In the past couple of weeks, we have learned about the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the new set of standards they are wishing to implement in Illinois Schools. These new standards would set forth how our public school systems will teach our children in the future. The new language emphasizes activism rather than education, giving way to “progressive” overtones. Unfortunately, the ISBE approved these new teaching standards at its December board meeting and are moving forward with them.
If adopted, these standards will burden our teaching programs with additional mandates at a time when Illinois is continuing to suffer from a shortage of teachers. At the beginning of the 2020 school year, there were 2,000 teacher vacancies reported in Illinois schools. With these new requirements, we risk increasing the teacher shortage and losing new, quality teachers. Instead of focusing its energy on improving teachers and cultivating new ones, ISBE seems bent on implementing social activism into our schools. Our places of learning may soon become progressive training grounds instead.
For example, one provision calls on educators to “(b)e aware of the effects of power and privilege and the need for social advocacy and social action to better empower diverse students and communities.” Our schools, administration, and teachers need to focus on education, not activism. Instead of teaching students how to think, these standards look to teach them what to think.
Also, the proposed rules may make it harder for teachers to do their jobs by forcing teachers to develop individualized plans for each student. The rules dictate that “[t]he culturally responsive teacher and leader will: … [l]earn from and about their students’ culture, language, and learning styles to make instruction more meaningful and relevant to their students’ lives.” This reads as if the teacher will have to develop an individualized lesson plan for every student that is “different” from every other student in the class. Currently, about two-thirds of Illinois students failed to meet standards for math and English. The study of the basics will continue to be neglected as teachers are forced to spend more time making students feel comfortable.
The proposed standards will be heard before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) at its February meeting, which is scheduled for February 16, 2021. JCAR consists of six Democrats and six Republicans. To defeat the adoption of these proposed teaching standards, eight board members must vote against them. The new standards may be located and reviewed at https://www.isbe.net/Documents/23-24RG-P.pdf. I encourage you to read them for yourself. I am adamantly opposed to the adoption of these standards. If you also oppose, and want your voice heard, I encourage you to contact members of JCAR and let them know your position. The members of JCAR, and their contact information, may be obtained at https://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/.
Chris Miller (R-Robinson) represents the 110th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.