Keep Your Heads Up Spruce: Failing the TAKS, Does Not Mean Failing LIFE!

By James “Bird” Guess

So we know that only 10 percent of Spruce graduates were college ready in reading and math last year, and the school has been rated academically unacceptable for the past four years. Anything else?

Oh wait, the kids don’t care about education and their parents did not either, so they are simply repeating the cycle, they live in a severely economically disadvantaged community, the kids fight frequently and there is no hope. If students do not pass the TAKS Test this spring, Spruce could potentially be closed like similar schools in Austin or Houston, or be restructured into all boys or girls schools.

Let’s get all the negative statistics and comments off our chest and focus on what really matters: Empowering the students, parents and the COMMUNITY!

For far too long the students have ingested nothing but negativity regarding their failing test scores, potential school closing, and how they may become failures in life. This is a recipe for student disaster. And if the students feel they are failures, they will soon act as failures and pursue alternatives to high school, which has made them bitter and uncomfortable instead as a place of learning, growth and inspiration.

We must understand that students at Spruce and other predominantly Black and Hispanic schools must endure special social and economic burdens that many White students in suburban school districts do not have to worry about.

Imagine coming from home school and not seeing your mother because she is working a second job or your father because he is incarcerated. What’s the result? No emotional support and no one to check or go over your homework and share what you’ve learned.

Imagine as a student being pressured by their parents to obtain part-time employment to help pay the bills to keep the lights on and food on the table. What’s the result? Education becomes less of a priority and students accept low-skilled occupations in return for immediate money to help pay for living expenses.

If we do not act to inspire these students to do their best, then the community will continue to be negatively impacted because the students will not be prepared to successfully manage life. Crime will increase, poor decision-making will be considered normal, and education will be viewed as an unnecessary burden, instead of a vehicle for success.

As educators, we must understand that education in the truest sense of the word is “developing students to reach their full potential and preparing them to successfully manage real-life.” Although the TAKS Test may help prepare students for college, it is incapable of measuring the two most important factors that determine academic and college success – determination and strong learning habits!

Since students at Spruce encounter special social and economic situations the need special classes on financial education, and real-life decision-making rather than tricky TAKS questions that most students say are “boring, irrelevant and too much pressure to pass.”

Rarely in life do you work on something for years and then be required to take a test on it and if you fail the test erases everything you have accomplished in those years. As a successful entrepreneur, I can testify that the secret to success is learning from failure, and having relentless ambition.

After speaking to over 150 students from DISD schools, the TAKS Test clearly erodes academic ambition and if we don’t find an alternative, we will continue to fail our students and teachers, not because we don’t have a solution, but because we have stopped trying to develop an alternative learning and assessment solution.

James “Bird” Guess is the President & Founder of School of Money & Wealth.  His email address is

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