Students Crave Relevance Over "Rigor" in Classes
Updated: Feb 3, 2020
High schoolers across the United States seem to share an attitude of apathy and reluctance toward classes. At SHS, this is especially evident when discussing rigor and relevance. Currently, required classes are not applicable to students' future plans, and have almost nothing to do with adult life, but we are overwhelmed with work, nonetheless.
Campus administration’s initiative of “rigor and relevance” is a great goal, which we are happy to strive toward, but we are not there yet. The problem is, rigor and relevance are treated as synonyms for each other, when in fact, they are not the same at all - at least from a student’s perspective. Rigor is the difficulty of the course, while relevance is its ability to be applied to life outside school. In trying to achieve this goal, many teachers have increased student workload while the quality of the education itself has suffered. It is important to note, this is not an administrative issue only at SHS, but a wider systematic problem with education as an overall. This has led to student burnout and frustration regardless of where on the academic spectrum they fall.
Senior AJ Burns is at the top of this year’s graduating class with a 4.0 GPA. At the end of this school year he will have logged 60 dual credit hours, and will have taken (and passed) 8 AP tests, but even he has struggled with this problem. Burns feels that he can’t get the level of rigor he wants due to limitations in the system.
“I wanted to do AP physics but couldn’t because the school didn’t have that as an option for me,” he said. “I was told it ‘just wouldn’t work.’ Right now, the system is designed for those in the middle of the barrel, but I am not getting the rigor I want because the school isn’t offering it.”
At the same time, other students are struggling to pass, and feel overwhelmed by the workload they are given, and say that while much of the work is redundant, it is given in such high quantities that they simply can't keep up. A recent study conducted in California revealed that 82% of students said they were “often or always stressed out” by schoolwork. When this is the case, despite an alarming number of students failing one or more of their classes, it’s difficult to argue that classes are not tough enough.
“I’m failing my classes because I don’t turn things in on time due to the fact that I take too long trying to perfect them,” sophomore Lauren Schultz said. “I think classes are too hard because I’m not grasping it on time before the teachers move on. By the time I get one module done, it’s time for the next one. I’m a perfectionist, and would really like it if rigor were met in a way that is better for me. In my mind, this would be providing the time necessary to master a skill, rather than piling on more work when I’m still trying to figure it out.”
To combat this, some teachers run their classrooms in a way that allows students to learn at their own pace. They set up lessons and Quizlets on Google Classroom, which lets students complete assignments whenever they’re ready. This method sounds good, but it often leads to instructors neglecting the actual lectures that some students are more preferential to. This, again, results in students not understanding complicated material and being forced to attend tutorials, which don’t always work either.
While some may read this and assume it’s just a bunch of kids complaining about school, we would encourage our readers to try and grasp our perspective. This isn’t just our education, this is our future, and while a lot of kids don’t care there are so many more who do. It is the opinion of the Cricket Chirps staff that teachers and administrators should focus on the content being taught, as opposed to the rigor with which it is taught. We believe, as do many of the students interviewed for this piece, that doing so will improve student engagement, and ultimately improve their overall performance. Because the proper rigor cannot be achieved until the curriculum is relevant in the student’s mind.