Each year the Teach for America program recruits recent college graduates to work for two years in urban and rural public schools, hoping to inspire a lifelong commitment to education. It does the job well: A 2011 study found that the program creates more founders and leaders of education organizations than any other organization or program.
Members of Teach for America's "teacher corps" collectively reach 750,000 students — 50 percent of whom are black. And this year, the organization announced in a press release on Monday, a higher percentage than ever of the educators are themselves African American. But according to Heather Harding, Teach for America's senior vice president of community and public partnerships, that number (700 out of 5,800) isn’t high enough.
"If we're going to reach the day when every child receives an outstanding education, we need a movement of leaders who are diverse in every respect and committed to changing things for kids," she said. "While we're proud that our current teacher corps is racially and economically diverse, we still have a ways to go. Our goal is to keep steadily increasing the diversity of backgrounds and experiences among our teaching corps."
According to Teach for America, more than 48,000 people applied to the program this year, including 1 in 4 seniors at Spelman, 11 percent of the graduating class at Clark Atlanta University, 10 percent at Hampton University and at Morehouse College, 8 percent at Howard, 6 percent at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and 4 percent at the University of Florida. At the Ivy League schools, 1 in 7 African American seniors applied.