PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A new set of Illinois standards for future educators have cleared their final legislative obstacle and leaders say misconceptions may have led to controversy surrounding the new guidelines.
In efforts to adapt to ever-changing classrooms, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading standards.
“We really think that these standards will help encourage multiple perspectives and a diversity of voice and opinion in the classroom,” said Jennifer Kirmes, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for ISBE.
These standards come after the ISBE’S Diverse and Learner Ready Teacher network identified areas where the state could improve.
“The group got together and took a look at Illinois, in particular at some of the data around achievement gaps and around our teacher shortages,” Kirmes said.
The standards did not come without criticism with some lawmakers saying they push progressive politics into schools.
A motion to block Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading standards were halted after Illinois’ Joint Committee on Administrative Rules upheld the rules in a 6-5 vote.
The State Board of Education says it is not their intent for the standards to be political.
“We did not intend at all for these to be political, we think they’re the exact opposite. We think they help schools become more and not less inclusive,” Kirmes said.
A majority of the work surrounding the standards will happen is in teacher prep programs. The Dean of Illinois State’s School of Education, James Wolfinger, saying it’s crucial to prepare future teachers to educate all backgrounds.
“A heavy focus is really on, do you know the kids in your classroom? Do you know the communities they come from? Do you understand the local context?” he said.
Wolfinger says some of these efforts are already a focus for colleges like ISU. Their next goal is working with ISBE to determine how to fit the new standards into their curriculum.
“We may be changing learning objectives, we might be changing readings, we might be changing assignments, or do we have to develop new courses to address these standards,” Wolfinger said.
Kirmes says in the implementation phase ISBE will work with a diverse group to make sure all perspectives are considered.
Once filed with the Secretary of State, the rules will take effect October 2025.