Atlanta – Hispanics make up 8 percent of the 5,200 new college graduates headed to struggling public schools under the auspices of Teach For America, but around 40 percent of the pupils at those institutions are Latino.
"Our most effective teachers represent all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. When such teachers share the backgrounds of the students we serve, however, they have the potential to have a profound additional impact and serve as powerful models for success in education and in life," says Amanda Fernandez, Teach For America's vice president of diversity and inclusiveness.
She insists the organization needs to increase the proportion of Hispanics in its ranks.
The program recruits from 350 universities nationwide in search of talented graduates willing to sign a two-year commitment to teach in disadvantaged public schools.
Teach For America is interested in people who have distinguished themselves, whether in academics, the workplace or extracurricular activities.
"We look for people who have demonstrated a range of leadership qualities, because we know that these people can lead our students to success in the classroom and in their lives," Fernandez says.
This year, Teach For America accepted only 11 percent of the nearly 48,000 college graduates who applied for the program.
The initiative aims in part to narrow the gap in achievement between students at schools with few resources and youngsters at better-funded institutions.
"By the fourth grade, children who live in low-income communities are already two or three grades behind their higher-income counterparts," Fernandez said. "This has a great impact on Hispanics, as they are three times more likely to live in a low-income community."
Research conducted at schools in Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee indicates that Teach For America members "have a positive impact on student achievement," the organization said this week.
"The Tennessee study identified Teach For America as the most effective of the state's 42 teacher-preparation programs, with corps members demonstrating a greater impact on student achievement than the average new teacher in every evaluated subject area," according to the statement.
Teach For America has forged alliances with organizations such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, National Council of La Raza, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.