On National Teacher Appreciation Day, the Equity Assistance Center – South (EAC-South) showed its reverence for teachers with a webinar focused on educator recruitment and retention. Speakers highlighted steps school districts can take to recruit and retain teachers and to address the growing trend of teacher shortages.  

The webinar is the second in the Educational Equity Indicators Professional Learning series, which brings research findings to life with examples from the field. Today’s webinar featured a presentation from Dr. Terry Lamar, Chief Administrative Officer with Hoover City Schools in Alabama. Lamar outlined his school district’s four components of teacher recruitment, as well as its four components of teacher retention. The plan increased the number of African American candidates for all positions – principals, assistant principals, district leaders, and teachers – by 40% to 50%.  

Watch the recording to get details on the Hoover City School recruitment and retention plan.  


Struggles with Teacher Shortages, Diversity 

With more than 75% of states experiencing educator shortages, especially following the pandemic, it is critical for public school systems to follow Hoover City Schools example. High teacher turnover negatively affects student achievement outcomes and costs schools districts more money. Additionally, as fewer people of color enter the field of teaching, it creates greater inequities for students of color and negatively impacts all students.  

According to a Forbes article written by Southern Education Foundation President and CEO Raymond Pierce, more than 50% of students in U.S. public schools are children of color, while only about 20% of teachers are people of color. The research also showed that most Black students in the U.S. attend 13 years of public school without having a single Black teacher.  

Why does this matter?  

“All students benefit from having teachers of color,” says name, title, organization. “There is a growing research base that supports this.” 

Teacher diversity benefits students on a societal level, as well as on an individual level. For students as a whole, teacher diversity: 

  • Provides all students with a diverse range of role models 
  • Counters racism and negative stereotypes 
  • Promotes intercultural understanding 
  • Prepares students of all backgrounds to live in an increasingly diverse and complex world 

On an individual level, studies show that upper elementary students who were randomly assigned to a teacher of color also: 

  • Complete tasks better 
  • Engage more 
  • Score higher on end-of-year tests for math and English language arts 
  • Attend school more frequently 

“This holds true for both students of color and white students,” says name. “And the effects on test scores and chronic absenteeism persists up to 6 years later when those students are in high school.” 

It is particularly important for Black students. Studies show that a Black student who had a single Black teacher is 13% more likely to enroll in college. For Black students who have two Black teachers, that number jumps to 32%.  


Different Pathways for Greater Diversity 

Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development, knows this firsthand. He headed to a college with plans of becoming a lawyer. After someone encouraged him to pursue a career in education, however, he changed paths. The problem, he noted, was that he would have never entered the field without that invitation and that invitation didn’t come until he had graduated college. 

Today, less that 2% of public-school teachers are Black men. On the hand, however, black men who attend historically Black colleges and universities and have a college degree, teaching is their No. 1 career choice. The interest is there, but the pathway is not. 

After discussions with peers about what they needed to pursue and stay in the field of teaching, El-Mekki founded the Fellowship of Black Male Educators for Social Justice to promote and recruit Black men as teachers. Since then, they have learned that there is a lot of work to do in creating that pipeline of Black, male teachers.  

“There were 17 in the fellowship, and not one of them had been invited into the profession until after they graduated college,” El-Mekki explains. “We asked colleagues, mostly white women, when they became interested in teaching. The average response was third grade … it was post-grad for one group, third grade for another.”  

He and his team have established a toolkit to encourage Black youth to pursue teaching as a career, but there is some way to go. He noted that they also need to “also think about the pillars that need to be put in place to support educators of color, which also will mean supporting all educators.” 



  • Donna Elam, Senior Adviser for the EAC-South 
  • Raymond Pierce, President and CEO of Southern Education Foundation 

Guest Speakers: 

  • Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development 
  • Dr. Terry Lamar, Chief Administrative Office, Hoover City Schools, Alabama 
  • Carri Murphy, senior study director at Westat 
  • Darcy Pietryka, principal research associate, Westat 

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