Tulane state leader of Teach For America ranks

The University of Texas at Austin, Harvard University and Vanderbilt University are among the top schools that produce Teach For America teachers, who have a major presence in Louisiana, figures released on Friday show.

Tulane University is the leader among state schools.

Teach For America trains college graduates to enter troubled public schools. About 5 percent of its 11,000 members work in Louisiana, and the state is spending $1.2 million to support the effort.

The group’s presence in the New Orleans area will more than double after Teach For America got a $20 million donation from the Walton Family Foundation, including $3 million for the New Orleans region.

The University of Texas at Austin is the top contributor for the current school year with 73 of its graduates starting two-year commitments.

Among large schools sending graduates nationwide the University of Southern California, 70; the University of California-Berkley, 69; and the University of Michigan, 67, were among the leaders.

LSU produced nine graduates working in classrooms for TFA this school year, said Michael Tipton, executive director of Teach For America/South Louisiana.

Harvard and Vanderbilt each produced 45 students that are starting Teach For America stints in the category of schools with enrollments of between 3,000 and 10,000 students.

Tulane University is ranked 17th among medium-sized schools with 26 students entering Teach For America classrooms this year.

Spelman College and Wellesley College, which produced 27 and 20 students respectively, were the leaders among schools with 3,000 or fewer students.

The $3 million donation for New Orleans is expected to increase the ranks of TFA members statewide from 525 to 1,035.

The city now has about 400 TFA members in 112 schools. Many have arrived since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, which sparked a major push to improve a public school system in New Orleans long plagued by low student achievement.

Aside from Orleans other school districts that will benefit from the donation are Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. John the Baptist.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in June approved $1.2 million for Teach For America amid some controversy.

BESE member Lottie Beebe, who lives in Breaux Bridge, questioned the need for the aid and labeled TFA a “staffing agency.”

State Superintendent of Education John White, a TFA alum, backed the spending, which he said makes sense in a state where roughly one-third of students are performing below grade level.