Illinois school standards proposal pushes ‘progressive values’ over diverse views, critics say

Illinois school standards proposal pushes ‘progressive values’ over diverse views, critics say

Illinois educators may face controversial rules encouraging teachers to review their biases and privilege, accept multiple views as correct and encourage student activism.

The Illinois State Board of Education is set to vote on new teaching standards in an effort to bring more attention to diversity issues and minority communities, which is drawing critics who say they amount to political indoctrination.

The “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards” will go before the ISBE on Dec. 16 for a vote, and then to state lawmakers if passed. The standards are a set of teaching requirements for kindergarten through high school educators, which outline how they should approach diversity in the classroom and make it a part of their curriculum.

Proponents say the standards are meant to bring more sensitivity to students of other backgrounds. Much of the proposed language is vague but makes general points as to what teachers should be thinking about. This includes requiring that teachers have an understanding of how some groups in society have been marginalized and the challenges they face because of that. In practice, they will adapt their teaching methods to be more inclusive of traditionally marginalized groups.

Teachers will be evaluated on these standards during their certification process and in-school job evaluations.

“The reality is that Illinois’ students are increasingly diverse, with more than 52% identifying as students of color, and English learners making up the fastest growing student population, while our teachers remain overwhelmingly white and female,” said ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. “The ability to reach students from different cultural backgrounds is an essential skill to succeed as a teacher in Illinois today.”

But the requirements have sparked backlash from those who say they prevent teachers and students from holding diverse points of view and this will force everyone to follow one perspective.

“This requirement will create potential conflicts with the deeply held religious convictions of teachers, parents and students,” said Ralph Rivera and Molly Malone of the Illinois Pro-Family Alliance in Peoria. “Not all teachers would be able to comply with the new standards without violating their consciences.”

Critics say the standards amount to indoctrination of students and tell teachers how to think. They point to language from the proposal that appears to eliminate diversity of thought.

The proposal says teachers should “embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints,” which critics point to as justification for biased teaching. Another passage has been criticized for allowing facts to be tossed aside in favor of a person’s own truth. It states educators should “understand and value the notion that multiple lived experiences exist, that there is not one ‘correct’ way of doing or understanding something.”

Other parts of the proposal that have drawn criticism include statements encouraging teachers to review their own actions and experiences for bias and privilege, counter typical cultural narratives and encourage students to engage in advocacy.

It is not clear how this would look in the classroom or what would be acceptable to meet these standards.

The new requirements would only apply to public schools in Illinois. Private and religious schools are not subject to the ISBE’s jurisdiction.

If the ISBE approves the proposal, it will then go to the 12-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in the General Assembly. This would open up a 45-day public comment period before JCAR votes to uphold or stop the new requirements. If passed by state lawmakers, the standards would take effect on Oct. 1, 2021.

To read the full “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards,” click here and scroll to page 14576.

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