The Rhetoric of Rigor

Status: RECORDED on SEP 24, 2014

$156 Non-Member

[$143.00 Gold Member]

“Academic rigor” is heralded as a necessary component of a quality academic program.The concept has enjoyed great traction in education, mainly because a lack of rigor seems highly undesirable.Who would send their children to a school whose marketing message is, “We lack rigor and have low standards!”?

The 1983 A Nation at Risk report firmly established in the public eye that the US education system was enmeshed with mediocrity and called for increased academic rigor as the antidote to the ills of our education system.That call is still being answered by public and private-independent schools. Many private schools we visit still use the term prominently in their purpose and outcome statements (i.e., mission, vision, portraits of the graduate) as an sign to their families and faculty that their institution is of higher quality than others.

This Webinar challenges the use of the word in private-independent schools and posits it is ubiquity and ill-definition presents significant threats to schools as they communicate the value proposition.

We will explore:

  • The various “signs” of rigor parents look for and school marketing departments may tout.
  • How each may trap the school into engaging in actions or messages that are detrimental to student performance or (just plain false).
  • What to do instead to promote the value of your school

This Webinar is for all school leaders particularly Heads of School, Division Heads, Development Directors, Directors of Admission and Directors of Marketing and Communications.

Run time: 60 minutes total. Webinars typically run 45 minutes with 15 minutes of Q&A time.

staff photo bryan smyth

Bryan Smyth, Ph.D.

ISM Consultant | Director of Research


Bryan’s central purpose is to help students flourish. He believes that the enhancement of school environments and cultures is the best way to facilitate growth in children and adults.

Current Role

As a Consultant and ISM’s Director of Research, Bryan:

  • Oversees ISM’s research initiatives
  • Provides on-site scheduling consultations, having had extensive experience creating and implementing unique daily schedules and annual calendars for both boarding and day schools.
  • Leads scheduling-focused workshops and webinars

Bryan joined ISM as a Consultant in 2013, following 13 years in independent school administration.

Prior Experience

Bryan came to ISM from Mount Pisgah Christian School, GA, where he served as the Vice President, Head of the Upper School, Guidance and College Advisement Director, varsity head coach, and psychology teacher over the course of his tenure. Prior to that, he was the Associate Head of School at Brandon Hall, GA.

He is also a licensed clinical psychologist whose practice specialized in the psychological assessment and treatment of adolescents and their families. This varied background and set of experiences affords him the ability to view a school’s form and function from multiple viewpoints, leading to solutions that take into account all perspectives.


Bryan holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in clinical psychology from Marquette University, WI, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois. He also earned an MBA from Reinhardt University, GA, that focused on the application of business principles to the management of independent schools.

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