Teaching for Rigor:
A Call for a Critical Instructional Shift

By Robert J. Marzano and Michael D. Toth

Are teachers prepared to instruct students in the cognitively complex skills necessary to meet new college and career readiness standards?

Early reports reveal that student scores are dropping on assessments aligned to rigorous state standards. Experts worry that the achievement gap may be widening. And data analyzed by Learning Sciences Marzano Center indicates that teachers are spending less than 6% of classroom lessons teaching the cognitively complex skills students need to succeed.

Download this new paper by Robert J. Marzano and Michael D. Toth, Teaching for Rigor: A Call for a Critical Instructional Shift, for a first look at:

  • Numbers from the largest available database of classroom observations, and the striking conclusions experts draw from more than 2 million data points
  • A new, focused instructional model of 13 essential classroom strategies to support the demanding instructional shifts needed for teachers to reach true rigor
  • The critical need for teachers to move from teacher-centered to student-centered pedagogy
  • A call for a new standard of professional development to support these shifts

Download the free white paper.

Marzano Center Essentials
for Achieving Rigor

Students are already beginning to take end-of-year assessments aligned to the new college and career readiness standards, but they aren't doing as well as states might hope. As the data rolls in, states like New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Kentucky, and others are reporting sharp drops in achievement – some as much as 50% on English and Math scores. ELL and special needs students, and other urban subpopulations, have been particularly hard hit.

A call for a critical instructional shift.
Data analyzed by Learning Sciences International researchers – more than 2 million data points related to classroom strategies collected from teacher observations – indicates that teachers are spending so little classroom time on activities associated with cognitively complex lessons that it will be very difficult for students to succeed on the new assessments.

We must support our teachers.
Standards experts agree that teachers need guidance, support, coaching, and essential tools to make the critical instructional shifts for new standards. Teachers need a safe, evaluation-free zone in which to practice and hone the skills that will truly serve their students in a rigorous environment.

This is where Essentials for Achieving Rigor can help.

Are your teachers ready for rigor in every classroom?

Why Essential Instructional Strategies?

We have identified the essential classroom instructional strategies to assist teachers in helping students achieve the required level of rigor. These pedagogical strategies build a clear focus on the necessary skills – analysis, reasoning, hypothesis generation and testing, decision-making in real-world applications, that are the basis for states’ college and career readiness standards. These strategies also clearly move toward a student-centered pedagogy where students have increasing autonomy and responsibility for their own learning. In essence, the strategies offer a detailed map of the instructional shifts necessary for success with rigorous standards.

The Essentials for Achieving Rigor Teaching Map

Marzano Center Essentials for Achieving Rigor sets a firm foundation for the essential strategies with components designed to support and facilitate Standards-based planning, clear Criteria for Success, essential classroom Conditions for learning, Data-reflection and Action, and peer Collaboration. The model helps teachers intentionally plan for and teach rigorous lessons, reflect on their progress, collaborate with peers engaged in the same work, and monitor their students for the desired results – all in an environment designed to nurture, guide, and engage.

Tailored Resources and Tools

The Essentials for Achieving Rigor model integrates a full program of resources to support the 13 essential strategies. The program is flexible by design, and can be tailored to meet the unique needs of large and small school systems, in both urban and rural districts, and to align with state directives. This unique model incorporates:

  • High-quality teacher training developed by Marzano Center practitioner experts on topics such as
    • Facilitating complex learning;
    • Helping students engage in cognitively complex tasks;
    • Instructional decision-making;
    • Standards-based planning on measurement topics;
    • Reflection on lesson outcomes, with action plans for intervention and enrichment.
  • Integrated monitoring tools, to help teachers transition their instructional practice in profound ways.
  • Parallel training for teacher-coaches to ensure fidelity within professional learning communities and in one-on-one mentoring.
  • Student feedback components to help teachers monitor the success of their strategies, provide differentiated instruction, and recalibrate their practice as necessary.

We offer a full range of training options for the Essentials – from a single day overview to carefully scaffolded progressions for learning, practicing, and deepening. Our team has developed trainings to suit your school or district’s specific budget and needs.

Deep Implementation
Although training can be tailored to suit your school’s specific needs, this sample two-year implementation timeline allows teachers ample time to explore the model. Teachers practice, learn, and discover during Year 1, purposefully monitoring student results to see the necessary shifts in learning. In Year 2, teachers build on their previous learning with more purposeful reflection and targeted action based on accumulated student data. Teachers in Year 2 also collaborate with greater focus, as they collectively work to design units to reach rigor. Our consultants work with you every step of the way to ensure success.

What Educators are Saying

"This training was awesome. I learned so much and it made me reflect upon the teaching process."

"Today was extremely informative and helpful. I learned a tremendous amount that I will be able to take back to my classroom."

"I am more familiar with the instructional strategies and have a much better understanding of how to implement these strategies in a classroom setting. I understand the importance of giving all students the opportunity to achieve the desired result."

"I am now ensuring that I am making changes to my lesson plans based on the monitored results I am seeing."

"Before this [training] I tended to only call on a few students when monitoring as a way to save time. Now I am in the process of creating response boards as a way to monitor all of my students quickly."

"The training provided good examples and deepened my understanding of creating complex tasks."

"[After this training] I will make adaptions when the desired result is not evident. I will go back and reteach or allow the students to teach to each other as a way to deepen their own knowledge. I will continue to be more aware of where EVERY student is and what needs to be done to teach them ALL effectively."

Martin County High School Principal Al Fabrizio discusses the instructional shifts he observed when teachers were trained in the Essentials for Achieving Rigor model:

"Seeing [teacher] Laura scaffold her lessons and her rigorous approach to questioning was absolutely exciting. As we support more of our teachers moving in that direction, it’s going to directly impact student achievement. Ultimately we need to develop kids who, when they leave us, are critical thinkers and problem solvers. And what better way to work on that skill, in an age when the information is at their fingertips, than to have kids move through the process where they are using their inferencing skills, drawing conclusions, hypothesizing, and then proving what they do hypothesize? That’s the direction we must move in every content area and grade level, to continue to build our teacher capacity, and ultimately to provide our kids with the skills to be successful for a lifetime."

Like to learn more? Contact us now to schedule a free demonstration.

Click here to download the free white paper on Teaching for Rigor.

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