How Much Rigor Is Enough? For The DOE, There Is No End In Sight…

Ever since Common Core was introduced, one word has annoyed the hell out of me.  That word is Rigor.  This is the word the Delaware Department of Education uses on a daily basis.  I hate it.  Not only does it sound ugly, but it makes it sound like children are meant to be little worker slaves for these corporate education reform masters.  The DOE continually believes that with enough rigor, all children can succeed.  I’m sure when the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian Pyramids, and the Erie Canal were built, all the workers used rigor to get finished.

The DOE’s latest is more grants!  To get kids ready for college, and use more rigor in middle school so they can take more AP classes in high school.  I guess being a person is out of the question for Delaware students these days.  Fun is NOT ALLOWED!!!!  You must work, and sweat, and use RIGOR!!!!  Here is the latest from the Department of Exhaustion….

From: May Alison <>
Sent: Monday, June 8, 2015 8:36 AM
To: May, Alison (K12)
Subject: Seven districts earn state grants to support college readiness, access efforts

For immediate release

 Contact Alison May (302) 735-4000


Seven Delaware school districts will begin implementing comprehensive, innovative strategies to increase college readiness and access with grants from Delaware’s College Access funds.

The strategies include getting middle school students ready to take advanced classes when they reach high school, increasing training for teachers of advanced classes, working with counselors on college access and partnering with community organizations to increase support for students.

The grants from the department’s Higher Education Office are part of a broad state strategy to increase college-going that includes the Getting to Zero campaign and investments in boosting success in Advanced Placement classes.

The Delaware Higher Education Office selected five districts to receive 2015-2016 Delaware Goes to College grants that were open to all districts and charters to promote their comprehensive strategies:

  • Brandywine School District ($39,000) will strengthen its high school college and career readiness elective courses, expand its middle school course offerings, and provide training to middle school students and their families on how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA.
  • Capital School District ($68,600) will offer college transition seminars, hold a school-wide application week at Dover High, provide FAFSA training, offer freshman summer bridge programs and underwrite visits to college campuses.
  • New Castle County Vo-Tech’s Delcastle High School ($14,800) will implement Project WIN (What I Need), a four-year program for first-generation college-going students, English language learners, males of color and students from low-income households focused on promoting academic success, college awareness and transition, and college persistence.
  • New Castle County Vo-Tech’s Howard High School ($69,960) will implement “Howard Goes to College,” a multi-year program using college access, success and affordability metrics to increase college readiness and awareness. Howard is partnering with FirstGEN mentors (First Generation College Students from University of Delaware and Delaware State University), TeenSHARP, Delaware Technical and Community College, the College Board and businesses such as Barclays bank.
  • Sussex Technical District ($7,521) will collaborate with StandbyMe, Delaware Tech’s Owens Campus and Lou Hirsh Consulting to encourage students who are eligible to attend college to enroll and show up on campus in the fall, dual-enrollment courses for career and technical education (CTE) majors, college and scholarship essay coaching, and education events for families and students in all grade levels.

    Through a separate competitive grant open to all districts and charters, five districts received Advanced Placement Incentive Grants, including two that also received Delaware Goes to College grants.

  • Brandywine School District ($20,990)
  • Capital School District ($31,173)
  • Colonial School District ($18,500)
  • Delmar School District ($45,731)
  • Milford School District ($11,120)

    The districts will use the grants to provide teachers of AP classes with professional development and to increase the rigor of middle school courses to better prepare students for AP classes in high school.

 Thank you Alison May, for letting hear the word rigor one more time.  What I always want to hear at lunch on a Monday afternoon.  I hope you have a rigorous day!

13 thoughts on “How Much Rigor Is Enough? For The DOE, There Is No End In Sight…

  1. This money will pay for “college transition seminars, hold a school-wide application week at Dover High, provide FAFSA training, offer freshman summer bridge programs and underwrite visits to college campuses.”
    Why should the taxpayers pay for visits to college campuses and summer bridge programs for students going to college? Don’t guidance counselors help with completing college applications?
    According to Peg Luksik, a speaker knowledgeable about Common Core, “rigor” in the Common Core context means simply “more work”.


  2. Two comments:

    1) The fact is that many guidance counselors are drastically overworked (i.e. 3 guidance counselors for a 1000 student school). While in theory they are helping students with this transition, in reality they just don’t have the time to help students to the full extent that they need (which is too bad). That’s why a lot of these programs have begun to pop up. First generation college students have an especially difficult time navigating the college application process. They lack a person at home who has been through the process before themselves. I know that I spent a *ton* of time with students helping them through the process. I pretty much filled all of the roles that a parent would normally fill – reminding them of deadlines, teaching them about what tools to use, explaining what different SAT scores mean for them, explaining what what the different tests that they would need to take are, etc. It would have been great to have a group come in and help my kids with those things.

    2) This is the problem with buzz words. Rigor has become something more than it was really ever meant to be. It really should just refer to class work that is higher on Bloom’s taxonomy. Part of the issue is lack of teacher training. It’s really easy to make the mistake of thinking that “more rigor” means “more work”. The reality is that simply asking “why” questions instead of “what” questions gets you more “rigor” without necessarily increasing the amount of work that you’re asking a student to do.


    • I’m guessing you think everything the DOE does is just super duper. Which is kind of like getting tickets for the Titanic. The poor DOE doesn’t see the iceberg dead ahead. Either that or they probably think they can just plow right through it…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m pretty sure my comments hardly even mentioned DOE…nevermind taking a side.

        Comment 1 refers to my own experiences – how as a teacher it would have been great to have more resources to get my kids to college and help them through the process. I realize that I meant to reply to ljog1 as opposed to your actual post, which could have caused confusion.

        Comment 2 talks about how buzz words are, generally speaking, an issue. “Rigor” in the classroom really is meant to apply to things such as Bloom’s Taxonomy, which has been around since 1956 ( Unfortunately, the word “rigor” has been overused and bastardized to the point of losing any real meaning. Once again, I was mostly responding to ljog1 here.


        • The only reason I referred to the DOE is because they are the only group in Delaware who use the word constantly. If anyone has bastardized the word, it is them by using it out of context on several occasions. I went to a high school with 750 kids. There were 2 guidance counselors, and no student ever had an issue with getting help for college applications or easing them into that transition. Granted, this was the 1980’s in one of the suburbs outside NYC and it was definitely a more affluent area, so I can’t speak to the challenges in Delaware. But it just seems to me like the DOE’s solution to everything is have more training, and more taxpayer money going out to pay for “services” that are not always for the best benefit. I would rather have guidance counselors actually guiding a student as opposed to some volunteer going into schools. Perhaps the role of guidance counselor has had so many layers added to it that the original intent is no longer there.


          • They’re definitely not the only group that uses it. I’ve been to plenty of professional developments – school run, state run, outside organization run alike – that use the term. I’ll be quite honest in saying that I don’t have a problem with the term. Appropriately raising the Bloom’s Taxonomy level used in a lesson or sequence of lessons is a fantastic tool for student learning.

            I grew up in a relatively affluent area as well. Everyone went to college. It was the expectation. It was actually weird when a student didn’t attend. For the most part our parents knew how to navigate getting their children to college because they had been through the process themselves. I hardly had the need to talk with my guidance counselor about it because I was getting that support at home. It’s different for first generation college applicants, who happen to normally come from low income backgrounds. They tend to not know how to navigate the system simply because they don’t know anyone who has done it before. It’s a pretty big barrier to entry for many students. In these cases, guidance counselors just really don’t have the resources to help their students.

            It’s quite fair to be upset that taxpayer money is being used for services that are not justified. This is poor practice for DOE (or any public service institution). I will say that I’m somewhat familiar with one of the programs receiving a grant and it was entirely put together by staff at the school. The staff made the choice to partner with other organizations based upon the needs of their students. That’s pretty great – something that the staff should be proud of. This, to me, is a case where the services are justified.


          • To me, as well as many others, the word “rigor” has become the buzzword for the corporate education reform movement. We know who uses it, but it has become a very ugly word no matter where it came from. Parents absolutely HATE it. We don’t like that word being applied to how our children should be in school. It seems like if they aren’t using rigor they are not performing to a certain expectation.


  3. What I absolutely hate is the corporate reformists use of the term “college and career ready” implying that before the common core standards came out no one received an adequate education to prepare them for life after 12th grade. We all know that is complete BS.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m to the point where we should just make a drinking game. You hear “rigor” from any DOE rep you must shout, “MORTIS!”
    and drink a shot. If you don’t shout, “MORTIS!” you must drink two.

    A “College and Career ready” comment is a shot with your friend; you both drink.

    “Market Global Economy” three shots each!

    After that, you really shouldn’t give a hoot’n nanny about anything else they say. Ever….

    Liked by 1 person

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