ISBE’s “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards” Prioritize Activism over Academics

I have recently received numerous calls and messages regarding Culturally Responsive Teaching and Leading Standards. These are a new set of standards that would set forth how our public school systems will teach our children in the future. The new language is full of “progressive” overtones that focus on activism rather than education. Unfortunately, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved these new teaching standards at its December board meeting.

If adopted, these standards will burden our teaching programs with additional mandates at a time when Illinois is suffering from a teacher shortage. At the start of the 2020 school year, Illinois schools reported approximately 2,000 teaching vacancies. These new requirements would run the risk of increasing the teacher shortage and losing new, quality teachers. What we are seeing here is not so much an attempt to expand the number of teachers as it is a method by which those who set education policy are cementing social activism into our schools.

I spoke with local superintendents about these standards, and they were of the opinion that current teachers are not to be required to take professional development on the topic; however, they were very concerned that the adoption of these standards would lead to a slippery slope and would turn our educators into political activists. For example, the standards set forth, in part, that “[t]he culturally responsive teacher and leader will: … Create a risk-taking space that promotes student activism and advocacy.” Our schools, administration, and teachers should focus on educating our students. If the standards become part of the curriculum, the education of our students will suffer as teachers will have less time to teach core curriculum.

In addition, the proposed rules will make it harder for teachers to do their jobs. 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.” If a teacher’s student body is culturally diverse, the rules read 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. This will lead to less time focusing on actual education and therefore making teachers’ lives more difficult.

These 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 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

David Friess (R-Red Bud) represents the 116th District in the Illinois House of Representatives.