Illinois Priority Learning Standards for the 2020-21 School Year

The Illinois State Board of Education collaborated with a diverse and skilled team of educators from across the state to identify the Illinois Priority Learning Standards. The group focused on identifying learning standards that depict the knowledge, skills, and dispositions we want all students to have—the standards that are the most foundational competencies, the most critical for continued success at subsequent grade levels, and best suited for interdisciplinary or project-based learning.

Teachers’ Concerns Mounting as the School Year Kicks Off

Schools and districts find themselves in an increasingly complex situation as the school year starts. The debate over whether to reopen schools — and how — has continued throughout the summer garnering national attention. COVID-19 outbreaks in schools that opened their doors have only amplified the conversation. While school personnel, administrators, parents and students are voicing health and safety concerns, some state and federal leaders push for in-person instruction — citing child development concerns and economic benefits. Combined with dire economic forecasts and likely budget shortfalls, schools, districts and state leaders are balancing conflicting priorities. Because of the push to reopen schools for in-person instruction, teachers’ unions have raised concerns.

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As Education Leaders Plan for Fall, They Must Look Beyond COVID Toward Making Dramatic Changes to Protect Students of Color

As we read return-to-school plans from states and school districts across the country, we see guidance on social distancing, on hallway traffic patterns, on maximizing indoor and outdoor spaces and taking temperature checks. Of course, all of this is important for safeguarding students and staff against COVID-19. But as leaders prepare for a new school year that already requires dramatic changes, what long-needed steps are they taking to protect the Black students, Indigenous students and students of color whom our systems have disproportionately failed for generations?

Invest in a Diverse Teacher Workforce

As educators of color with decades of experience teaching and leading, we know that education is central to the elimination of racism in society and a more just future for all of us. Education can disrupt entrenched biases. It can amplify our communities’ stories of strength, and achievement and be a force for liberation and self-determination. While there are many actions we can and should take at every level of our educational systems, the evidence is clear what our first priority must be: investing in a more racially diverse educator workforce.

Overcoming Racial Bias in Teacher Evaluation: Walk It, Like You Talk It

Today, our nation is focused on inequities in our education and justice systems. While many school districts and universities have released diversity and social justice statements, the harsh reality remains that some areas within our education system are obstructions to racial equity in our schools—including teacher evaluation tools. This negligence has a profound, lifelong impact on culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) learners. It is time for education leaders to challenge white supremacy and racial bias in teacher evaluation. In our school systems, we assess what we value and we value what we assess. The purpose of teacher evaluation is to assess the effectiveness of educators in order to enhance their practice.

Barriers to Bridges: Teacher Perspectives on Accelerating Learning, Leadership, and Innovation in the Pandemic

The first recommendation has relevance for the P20 TLE committee and potentially for the IEA and IFT: “Embrace teacher leadership and include teachers in the decision-making process. Empower teachers to meet the challenges of teaching and learning, identify solutions, and lead the change management process with their peers.” This recommendation reflects well on some of the collaboration that ISBE has done with teachers starting in March, but also could be used within TLE to continue to highlight the roles for teacher leadership during this time. This report brings to the forefront teachers’ guidance for schools, districts, and states as these work on solutions to continue educating students in the next academic year. In Barriers to Bridges, Teach Plus examined feedback from 152 virtual focus groups with 532 teachers across 25 states. In these focus groups, teachers discussed their perspectives on teaching and learning, student equity and needs, student and teacher mental health and social and emotional learning resources in schools, and how schools can emerge stronger from this crisis. The research was teacher-driven: 69 Teach Plus teacher leaders–including 10 from Illinois–facilitated the focus groups with their peers.

Re-Entering Early Childhood Programs in a Post-COVID Era”.  The question we explored was, “what do leaders need to know to welcome in their youngest learners, post-COVID-19?

On July 1st, members of the Urban Education Leadership Program collaborated with the Early Childhood Education program to host an online discussion, “Re-Entering Early Childhood Programs in a Post-COVID Era”.  The question we explored was, “what do leaders need to know to welcome in their youngest learners, post-COVID-19?”  Dr. Cynthia Barron (Program Coordinator), Sara Slaughter (Executive Director – Stone Foundation), Cathy Main (Program Coordinator – ECE), and Bryan Stokes II, CPS Chief of Early Childhood Education provided opening remarks. Professor Emeritus Dr. Steve Tozer served as facilitator.

During the second phase of the meeting, Tozer raised a series of questions to get reactions from panel members, academic faculty, CPS parents, and students.  UIC-affiliated practitioners who participated as panelists or facilitated small group discussions included: Sharon Sprague (Cohort 14), Turan Crockett (Cohort 15), Romian Crockett (Cohort 13), Terrie Rayburn (Cohort 16), Dr. Folasade Adekunle (Cohort 13), Tai Basurto (Cohort 12), and Stephanie Cohen (Cohort 16).

Assistant Professor Dr. Sarai Coba-Rodriguez participated and made contributions to the discussion; Associate Professor Dr. Marisha Humphries synthesized the small group discussions and made the concluding remarks.

If you are interested in watching the discussion, we have uploaded the recordings  to Youtube in three parts. The links are below:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

This convening was generously funded by the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation.