Teach for America: There is strength in our diversity

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In a recent piece in theGrio, (“A challenge to ‘Teach for America’ on diversity”) Dr. Andre Perry suggested that Teach For America should do more to address the lack of diversity among America’s teachers.

In fact, we are doing more than most. Our 2013 class of about 6000 new teachers is our most diverse ever with 25 percent of members identifying as black or Latino. That’s considerably higher than the 14 percent of active classroom teachers in these two categories, though not quite as high as the 40 percent of black and Latino public school students nationwide.

Given these numbers, the teaching field as a whole has a ways to go to achieve a level of diversity that is more reflective of the student population. Although we account for less than one percent of America’s teachers, Teach For America is playing its part by bringing top talent of every background into this field.

We are especially proud that two-thirds of our corps members stay in education and about one third of our 32,000 alumni remain in the classroom beyond their initial two-year commitment.

We are also proud of the positive impact studies show we are having on school children. A recent Mathematica study found that, on average, students taught by Teach For America teachers gained an additional 2.6 months of learning in math over the course of a year. Earlier studies of TFA teachers in Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee reached similar conclusions.

Nevertheless, given the educational deficits facing the low-income students we serve, many of whom are two or three years behind in core subjects, we are not satisfied with these results.  In everything we do, we are deeply committed to getting better and, when it comes to diversity, we take inspiration from the words of Dr. Maya Angelou: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Takirra Winfield, Director of National Media Relations, Teach For America