After three years in the making, Atlanta Public Schools opened its Center for Equity and Social Justice Center Sept. 22.
The Atlanta Board of Education adopted APS’ equity policy in 2019, making equity a key factor in the 2020 to 2025 APS Strategic Plan. Shortly thereafter, the district hired its first Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer, Dr. Tauheedah Baker-Jones, and established the Center for Equity and Social Justice.
The APS Center for Equity and Social Justice was established as the district’s first office devoted solely to advancing equity in education. The CESJ mission aims to positively impact the lives of APS learners and learning communities so that all students thrive, not by accident, but by design. In turn, CESJ’s vision is to inspire a diverse, inclusive and responsive organizational culture that serves as a national model for intentionally, explicitly, and sustainably addressing challenges of equity in education.
“We just commemorated the 60th anniversary — just 60 years — of school desegregation,” Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said. “We continue to fail future generations by failing to close the education achievement gap for once and for all. But here in this city, in this district, we’ve established a commitment to not be apart of any history of failure of our children, with this our board, our community, our leaders, our educators, our families and most importantly — our children.”
To assist with this effort, the CESJ supports the implementation of equity-focused, evidence-based practices for entities throughout Atlanta Public Schools. The CESJ offers thought partnership around tackling complex equity-focused challenges and serves as accountability partners to divisions, departments, offices, and schools.
“Our commitment to equity is not an add on,” Board of Education chair Jason Esteves said. “It’s not an after thought — it is foundational. It is the foundation for us, for this school system and for this administration moving forward.”
The center also convenes and partners with cross-functional groups of internal and external stakeholders to create inclusive and just conditions for all students. In particular, the CESJ works to ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized students receive a quality education. This includes a commitment to a comprehensive approach that addresses the social, emotional, and academic development and various needs of all students.