The Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is filling your summer newspapers with charts and graphs and articles designed to inform the public about the condition of public education. Rather than add to the glut of numbers, I’d like to tell you what we do with the testing results.

Over at RISD command central, our chief statistician, Dr. Mike Strozeski, is busy finding meaningful trends for trustees, administrators and schools.

Here’s how we translate all the numbers into better classroom instruction.

First we do comparisons. We look at how each school did on each test: language arts, math, reading, science and social studies.

We study each grade level and sub-population to identify trends and anomalies. All tests report results by All Students, White, African American, Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged student groups.

The national No Child Left Behind law added the two sub-populations of Limited English Proficient (LEP) and Special Education. Testing these groups is new, and how results will be handled is still wildly up in the air, at both the state and national level. School districts such as RISD with large LEP and Special Ed populations are at great risk of being mislabeled as “Low Performing” due to the scores of these sub-populations.

The administration looks for systemic weaknesses, either at a grade level or within a specific discipline. For example, in RISD and across the state, fifth grade science scores are low. Why? Was it the test questions, or are we not teaching the right things in the best way?

We compare results of RISD schools using different types of instructional strategies to see what works. For example, schools using a hands-on science curriculum called FOSS scored better than those not using it did. Probably we should expand the use of that program.

During the summer, principals examine their campus results and identify staff development needs.

In August, when teachers return, principals and teachers will study their results and develop action plans for improvements by grade, subject, class and individual student.

Here’s the bottom line. We strive to identify weaknesses and give them the resources they need. So if Johnny needs math help, he gets it. If his teacher, Miss Smith, needs help teaching math, she gets it. If the fourth grade instructional team at XYZ Elementary needs help with math, they get it. And if the fourth grade math curriculum across the whole district needs help, it gets that attention.

Good news. Our 10th and 11th graders did so well, districts across the Metroplex are calling saying, “What are you guys doing to get these results?” We’re striving for classroom excellence for every child.