As the old adage goes, task predicts performance. But far too much daily classroom instruction predicts teaching and learning that is not “up to standard.” Indeed, according to a 2015 Education Trust analysis of classroom tasks, less than 40% of assignments reviewed addressed fully the content and intellectual rigor of the assigned Common Core standards; less than 5% of those tasks could truly be called exemplary in terms of their intellectual rigor and quality.



Research on teaching and learning has repeatedly shown that teaching that is ambitious in expectation and design for student learning can have a significant impact on student achievement. Ambitious teaching and learning is defined by:

  Fig 1:  Scholastic, 2014  Fig 2: NCLE, 2015; RAND Group, 2015      

Fig 1: Scholastic, 2014
Fig 2: NCLE, 2015; RAND Group, 2015



  • Engagement of all students
  • Focus on key intellectual concepts, problems, and practices of a given subject area
  • Emphasis on reasoning, including argumentation, and reflection
  • Adaptive and responsive to students’ learning during learning

Such teaching is not only realizable but transformative for teacher and student alike—but too few teachers are enacting it regularly. Changing that will require transforming how we learn to teach, not just the teaching itself.




Simply put, rigor is the extent to which what students are tasked to do and the work they subsequently produce align to the level of complexity and demands of the standard(s) and/or benchmarks(s) utilized. Rigor means to be be “up to standard”-- that is, the teaching and learning taking place needs to address and assesses fully and meaningfully the established learning benchmarks for the given grade, course, school level etc. 

When assess the level of rigor, we consider the relevance and alignment of instruction to next generation standards and best practices, the cognitive challenge of the task(s), and the quality and complexity of materials (such as texts) supporting the work.



Improving and sustaining the quality of instruction starts with a long-term and comprehensive vision for how teachers will learn about and improve; teachers’ classroom practice must be at the center of this vision.

See our service models for more on how we can meet your needs.



Learning Centered professional learning supports the improvement of academic rigor by focusing on the work of teaching—the critical principles and practices of teachers leverage in daily instruction in order to sustain ambitious teaching and learning.  To help you do so, we offer three levels of support: Intensives, Systems, and Transformations.

Intensives: target your school or district's principal problem(s) of practice with content- and/or teaching-specific content and activities. These 1-3 day fully customized trainings prioritize content learning, meaningful practice, and immediate application in teachers' classrooms and administrators' instructional leadership. Learn More

Systems: focus on teacher-generated problems of practice and ongoing collaboration through teaching, this semester- or year-long model that provides multiple supports to teachers and instructional leaders, including intensive, just-in-time professional development; planning and facilitate support for PLCs and instructional leadership teams; instructional coaching; and teacher leadership development. Learn More

Transformation: Sustained instructional improvement is the focus of our full-scale Transformation model. Over the course of one or more years of partnership, Learning Centered provides comprehensive instructional improvement support, including professional development, classroom and leadership coaching, and high-quality curricula. Learn More.