Teach For America Focuses on Closing the Hispanic Achievement Gap
President Obama just signed an executive order on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, so it’s timely that Teach For America is hosting Latinos and Education: A Discussion on the Pursuit of Excellence on Monday, November 8, in Los Angeles. The event features policy gurus like Juan Sepúlveda, the director of the White House initiative as well as celebs like actor Wilmer Valderrama.
Amanda Fernandez, Teach For America's Vice President for Diversity and Inclusiveness says forty percent of the children their teachers reach are Hispanic. The nonprofit's also looking to further engage everyday people in the work of closing the Hispanic achievement gap. We caught up with Amanda to talk about why educating the Hispanic community is so critical, what people can do to get involved, and about Teach For America's commitment to increasing Hispanic diversity in their teaching corps.
GOOD: Why should the community care about reaching Latino students specifically and why is this so important to Teach For America?
AMANDA FERNANDEZ: Educational disparities limit the life prospects of over 15 million children growing up in poverty. Fourth graders in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their peers in high-income communities and half of these students won’t graduate from high school. Hispanic children are three times as likely to live in a low-income community, and thus attend a lower-performing school. When you consider these statistics, it becomes impossible to ignore the importance of educators and community members focusing on Latino students.
G: What's Teach For America doing to bring more Latinos into the teaching profession?
AF: We’re recruiting at 370 schools across the country, including 23 Hispanic Serving Institutions. At the same time, we are building partnerships with national organizations such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and The Hispanic Scholarship Fund to ensure we have many channels to recruit top Hispanic talent.
G: What can people who can't attend in Los Angeles do to engage their own local communities on this issue?
AF: They should spend time educating themselves about the issue and find one way they can participate. This could take the form of attending school board meetings, volunteering or serving on the board of an organization that is working towards educational equity, or getting personally involved in the life of a child impacted by the achievement gap. Every step counts and it will take participation at all levels to address this problem.