the social ills that exist along with the low expectations coupled with the fact that communities in which our students are coming from are being neglected. There are approximately 16 million students growing up in poverty throughout the country. When you look at the percentage of those students that are disproportionately growing up in poverty, they’re predominantly children of color. It all goes back to the zip codes that determine a child’s outcome. It seems their future has already been predestined for them. The low expectations, cycle of poverty, and lack of social resources has truly put our children at a disadvantage when they start and that continues throughout their futures.
EBONY: How important is it that more Black men and women become teachers?
OT: I think that it is important. When you look at the numbers for teachers, there are only 4.8 million Black men and women teaching, which is two percent overall. Then you look at the number of Black men who are in jail and you realize we’re up against a huge problem. More of our Black men are going to jail than through the educational system. We need to take this problem head on. Our kids definitely need more role models.
EBONY: What are some of the present and future plans the organization has to combat these problems in education?
OT: At Teach For America, our goal is to build an unstoppable movement with the communities we serve where the role we would play is to continue to identify leaders that are going to have a immediate impact in the short term. We want them to have a commitment to working to close the achievement gap while they’re teachers. In the long term, we want them to be committed to being lifelong advocates for public education and leading within education and in all sectors. Currently, we have 10,000 teachers across 46 sites throughout the country where we recruit at over 600 college campuses. A third of our teachers identify as people of color and the average GPA is 3.5. So – we want to continue to attract our country’s most promising future leaders to take these problems on not just in the immediate term, but to be lifelong advocates for closing the achievement gap both inside and outside of education. As I shared earlier, these problems aren’t going to be solved through education alone. We need leaders in all sectors. We need leaders in Congress, medicine, business, and law. We need to attack this problem through all avenues. We need communities across the country committed to solving these problems and our role is to help develop the leaders for that work.
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.