Jared Henderson (MBA 2007) was executive director of Teach for America in Arkansas until winter 2017, when he announced a run for governor of the state. In this interview, conducted during Spring Reunion in May 2017, Henderson discusses the need and the opportunity for improving education for the country’s poorest communities.
“As executive director of Teach For America's work in Arkansas, we focus predominantly on the Mississippi Delta region of the state, which is the eastern third. It's one of the poorest regions in the entire country. By some metrics, it is the poorest. We want to make sure that rural classrooms and high-poverty districts have strong teachers for critical-needs subjects. In many of the districts that we work with, with many of the partners we have, you have brilliant young children, but there is not a math teacher within 50 or 100 miles of that district.
“We have an education system that's very unequal across the United States. I you're born into a low-income household or you're born into poverty, it is dramatically harder for you to reach your full potential in the American education system.
“Teach For America exists to do something about that, both by sending great, energetic, determined teachers into the classroom today, but also by building a leadership force that's dedicated to taking this on for the rest of their lives. Over the last four years, in particular, while I've been leading our work in Arkansas, we brought in 350 teachers. It's something I'm really proud of. We've impacted tens of thousands of kids.
“I think Teach For America has played a really critical role, in that, over the last 25 years, it has drawn attention to this idea of educational equity. Teach For America draws focus on the idea that there are aspects of the American education system that work quite well. The real injustice and the real opportunity for improvement is in low-income districts and in high-poverty schools. That is where we're missing the mark and where we need to make the biggest difference. I think TFA has drawn attention to that, and drawn in many, many great people who are now spending their careers trying to address that issue.”
(Published January 2018)
SUPPORT THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS