COVID–19: An Opportunity for US Parents and Students

Parts of this excerpt are from the soon to be released book “The Crises of Competence” authored by Dr. Clarence Nixon, Jr., Founder of t.Lab, a high-performance learning laboratory headquartered in Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan. t.Lab has been successful in improving US students’ academic performance, especially African American students, including a median ACT score of 30.7 in FY 2019 (

The Coronavirus has yielded death and destruction while forcing the US economy into a severe recession. Most states have issued “stay at home orders” causing parents and students to be confined to their homes until US leadership can rightfully resolve the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic. We understand that parents and students alike are struggling with confinement while seeking and consuming entertainment (e.g. Netflix) and unhealthy food (hotdogs and hamburgers). This current state within the country has created an opportunity to address another “unseen killer” within the US especially the academic performance of American students in grades K - undergraduate. The other unseen killer is academic incompetence and lack of rigorous academic development processes or systems within the US. We suggest that US parents and students, especially African Americans, leverage this time to initiate and sustain rigorous academic development processes for parents and students alike.

Simply stated, America is failing in its obligation to properly educate its students. The US spends more money on education, as measured by “total dollars”, than any other nation in the world. In 2017, the US spent over 700 Billion on public education alone. But, despite all that spending, the US has struggled. Pew Research from 2017 found the US ranked 38th in math and 24th in science when compared against 71 other countries. Only two decades prior, the US education system ranked 6th internationally. It is the responsibility of school systems and American educational institutions to address the problems of inadequate education of US-based students, especially African American students. Some people believe that parents should shoulder the blame for poor academic performances by American students. As well, they claim that poverty is the nexus of the education dilemma in American inner cities. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his book “Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community,” states that poverty is not an excuse for the educational failings of African Americans and the poor. He believes that competence within our school systems should be able to properly educate the poor.

Grade inflation at the secondary and post-secondary levels of education has created a false sense of confidence among many US students and parents. Students lack the drive and rigor needed to succeed while realizing higher levels of academic performance. This has created a culture of entitlement and it lacks diligence and competence. The grade most often provided to students is an “A”. However, performance on standardized testing proves otherwise, especially among African American students who rank the lowest within the US. Only 6% of African American students meet the minimum benchmark score of 21.25 on the ACT.

These performances cascade into more significant issues among African American students including:

  1. The highest average college debt levels upon graduation at nearly $53,000
  2. Among the lowest college graduation rates at 40% which is second only to American Indian / Alaska Native at 30%
  3. Among the lowest starting salaries upon graduation from college at $45,800 per year, second only to Hispanic students at $44,700
  4. The lowest level majoring in STEM disciplines at 12%

Please note, we believe there is a strong correlation between ACT test scores and other quality of life factors especially health care outcomes.

Employers claim that increasingly fewer college students are ready to enter the job market with needed competencies. More and more employers are resorting to testing as a means of validating competence of new and existing employees. Ironically, some colleges are eliminating the use of ACT and SAT for college admittance. We believe that parents and students, especially African Americans, who forego ACT or SAT and solely rely on GPA to measure competence and college readiness are making a grave mistake. More often than not, students are not able to overcome skill deficiencies in English, Math, Reading, and Science after leaving high school. The impact is significant as students, especially African American students, struggle with math and science-based courses at the college level. They ultimately avoid highly compensated majors for disciplines that have low market demand and minimal compensation. Based on anecdotal and statistical data, it should be clear that US students, especially African American students, are not meeting academic benchmarks. We believe that parents and students, especially African American parents and students, should use this time to enhance themselves academically.

t.Lab is a high-performance learning laboratory for students in grades K through Undergraduate. t.Lab is a recognized leader in transforming students, especially African American students, to realize academic excellence. t.Lab’s median ACT score was 30.7 in FY 2019. t.Lab and its National Advisory Board has launched a nationwide initiative within the US to increase the median ACT score of African Americans by 2025. The initiative, “The Drive to 25” is targeting 250,000 African American students to participate in its rigorous academic enhancement programs while realizing a composite median ACT score of 25. For more information on “The Drive to 25”, please visit



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Strauss, V. (2020, April 10). Dozens of colleges and universities are dropping SAT/ACT requirements for fall 2021 applicants, and some for longer. The Washington Post. Retrieved from:

Dr. Clarence Nixon
Founder and CEO, t.Lab