all (school, teachers, parents, and students) accountable and assume a discernible part of the ownership for learning  
Should you tell your kids they are smart or talented? Professor Carol Dweck answers this question and more, as she talks about her groundbreaking work on developing mindsets. She emphasizes the power of "yet" in helping students succeed in and out of the classroom.  Basic human ability can be grown.  Are we raising our kids for now or for yet?