9 Strategies That Can Be Used to Close the Achievement Gap

Enhanced Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is at the forefront of closing the achievement gap, which disproportionately affects low-income Blacks and other minorities. In order to address their needs, teachers, staff and faculty must consider students’ diversity to be an asset by including diversity in the curriculum and being sensitive to each student’s culture. They should also work to increase their own cultural competence to better understand and capitalize on students’ culture, abilities, resilience and effort.


Comprehensive Support for Students

Comprehensive support for children includes understanding and helping to improve the external factors that affect a child’s performance in school. It is important to screen children early for medical/social services and work with medical, social services and community agencies. Educators must identify students who need additional instructional support and support students via mentors, tutoring, peer support networks and role models.

Do You Know the Difference Between Options and Opportunities?

As the summer vacation season quickly draws to a close, I am reminded of the scores of African-American students, young and old,  who will descend onto various places of higher learning to either begin or continue their journey toward that mythical destination known as  “a profession,” in the hopes of finding the elusive career vs. an ordinary job.

Yet before any one of them can realize a true profession — let alone a career — they must learn a critical lesson that is unfortunately often not taught to these students, yet is what often determines who among them will achieve success (whatever that success might look like) and who will know the soul-numbing, joy-stealing ache of failure.

What is this critical lesson that is often withheld from our best and brightest?

It is understanding the dynamic yet subtle relationship between opportunities ( for example, university vs. trade school) and options (for example, UCLA or USC vs. UTI or ITT), while having the courage to consciously make choices instead of simply going along with what you’re handed — that is, letting someone else choose for you.

In this piece we’ll examine the former — opportunities vs. options. The latter — conscious decision-making — we’ll leave for another time.

Opportunities are best defined as “a set of circumstances that make it possible to do something,” while options are best defined as “a thing that is or may be chosen.”

So based upon the definitions, we see that while opportunities contain options, options don’t necessarily contain opportunities. It is very important that young African-Americans who are pursing professions understand this subtle yet important difference. You want to make sure everything you are doing drives the creation of opportunities rather than options. Success is more often than not the result of given set of circumstances (opportunities) that allows you  “to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” as Winston Churchill once said.

It is opportunity (not options) that explains why Michael Vick was able to resume his professional football career, while Allen Iverson basically has been exiled from professional basketball.

Options only give you the chance to choose between what “you will have;” Google Iverson and see what he had and lost as $200 million buys a lot of stuff.

Opportunities give you the chance to create more opportunities. As Sun Tzu noted, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized,” thus they enable you to choose what “you will be;” Google Michael Vicks’ 60 Minutes interview and hear him describe what he has become due to opportunities from his incarceration and a second chance in the NFL.

When Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” he was referencing the power of opportunity, as it’s only through opportunity do you get the ability to make the kind of choices that impact the person you are or will become.

So for those of you who are starting your collegiate careers, think carefully about your choice of major. Psychology or sociology, often a favorite, might be interesting or even considered “easy” but as Ann Landers said, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work so people don’t recognize them.”  If I were you I’d be leery of anything “easy” as few (if any) opportunities await within.

To those who are already well down the path of a given major, look for ways to maximize your opportunities upon graduation. While often not easy nor convenient, changing institutions is often a way to increase your opportunities;  a psychology degree from University of Southern California (USC) carries with it more opportunities than one from Long Beach State (CSU-LB).

So I leave you with the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come he is ready.”

So what will you be? For that, my friends, is the only question.

 Tre Green is a 25yr veteran of the IT industry who specializes in solving “mission impossible” for Fortune 500 organizations. When not adding to his frequent flier miles and preferred guest status Tre can be often be found at home relaxing with his motely crew of pets.

13 Top STEM Fields Every Black Student Should Consider And Why

Science and technology hold the key to development and poverty reduction within Black communities worldwide. The U.S. workforce could employ as many as 140,000 additional African-American and Latino college graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields annually, if the gap in college completion in these fields by Blacks and Latinos closed to roughly match that of the white and Asian-American graduation rates, according to a new report released by the Washington-based Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies think tank.

Black parents who work tirelessly to expose and encourage their offspring into STEM fields increase the likelihood that those children will escape generational suffering caused by joblessness and poverty.

“STEM education gives people the wherewithal for employment in jobs that pay well,” concludes the report. In that regard, here are 13 of the top STEM fields that Black students should consider.

Drilling Engineer/Petroleum Engineer

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $130,280

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 26%

STEM discipline: Engineering

Drilling engineers design and implement procedures to drill oil wells as safely and economically as possible. They are often educated  as petroleum engineers, although they may come from other technical disciplines (e.g., mechanical engineering or geology) and subsequently trained by an oil and gas company.

Employment of petroleum engineers is projected to grow 26 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Oil prices will be a major determinant of employment growth, as higher prices lead to increasing complexity of oil companies’ operations, which requires more engineers for each drilling operation.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $101,360

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 23%

STEM discipline: Math

Math is experiencing something of a renaissance period, sparking careers that are diverse and rewarding. Analytics is a driving force, with mathematical analyses of trends now used to gauge many activities, ranging from Internet-user tendencies to airport traffic control.

Mathematicians rank among the more well-compensated in the Careercast.com’s 2014 Jobs Rated report. The field also has a positive outlook for continued future growth.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $93,680

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 26%

STEM discipline: Math

A job-seeker skilled in mathematics and statistical analysis can find a rewarding opportunity as an actuary. Actuaries use mathematics, statistics, and financial theory to assess the risk that an event will occur, and they help businesses and clients develop policies that minimize the cost of that risk. Their work is essential to the insurance industry. The career is challenging, and becoming an actuary requires passing a series of exams.

The expansion of health care coverage to more Americans leads the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to project a very favorable hiring market for actuaries in the years to come.

Software Engineer

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $93,350

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 22%

STEM discipline: Computer Science, Engineering

Computer technology is always changing and becoming more sophisticated, and software engineers are the creative minds behind programs that drive the technology. Some software engineers develop the applications that allow people to perform specific tasks on a computer or mobile device. The latest wave in the field is cloud computing, and companies need software engineers able to meet this and other adaptations in the most fundamental facet of 21st century business.

Computer Systems Analyst/Technology Analyst

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $79,680

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 25%

STEM discipline: Computer Science, Engineering

A computer systems analyst examines an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and designs information systems solutions to help the company operate more efficiently and effectively.

The analyst is a critical component of business practice, and growth in cloud computing, cyber-security, mobile networks, and conversion of hard copy files into digital formats will increase the importance of this specialty in the future.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $75,560

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 27%

STEM discipline: Math

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data to help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields. Statistical analysis is of growing importance to a wide spectrum of industries, thus professional statisticians are in high demand.

Mining Engineer/Geological Engineers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Median Annual Salary: $84,320

Projected Job Growth by 2022: 12%

STEM discipline: Engineering

Mining and geological engineers design mines for the safe and efficient removal of minerals, such as coal and metals for manufacturing and utilities. Geological engineers use their knowledge of  the earth’s physical structure to search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites.

Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all American occupations.