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Georgia K-12 Board May Soon Eliminate “Bright” Words Like “Diverse” From Training Rules – HONEYCOMB

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Georgia K-12 Board May Soon Eliminate “Bright” Words Like “Diverse” From Training Rules – HONEYCOMB

What is the difference between diversity and difference? Would you rather your child’s teacher offered equality, inclusivity and social justice or fair access, opportunity and advancement for all students?

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission will ask these questions and more as it considers changes to state educator preparation rules that eliminate words associated with so-called “alertness,” such as diversity, equity, and inclusivity.

The changes would apply to positions such as elementary school educators and reading and literacy specialists teaching through grade 12, as well as educational leaders such as principals and superintendents.

Many of the proposed changes replace words like “different” with words similar to “different”.

A change for elementary school educators would ask them to learn about the “unique contexts of children and families” instead of learning about their “different cultural contexts” under current rules.

Proposed changes to Georgia elementary school teacher rules.

The rules for education leaders now call on them to “confront and change institutional biases” but the new rules would not do this, which would presumably give leaders more time to learn how to create a “welcome” rather than a “ inclusive” school community.

In other areas, including reading education and literacy programs, passages on diversity and equity are eliminated entirely.

The proposed changes are open for public comment until May 23 and are due to be examined at the Commission’s hearing on June 8. Its proposed effective date is July 1st.

Some Proposed Changes for Georgia’s Alternative Preparation for Educational Leadership.

distracting words

The attempt to make the changes began when the University System of Georgia asked the commission to clarify expectations for educator preparation programs, said Penney L. McRoy, director of the Division of Educator Preparation.

“We’ve been asked to remove or simplify words that have taken on multiple and unintended meanings in recent years,” she said. “We were told that these terms created difficulties in interpreting program standards. Because we don’t want these terms to distract Educator Preparation Providers (EPPs) from their work to prepare effective educators, we have replaced them with common sense terms.”

A Proposed Change for the Georgia Literacy Specialist.

Debates about so-called “wakeness” in the classroom have been commonplace in recent years, and school board meetings across the state have at times led to allegations of teachers trying to brainwash white students into feeling guilty about racism.

In 2021, the Cherokee County School District hired Cecelia Lewis, a Maryland principal, for a new position of Administrator focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. But Lewis, who is black, would back down from the offer after a group of white parents rose up against the decision, and many argued without evidence that Lewis planned to bring critical race theory to the county.

As tempers flared at school board meetings across the state, the Georgia Board of Education voted to pass a resolution against a list of opinions that members found unpopular, including claims that the United States is a racist country or that it is everyone should feel sorry for things people of their race have done in the past.

The following year, Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation aimed at keeping ideas like critical race theory out of schools, and other states made their own attempts to ban unwanted language from classrooms.

Proposed changes to Georgia’s reading education rules.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey recently fired the secretary of her state’s department of early childhood education because Ivey said she used a “woke” book to teach teachers. In Florida, a bill sponsored by Gov. Ron DeSantis to restrict classroom discussions of LGBTQ+ issues has sparked a public feud and a lawsuit by Walt Disney Corp. guided.

The changes proposed this year could clear up misunderstandings, but they wouldn’t change the way teachers interact with their students, McRoy said.

“These proposed rule changes are not intended to redefine or eliminate the emphasis on pre-supervision providers place on meeting student needs, or to prescribe how EPPs meet program standards,” she said. “We continue to expect EPPs to prepare teachers who are well prepared to respond to the learning needs of any student they might encounter and who are well prepared to meet students where they are in a positive and welcoming learning environment .”

A question of semantics?

Georgia Federation of Teachers President Verdaillia Turner said the words one might use are less important than the care children receive.

“It is unfortunate that we have to deal with these conditions,” she said. “However, it is fortunate that we recognize the fact that there are differences between us, whether it be our sexual orientation, our ethnicity, our nationality, our physique. We are all unique.”

Others, like 2020-2021 Georgia Teacher of the Year Tracey Nance, worry the proposed changes represent a step backwards.

“I have worked with representatives from Georgia PSC and Educator Prep programs from across the state for more than two years and they have wonderful hearts and a unequivocal commitment to making sure all children have the support they need, in order to be successful. So these proposed changes are really shocking to me. It does not tally with my own experience of the Georgia PSC and the training provided there.”

Nance said that research for decades has shown that accommodating students’ diverse backgrounds leads to better learning, and Georgia educators have been open to adopting these teaching methods, for example by ensuring that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to read books to read that reflect their own culture as well as books that inform them about other groups.

“The Georgia Department of Education actually commissioned me to present a presentation to school leaders and principals, the Georgia leaders of education, on how to promote culturally appropriate instruction and social-emotional learning in the classroom,” she said. “It was essentially a style of learning that the state and educational programs were pursuing at the time, and I think the Georgia PSC believes in the importance of diversity and inclusion. I think that’s a game of semantics.”

“It worries me that Georgia educators and the Georgia PSC, a group of professionals that I greatly admire, are infusing politics into our program,” she added. “Educators and parents alike are prepared for politicians to leave the classroom.” We want to refocus on children and their needs. And what they need are educators who are willing to empower and welcome the children in front of them.”

This story was provided by WABE content partner Georgia Recorder.