City’s Teach for America recruits increasingly diverse

Teachers entering a New York City classroom this year through Teach for America are a part of the most diverse corps of recruits since the nonprofit started stocking the city with new teachers 25 years ago.

Sixty percent of this year’s incoming 400 corps members are black, Hispanic, Asian-American or Pacific Islander, the alternative certification program announced on Monday. That’s up from 45 percent last year and double the rate was for the entire corps five years ago, a spokesperson said.

Teacher diversity is an issue that the State Education Department has grappled with in recent years. Statewide, 82 percent of the teacher workforce was white in 2012-13, compared to 48 percent of students. And while more than 40 percent of students were black or Hispanic, just 15 percent of all teachers were black or Hispanic in 2013, according to statistics.

Earlier this year, state officials agreed to develop recruitment policies that will result in a more diverse workforce and pointed to alternative certification programs such at Teach for America and the New York City Teaching Fellows as among the few teacher initiatives that specifically promote racial and socioeconomic diversity.

The numbers come as the demographics of the nation’s public school system continue to shift. Next year, white students will be outnumbered by minority students for the first time, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education.

The announcement was part of a nationwide effort by Teach for America to tout its efforts to recruit more diverse members in recent years. Four out of five students in schools that partner with TFA are black or Hispanic, and officials said they believe their teacher workforce should more closely resemble the students they teach.

The organization has frequently been criticized for offering little preparation, other than a summer training session, to recruits before they are given a classroom, though supporters point to some research that show older students learn more math under TFA corps members.

In New York City, about 180 of this year’s TFA recruits will work in traditional district schools, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said, about the same number as those who will teach in charter schools. The remaining 10 percent will work for community-based organizations in pre-kindergarten positions.