Quality Tools and Education: Making a Difference on a Global Scale

I dream of a time when quality is recognized throughout the world as a vehicle of improvement and innovation. Here’s an example: education.

The quality of education is central to the vitality of every community, anywhere in the world. Our collective future rests in the hands of children. So, when I learned the ASQ Milwaukee, Wis., section invited Dr. JoAnn Sternke, the Superintendant of the Pewaukee School District in Wisconsin, to present at their monthly meeting, I was quick to sign up.

Pewaukee School District was a 2010 Governor’s Forward Award of Excellence recipient in Wisconsin, and has publically announced their intent to apply to the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. You can view strategic plans on their site (under Our Plans, Continuous Improvement, top of the page). That’s transparency.

I knew what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. Dr. Sternke is a passionate and committed leader. She has personally invested in understanding her school district as a system and applied the tools of improvement in the conduct of the district’s mission. It’s all there: A mission, objectives, strategy, and metrics. And over time, by concentrating on the vital few, Dr. Sternke, and the devoted staff of the school district have driven performance to ever higher levels. Success is measured in the classroom, but the business of the school system to support educational excellence is managed, too.

Knowing that quality works, the question that plagues me is why haven’t more leaders of learning institutions embraced it? ASQ has been putting spotlight on success stories for 25 years. Our first effort – Koalaty Kid – created remarkable stories of success. Since 2001 when the University of Wisconsin–Stout and the Pearl River School District in New York received the first Baldrige Awards in education, there have been regular examples of universities, community colleges, and school districts stepping up as examples for others to emulate. So why is it that more institutions of learning aren’t following the lead? How do we raise the voice of quality to capture the imagination of education leaders and support them in getting started?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve not thrown in my towel. All I need to feed my fire of hope is to listen to the inspired educators who speak and attend ASQ’s annual National Quality in Education Conference, or to see the excitement on the faces of the audience. All I need to do is meet a JoAnn Sternke. Or listen to the story of Montgomery County Public Schools (2010 Baldrige recipient).

I dream of the fully realized potential and a tipping point when quality is recognized throughout the world as a vehicle of improvement and innovation. That is a worthy aim, and a reason for each of us to raise our voices.

Does your region or community—wherever you are in the world–use quality tools to improve education? How can we encourage educators to join us in raising the global voice of quality?

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8 Responses to Quality Tools and Education: Making a Difference on a Global Scale

  1. Cindy Veenstra says:

    Hi Paul,
    Here is how I look at it. The future of our economic growth is dependent on our providing our students with a stronger quality education. Unfortunately, too many statistics are indicating that the U.S. has stayed at the same or slipped in educational quality in the past decade while other countries are moving ahead by improving their education systems. These statistics include math and science scores, and college completion rates. Like you, I believe that the Baldrige framework provides the kind of systems thinking that we need to improve our educational systems. Increasingly, there is more focus on increasing the college completion rate. Systems thinking such as is inherent in the Baldrige framework can help us with this.

    Your question, “So why is it that more institutions of learning aren’t following the lead?” in using the Baldrige framework is one the Education Division will address at the World Conference on Quality and Improvement at Pittsburgh. We are sponsoring a Baldrige in Education brainstorming session to discuss how to encourage or support schools and colleges in exploring the Baldrige framework. It will be held on Sunday, May 16 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm in the Conference D Room, Omni William Penn Hotel. We extend a cordial invitation to all who are interested.

    In the meantime, if you are interested in articles on using Baldrige in education, check out the Education Division library articles under Baldrige
    http://asq.org/edu/quality-information/library/index.html?topic=2

    on our Quality in Education blog
    http://community.asq.org/edu

    our Baldrige for Education Network
    http://community.asq.org/networks/Baldrige_for_Education

    All the best in Quality in Education,

    Cindy Veenstra
    ASQ Education Division Chair
    asq,org/edu/

  2. KerrieAnne Christian says:

    Paul
    my favourite quote from this post is :

    “I dream of the fully realized potential and a tipping point when quality is recognized throughout the world as a vehicle of improvement and innovation. That is a worthy aim, and a reason for each of us to raise our voices.”

    It seems that too many dismiss quality as being only focused on unalterable standardized processes and so miss the key “improvement / innovation” message.

  3. I did an “influential voices” reply to this; Cindy Veenstra suggested that I think to it here:

    http://xndev.blogspot.com/2011/04/quality-metrics-and-other-fine-myths.html

    thanks!

  4. My response has been posted: The Use of Quality Tools to Improve Education – From an HPT Perspective – at: http://eppic.biz/2011/04/22/the-use-of-quality-tools-to-improve-education-from-an-hpt-perspective/

    Thank you for bringing this most important topic to the forefront!

  5. Julia Kolker says:

    Take a look at Paul’s roundup of responses to this post: http://asq.org/blog/2011/05/quality-in-education-roundup/

  6. Cindy Veenstra said “Unfortunately, too many statistics are indicating that the U.S. has stayed at the same or slipped in educational quality in the past decade while other countries are moving ahead by improving their education systems.”

    As a person that graduated in 1959 from public schools in California, I can say that we are still trying to catch up to those days when teachers really tried and succeeded in building skills in students.

    I have been watching the course content of my grandchildren who are now completing high school. I am sorry to say, they aren’t learning mathematics, history, foreign languages or English language as well as my generation. They are not able to write a few pages in English on a subject requested in a test. The age of “blue book” has vanished and so have written communications skills. I don’t see them doing problem solving of practical applications of math. All they seem to do is drill on multiple choice tests. Last, I don’t see an improvement in verbal skills to compensate for poor written skills.

    So, let’s see if we can’t work on teaching skills to our public school students that they will need to have to communicate, work and participate in the future. I’d love to see useful goals set and benchmark metrics set for education that would allow improvement in life skills needed to prosper in the new world ahead.

  7. Like attracts like, if the inputs are quality inputs, its obvious the output will be a quality.