Chesney Guest Column: Culturally Responsive Teaching Mandate Misses Mark

On February 16, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) will consider a rule change drafted by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to implement “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards” in Illinois.

These proposed standards go well beyond asking teachers to teach, but rather sets a standard for teachers to engage students in leveraging students’ political and social activism as a priority over traditional standards of educational priorities. The fear of indoctrination is real among parents opposed to this proposed new standard. But it is not just parents I am hearing from in opposition to this change. Area school superintendents and teachers have also contacted my office to offer their concerns and objections to these changes.

The goal of teachers should be the strong development of students understanding of major concepts, conceptual frameworks and misconceptions which can influence their learning. They should relate these concepts to life and career applications as often as possible and understand how a student’s disabilities influence their patterns of learning.

Rather, these “culturally responsive teaching and learning standards” aim to indoctrinate students into being critical of “the institutions in which they find themselves” and works to teach them they should push to change these institutions “whenever and wherever necessary”. These new standards propose to ask teachers to identify the “effects of power and privilege” within their student population and work to ensure inequities are addressed first over individual actions observed taken by students.

The standards ask teachers to “consistently solicit students input on curriculum” and “co-create” with students, while “persistently” taking into account all “student feedback”. Teachers should curate the curriculum of their class toward globalism and equity as well as “embrace and encourage progressive viewpoints” with no mention of respecting “conservative viewpoints”, even on balance.

ISBE must have many fish in their frying pan these days, what with a global pandemic, remote and in-person learning issues and school sports diminished in a way which is affecting the mental and emotional health of students. Somehow, though, these “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards” are ISBE’s priority? How about getting the kids back in the classrooms safely?

If you believe that this type of social activism does not belong in our schools, I am asking you to contact members of the bipartisan, bicameral JCAR Committee which will be voting on this proposed rule change on February 16 and use your social media network to ask others to do the same. I have posted a graphic with the contact information for JCAR members below: