September 30, 2023 6:10 pm

Local News

Backlash Grows on Removing DEI Standards from GA Teacher Training

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Shanteya Hudson

Educator training programs in Georgia would not contain diversity, equity and inclusion terms, if the Georgia Professional Standards Commission decides this month to remove them.

Groups are voicing concerns about it, both for teachers and students. The changes would affect all educators up to Grade 12, from principals and superintendents, to reading specialists and school counselors. The proposal would remove terms like “equitable,” and use words like “unique” or “different” instead of “diverse.”

Mikayla Arciaga, Georgia director of advocacy and education for the Intercultural Development Research Association, said the result would diminish the evidence-based training teachers want, and create obstacles for addressing student needs.

“It’s a politicization of something that should not be political, which is that every classroom should feel safe for every child,” Arciaga asserted. “And so, to walk away [from] that language that explicitly said, ‘We will serve you regardless of these things,’ we’re inherently swapping that out for a more deficit-focused lens. I think it has just, like, inherently negative implications.”

Proponents of the changes say they are crucial to prevent misinterpretation or confusion about the language, thus better equipping new educators. But Arciaga contended teachers can better serve students from diverse backgrounds if they focus on cultural responsiveness.

In 2020 research from Northwestern College, adopting culturally responsive teaching methods was found to significantly boost student engagement and foster a positive classroom atmosphere.

Mason Goodwin, organizer for the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, said his organization also opposes the changes. He warned they could not only negatively affect students but reduce competitiveness in terms of hiring and retaining educators.

“I think there’s kind-of two sides to this,” Goodwin explained. “One is how this impacts future teachers, which is like, all of a sudden, the accreditation that they’re getting isn’t going to match what other states have. Then in the classroom, our teachers need to be aware of all the different situations students are coming from.”

The public had the opportunity to voice opinions on the suggested modifications until May 23, and the commission is set to review them this week, at its Thursday meeting. The changes would take effect July 1 if adopted.

This story was written by Shanteya Hudson, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.