Equity at the Forefront in Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools has placed equity in the forefront of everything we do. Through equity, excellence, and engagement, our focus is that EVERY APS student receives the supports and opportunities they need to soar.  When the Atlanta Board of Education adopted APS’ equity policy in 2019 and made equity a key factor in the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, the commitment was sealed.  This action made way for the hire of the district’s first Chief Equity & Social Justice Officer, and the creation of the District’s first Center for Equity and Social Justice, which will formally launch next month.

One of the key tasks of our new Center for Equity and Social Justice is to build the capacity of our district leadership, educators, and staff to further develop an equity lens and build the professional stamina needed to address equity issues related to their scopes of work.

How does equity differ from equality?

Equity is when each student gets what they uniquely need to succeed. It’s different than equality, which treats everyone the same without addressing the root causes of disparity. Equality is a simplistic and misguided approach to education because it ignores the reality that each child is different. The student who requires special needs support in one school, gifted education in another, or free and reduced lunch in yet a third each require different resources.Equity ensures they all get what they need.

Our approach and mandates are clear.  We invite the community to join us in championing equitable learning environments and adopting the spirit of equity, excellence, and engagement.

Equity. Excellence. Engagement.

Equity

Equity is the ethical thing to do. It requires that our schools are places where every student is affirmed for who they are while being challenged to excel. We’re eliminating barriers, providing the right resources, so all students, particularly African American and Latinx students, have the support that they need to reach their full potential. We’re committed to focusing our resources, energy, and talent for our most vulnerable students.

 Excellence

To achieve a high level of excellence, we’re working to ensure that each member of our community is an equity champion – meaning they champion individual cultures, identities, talents, abilities, languages, and interests of our students – by providing them the necessary opportunities and resources to meet their unique needs. This requires delivering the highest quality support to our teachers and leaders so our classrooms are vibrant, inclusive, and culturally responsive centers of learning.

 Engagement

Our district equity policy defines equity as the “quality or ideal of being just and fair, regardless of economic, social, cultural, and human differences among and between persons.” We’re inviting our stakeholders into authentic conversations about how to achieve equity. The APS Center for Equity and Social Justice will work hand-in-hand with every district office, as well as community stakeholders, to ensure each undertaking is pursued with equity as a goal.

Led by Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring, our Chief Equity & Social Justice Officer Tauheedah Baker-Jones, and our Center for Equity and Social Justice team, we are working to fully implement the district’s focus on equity as part of our mission and five-year Strategic Plan.  We are proud of the initial steps we have made over the past few months to increase equity awareness, strengthen our culture of equity, and lay the groundwork for the transformative changes we will create together.

 A few highlights of our work include:

 Recognizing School Equity Champions

 When demonstrating equity in action, APS educators affirm and appreciate our students’ diverse cultures, identities, talents, abilities, languages and interests. The Center for Equity and Social Justice recently recognized 10 APS school leaders and teachers as 2021 Equity Champions. They work hard each day to ensure every child receives the necessary opportunities and resources to meet their unique needs and aspirations!

In early May 2021, the team surprised each champion with balloons and a check for $1,500 to launch an equity-focused project or initiative at their school or in their classroom. Check out the highlight video below:

Talking Equity Atlanta

Recently, the Center for Equity + Social Justice at Atlanta Public Schools hosted a “Talking Equity Atlanta” (TEA) series of virtual cluster community meetings to foster more engagement and two-way dialogue focused on advancing educational equity throughout the district.

 9 Cluster Community Conversations (June 2021)

850+ Attendees (945+ RSVPs – Representing All 9 Clusters)

1,650+ Survey Responses (APS Staff & Parents/Families)

 To view the recordings of any of the TEA meetings, visit https://www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/65925

Principal and Leader Professional Learning

In June 2021, the Center for Equity and Social Justice team engaged 400+ senior officers in an Equity Focused Professional Learning Dayto kick-off this year’s APS Leadership Retreat. Equity experts inspired district leaders to embrace the “Grace to Grow,” and trained them on our 6 district adopted Equity Leader Dispositions.  See some of the highlights in the video below.

Teachers Equity Planning Summit

The Center for Equity & Social Justice coordinated and facilitated professional development for 4,000+ educators at this year’s APS Teacher Leader Retreat on 8/2, which focused on Transformative Pedagogy. Teachers were trained on the 6 Equity Teacher Dispositions and provided practical guidance for transformative pedagogy from:

  • Dr. Tauheedah Baker-Jones, Six Equity Teacher Dispositions
  • Dr. Jarvis R. Givens, Harvard University Professor & Author Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson & the Art of Black Teaching
  • APS Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Team
  • Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson, Racial Equity Strategist & Educator

The Center for Equity and Social Justice is examining current policies and practices, working to interrupt and eliminate inequitable practices, and creating inclusive and just conditions for all students, in particular ensuring that our most vulnerable and marginalized students receive a quality education, including the necessary social-emotional supports. To truly achieve equity, we must first acknowledge that our diverse populations face implicit bias and have differing needs and access to opportunities. From there, we must plug in the support necessary to give every child a real chance at success.

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