Sunday, February 21, 2021

ISBE Introduces Standards for "Culturally Responsive" Educators in Teacher Training

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has introduced a set of requirements in teacher licensing and certification training that are aimed at producing "culturally responsive educators and educational leaders."

A "culturally responsive educator", specifically, is one who will "critically think about the institutions in which they find themselves, working to reform these institutions whenever and wherever necessary," as well as one who will “assess how their biases and perceptions affect their teaching practice and how they access tools to mitigate their own behavior (racism, sexism, homophobia, unearned privilege, Eurocentrism, etc.).”  These are now being included as part of the requirement for getting a teacher's certificate in Illinois.  

In addition to this new requirement, approved by the legislature in the past week, last year Illinois public schools mandated "sexual orientation and gender identity" objectives for students with the goal of promoting understanding and acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender and transsexual lifestyles.  These objectives had previously been in the sex education curriculum, where parents could opt out of having their children involved in the instruction but in 2019-20, they were moved into the "core" curriculum where they became part of regular, daily instruction and where parents are not aware of when the objectives will be introduced and discussed and cannot have their children "opt out" of participation.  

We also found out this week that only 37% of the third graders in Illinois public schools are able to demonstrate "proficiency" in meeting the benchmarks of the reading and language arts curriculum and only 41% are "proficient" in mathematics.  So if the majority of our students are not meeting the minimum expectations in these two core subjects which teach essential skills, then why is the ISBE adopting a whole new set of curriculum requirements related to a social agenda which will take time away from core skills subjects?  And if only 37% of third graders are meeting the minimum benchmarks in English-language arts, how are they going to read, understand and interpret the content of a social agenda course?   

And your tax dollars, and mine, are paying for this.  

The Blessing of a Christian School

First of all, we believe that education and training in "social issues" is a parent responsibility, not a school responsibility.  Our core curriculum includes daily instruction for each student at MCA in Bible and a weekly gathering for worship and teaching that has, as its goal, undergirding and supporting the Christian values that are taught in the student's home and at their own church.  Our teaching emphasizes the redemptive message of the gospel of Jesus, acknowledging him as Lord and Savior.  

Our students inevitably encounter the world, even while they are still in elementary school.  It is difficult to shelter them from all kinds of worldly philosophies, ideas and lifestyles because they are everywhere and the electronic age not only facilitates our students access to the world, but it also facilitates the world's access to our students.  The public school system has rapidly become one of those access points where the world's ideas and philosophies are taught as "options" and "choices" to the students.  It makes it very confusing and difficult for parents who are trying to help their children focus on Biblical truth and redemption through Jesus Christ.  That's why we exist.  Your children spend seven hours a day at school and that time should be a refuge and a shelter, yes, I said shelter, focusing students on life skills for success and shielding their minds so that their parents, and their Christian community in the church, can prepare them for the inevitable day when they will face the world and its choices. 

So our instructional time focuses on the development of basic skills in the early grades and the practical application of those skills as they advance to the middle grades.  We also offer physical education, art and music, which all contribute to intellectual development.  We do not waste time on a social agenda.  On average, our students spend 20% more of their school day in core subject instructional time than their public or charter school peers do.   

As a result, over 90% of our students on any given grade level at MCA are not only proficient in English-language arts-reading skills and mathematics skills, but they exceed the state minimum benchmarks.  The longer a student has been at MCA, the higher the likelihood that their achievement goes well beyond the state's standard for being "proficient."  On our last national standards based test, MCA's students collectively did better than 70% of the students who took the same test.  

Did you need a good reason to re-enroll your child at Midwestern Christian Academy for the fall?  There's one. 

Getting Past the Obstacles:  Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition according to the elemental spirits of the universe and not according to Christ.

It is not a requirement for teachers in private schools to be certified by the state.  The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) of which we are a member and who will provide us with accreditation has a teacher certification program for Christian schools which, in addition to the requirement of a Bachelor's degree with the required education-based coursework, also requires six credit hours of college-level Biblical studies and a written, personal philosophy of Christian education, including their faith testimony, in order to be certified.  We do not consider the state's requirements as adequate in certifying our instructional staff.  

With most Christian schools dependent on tuition income for their operations, it is sometimes difficult to appear competitive when it comes to extra curricular activities, technology development and all the bells and whistles that parents expect and hear about being offered elsewhere.  Not every kid who goes through Christian school will develop into the mature Christian making wise choices that their parents might hope for, but the odds are certainly in favor of it and so are the results.   

As a Christian school administrator, I can show you what my school will do for your student, in real numbers that reflect its academic strength and in the content and integration of Biblical truth into the curriculum which your child will learn every single day they are here.  We have, at least when there's not a viral pandemic, a scattering of extra-curricular activities that we can provide.  We are able to put an electronic device in the hands of each student, show them how to use it to achieve an academic goal and provide instruction that leads to discernment and good choices when they have their own tablet and are making their own choices.  

I can show you that even without a full blown athletic or fine arts department, a fully equipped science lab or all of those other bells and whistles that our students achieve at a far greater level than their peers in schools which do provide the "bells and whistles." My hope, and prayer, as a Christian school administrator is that you, as a parent of a student or students are able to see how much better off they will be here, in spite of what you might think they are missing, than they will be spending 7 hours a day where the world has their attention and their interest.  And I can join you in the hope and prayer that their being in this school will make the kind of difference in their lives that you are hoping and praying for.  

Deceptive philosophy is not always easy to see.  Sometimes, it doesn't get noticed until a student is making choices which demonstrate that they've been influenced by it.  But next to your home, their school classroom is the place where your children spend most of their time and the atmosphere is one in which they are influenced by their teachers and their peers at least as much as they are influenced by their parents, especially after age 6 or 7.  Would you rather they have a "culturally responsive" educator in charge of their classroom every day or a "Christ-responsive" teacher who sees their instruction as a partnership with you, not a conflict of interest?  

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