by Dave Williams | May 11, 2023 | Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – The Georgia Professional Standards Commission voted unanimously Thursday to remove the word “diversity” from the state’s educator preparation rules despite an outpouring of opposition.

The request to delete diversity and several other words came from the University System of Georgia, which was seeking to clarify expectations for the system’s educator preparation programs, commission Chairman Brian Sirmans said. The commission will consider deleting the words “equity” and “inclusion” at a meeting next month.

“We were told these words were leading to difficulty in determining program standards,” Sirmans said.

But a coalition of Georgia students, educators, and parents held a news conference after Thursday’s vote to criticize the decision as a politically motivated step that will hurt teacher preparation and worsen the state’s teacher shortage.t

“This feels very similar to the divisive concept law,” said Tracey Nance, a former elementary school teacher who was Georgia Teacher of the Year for two years running, referring to legislation the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed last year restricting how racism can be taught in Georgia schools. “It’s going to have a very chilling effect.”

“Diversity is a core element of what it means to be a good teacher,” added Yacine Kout, an assistant professor of education at the University of North Georgia. “Removing that aspect of teacher education does not serve our future teachers.”

Kout went on to predict that Thursday’s vote will contribute to Georgia’s shortage of teachers because it will discourage college students from pursuing education as a major.

Several board members acknowledged receiving a deluge of emails opposing the proposal to amend the educator preparation rules by deleting the words.

Penney McRoy, director of the commission’s educator preparation division, said the words are being deleted because they have taken on “unintentional meanings in our culture.”

McRoy said opponents to the rules changes appear to be misinformed.

“My guess is there is a misperception that changing the wording is changing the intent. That is not the case,” she told commission members. “Our intent continues to be that we are well equipped to meet the needs of each and every child.”

Middle school social studies teacher Ogechi Oparah disagreed.

“Words matter,” she said during Thursday’s Georgia Coalition for Education Justice news conference. “They’re a reflection of intent.”

Sirmans said the amended rule deleting diversity will take effect June 15.

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