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New 'Culturally Responsive Teaching' standards approved for Illinois

A legislative committee approved a set of standards that are changing the way educators are trained to teach students in Illinois.
Credit: Zuma

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A legislative committee approved a set of rules that would alter the way teachers in Illinois instruct their students, and it all starts with training the trainers.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met on Wednesday, February 17, and decided to allow the Illinois State Board of Education to move forward with a new set of rules, "Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards." 

"Culturally Responsive Teachers and Leaders are reflective and gain a deeper understanding of themselves and how they impact others," reads the docket, "leading to more cohesive and productive student development as it relates to academic and social-emotional development for all students."

This set of rules is expected to take effect in 2025.

To prepare for that date, starting on October 1, 2021, all courses taught in teaching programs have to be aligned with the new standards.

The standards include the following sections

  1. Self-Awareness and Relationships to Others
  2. Systems of Oppression
  3. Students as Individuals
  4. Students as Co-Creators
  5. Leveraging Student Advocacy 
  6. Family and Community Collaboration
  7. Content Selections in All Curricula 
  8. Student Representation in the Learning Environment

These standards replace the following sections:

  1. Content Knowledge
  2. Human Development and Learning
  3. Diversity
  4. Planning for Instruction
  5. Learning Environment
  6. Instructional Delivery
  7. Communication
  8. Assessment
  9. Collaborative Relationships
  10. Reflection and Professional Growth
  11. Professional Conduct and Leadership 

➤ Read the full document here

According to a report by the State Journal-Register, executive director of legislative affairs for the state board, Amanda Elliot, said the changes are centered around training and doesn't change the way instructors are evaluated. 

“Again, these are for educator preparation programs, not aimed at school districts,” she said. “And it's about not the personally-held beliefs or values of teachers that may be in the classroom, but making sure that they are welcoming to all students, regardless of their background, and also able to adapt material as necessary to meet those needs.”

On the opposing side, concerns that the rules have a liberal slant have come to the forefront. 

According to the State Journal-Register's report, Elliot said the state board did not ask for the political affiliations of the task force members who wrote the document. 

"I think there's always room for additional perspectives," said Elliot, in the report. "And we're looking to expand the group..."

JCAR Committee member, Senator John Curran said the new rules were "flawed from the beginning." 

"The steering committee that oversaw the writing of this rule includes five experts in the field of education and three state legislators. Three Democrats and zero Republicans offered input into the writing of the rule," said Senator Curran. "If inclusion is important, it should be important across the board. The exclusion of Republicans from the ‘Diverse and Learner Ready Teachers’ steering committee calls into question the true intent behind the rule.

“I fully support the belief that educators reach and teach their students best when they understand and embrace the diverse cultural, social and economic characteristics within their classrooms. While the revised rule before us eliminated some extremely explosive political rhetoric, the rule is still written in vague terms that suggest a pre-determined political viewpoint. I could not support the rule as written, but hope to continue working with ISBE on improved language that ensures inclusive techniques that do not steer academics toward a prescribed worldview or political agenda.”

On their Facebook page, the Illinois State Board of Education said the new rules "will help ensure that future Illinois educators are equipped with the skills they need to connect with all students as they are and help them achieve all they can be."