Republicans call new Illinois teaching standards a political litmus test

Republicans call new Illinois teaching standards a political litmus test

SPRINGFIELD, IL —- Critics against teaching standards the Illinois State Board of Education is advancing call the rules politics, not pedagog, and fear it could lead to fewer teachers and fewer families educating their children in Illinois.

The ISBE says “Culturally Responsive” teaching standards the board filed makes for a more welcoming environment for all children.

“The Illinois State Board of Education stands by the proposed Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards, which were developed by educators for educators,” ISBE spokesperson Jackie Matthews said in November when criticism of the rule first surfaced. “Every student deserves to feel welcome, included, and accepted at school and to see their cultural identity affirmed and represented in the curriculum. This feeling of belonging is critical to improving academic and behavioral outcomes for Illinois’ students.”

Freshman state Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, said teachers should already be making their students feel welcomed and accepted. But the proposed rule, he said, compels teachers to promote “progressive” ideas while neglecting the basics.

“About two-thirds of Illinois students failed to meet standards for math and English and this will further exacerbate that particular situation and put focus on activism and politicize our school districts all the way through academia, k-12 and then through the collegiate level as well so that will force folks to look to other states in order to provide education for their children,” Niemerg said.

Niemerg and other Republicans also said the proposed standards could make the teacher shortage in Illinois worse as some teachers won’t want to go along with the proposed standards.

The standards range from having teachers assess “how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”

It further states to address “systems of oppression” a “culturally responsive teacher and leader” will “Be aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities.”

Other instructions for educators include:

“Create a risk-taking space that promotes student activism and advocacy”

“Embrace and encourage inclusive viewpoints viewpoints and perspectives”  “Implement and integrate the wide spectrum and fluidity of identities in the curriculum”

Previous proposed rules instructed teachers to embrace “progressive viewpoints and perspectives,” but a spokesperson for ISBE Monday said the proposed rules no longer include “progressive” because the word “progressive” was perceived as political “and that was not the intent.”

The rules are set to go in front of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Feb. 16. Eight of the 12-member bipartisan panel would have to support a motion to suspend the rules in order to block them. If not, the rules would take effect in October.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, is on the panel. He worried the proposed standards may act as a political litmus test for teachers.

“How many protests a kid would be a part of in the year could theoretically be something that a teacher could be held accountable for,” Demmer said. “These are things that go beyond acceptance and recognition of students or creating a welcoming environment.”

State Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock, is also on JCAR. He said the rules go too far.

“I do believe that that moves us further down the road of political, rather than pedagogical enhancement,” Reick said.

The Democratic co-chair of the committee didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment.

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