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The demographics of U.S. schools are changing and so are those of Teach For America, a competitive service program that places college graduates in starting teaching positions. TFA recently announced that this year's selection is 25 percent Latino, similar to the makeup of student bodies in the U.S. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Latinos will represent15 percent of the 4,100 graduates selected for one of the country’s most competitive post-college programs. Teach For America collaborates with local school districts to bring young talent into the education field. As part of that effort, TFA has recruited an increasing amount of Latinos including DACA-eligible Dreamers, unauthorized immigrants who are legally allowed to work under Obama’s executive actions. Amanda Fernandez, VP of TFA’s Latino Community Initiative, says that the uptick in minority selections are a consequence of increased recruitment of a highly wooed talent pool: educated Latino and African American graduates. For example, TFA is targeting college juniors as a part of their early admission program.

“Top talent Latinos and African Americans are sought after by many organizations. We’ve learned that we need to recruit them sooner,” Fernandez said in a phone interview with the Latin Times. “Anyone who is qualified [...] can be a great teacher,” but “we also believe that individuals who share the backgrounds of our students, who are from the places we serve” (are in some way even more equipped.)

Critics of TFA highlight the teacher's astronomical turnover rate, saying few program recipients will become lifelong teachers. It is not clear how many of the Latino TFA corps will bolster career teacher numbers overall. On the other hand, we don’t know if minority teachers are more or less likely to stay in minority communities. Even if participants don’t stay in the classroom forever, they’re more likely to become education advocates in other ways. Still, criticisms and a bounceback from the economy, applications for TFA are at a five-year low . Yet acceptance is down as well , preserving the program’s competitive reputation, and the percentage of quality minority applicants has not dropped significantly. The consequence? An uptick in the overall percentage of minority students.

Fernandez says that a transition in the corps’ makeup is important because demographics of education are also changing. Twenty-five percent of high school students are Latino and that number could reach 30 percent by 2023, according to statistics cited by TFA. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of American high school teachers are Latino. As the country goes, Fernandez says, so goes TFA, who are planning to increase Latino representation in the coming years.

“This change reflects [Teach For America’s] journey since its founding,” said Fernandez. “Twenty-five years later, [...] the diversity of our corps are [more] reflective of our communities. It says a lot about our own understanding and aligning our actions towards to what our communities need and where the country is going.”

Dreamers are a significant part of that push, Fernandez says. In 2013, the two-year program placed two Dreamers into schools. Around 100 will be teaching in schools this fall. Ninety-percent of Dreamers accepted by TFA are from Latin-American countries, but there are other foreign teachers as well. In a statement from TFA, this year's selections were the most diverse yet, not just in terms of race, but also in economic and educational background.

"This year, nearly half of the teaching corps identify as people of color (compared with less than 20 percent of teachers nationwide); 47 percent come from low-income backgrounds; 34 percent are the first in their family to graduate from college; one-third applied as professionals or graduate students; more than 20 percent have backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, or math; and almost 20 percent will be teaching in the region they call home," the organization said in a statement.

Update: TFA asked us to clarify that turnover rate inside the programt is low -- 87 percent stay for the second year -- and that "two-thirds work full-time in education and that a "total of 84 percent do mission aligned work either in education or with low-income communities."

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