The concept of rigor has been emphasized for many years but it seems to be one of the "new hot" words in education. We are continuing to read "our goal is to be increasing rigor." In the Virginia SOL manuals there is a push to implement a more rigorous content of standards to meet national and international benchmarks for career and career readiness.
In a recent article I read entitled Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say an experienced teacher realized her style of teaching (Math) was working several examples on the overhead projector (smart-board) then answering every student's questions in detail and explaining the concept so clearly she was sure every student understood. However, she would find out the following day this was not true. She realized she needed to increase the "rigor" in her classroom which is not a measure of quality of material covered or number of times it is covered but an element of the learning environment that promotes an in-depth, active and engaged learning process for students. This rigorous classroom would create excitement and enthusiasm for learning. When you walk into her classroom now you see a more student-centered, problem-based approach, and higher order thinking skills to her math lessons.
This article ran parallel to our book club book Close Reading of Informal Texts. The students do the explaining and the teacher the listening. The students now explain things so well they can be understood.
Rigor really is keeping the students, be it in Math or Reading, always working slightly above their ability and giving them the help they need to grow.