Theme and Focus Areas

Innovation for System-Wide Improvement and Beyond

School systems and universities have come under increasing scrutiny to demonstrate achievements and improvement in everything from test scores to degree completion. Many K-12 and post-secondary institutions have derived innovative ways to address the myriad challenges they face, and they also stretch beyond their own boundaries to share their learnings with others. When educational excellence is shared among districts, regions, and nations, all of these entities benefit. Learn methods to improve outcomes and build sustainability in your PK-12 districts and institutions of Higher Education at this year’s National Quality Education Conference. International educators and educators within the United States who have shared their improvement practices beyond their districts or colleges are encouraged to share their best practices.

Focus Areas:

Systems Thinking for System-Wide Improvement

While embarking upon, expanding or sustaining Continuous Improvement efforts, educators must examine their processes and determine how well those processes are working. In K-12 and higher education, how are processes measured, and what do those measurements tell us? What are some innovative ways that we can leverage efficiency in operations to free up resources for what really counts — i.e. learning and instruction in each classroom for all students?  For example:

  • Can savings in energy efficiency or in textbook consumption lead to a freeing up of funds to purchase new instructional and learning aids?
  • Can innovations in scheduling allow more learning space for everyone to use over the course of a year or allow adult students to complete degree programs faster?

How are PDSA cycles and data used to identify areas in need of improvement, and how are those cycles linked to the broader mission, vision and goals of the district or institution? Which tools are applied to data and processes? A systems-view of improvement links these areas of concern for stakeholders and frees districts, colleges and universities to make creative decisions about using available resources to improve learning for all.

Leveraging the Baldrige Criteria to Improve Learning and Systems

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and its associated state award programs are used by many K-12 districts and higher education institutions to improve their processes and outcomes. The Baldrige criteria emphasize customer satisfaction, leadership, strategic planning, involvement of key people across the organization, and results. How are school districts, colleges and universities leveraging process management to improve student academic achievement, non-instructional services, and financial markers of success? School districts and higher education institutions that have adopted the Baldrige criteria are welcome to submit to this focus area. Applications to improvement in learning and operations are equally encouraged.

Changing School Culture to Close the Achievement/Opportunity Gap

How can schools, colleges, and universities ensure that they provide equal learning opportunities to every student so that those students can maximize their learning while they are in our schools and colleges? While we often speak of the achievement gap in education, it is becoming clear that many students actually face an opportunity gap, or equity gap. This gap often originates in unequal socioeconomic conditions, but it also occurs in our schools when course offerings and discipline policies hurt more than they help. Some schools are now creatively addressing these issues in unexpected ways, such as eliminating tardy policies, establishing after-school programs to assist with homework and child care, or insisting that all students complete advanced courses and providing the support for them to do so. What are some of the creative ways schools and districts have addressed this gap, and how have leaders in these places gained broad support from faculty and staff to implement these programs? How can post-secondary institutions best assist students and families who may not know how to navigate the complex systems of admissions, financial aid applications, student advising, and graduation requirements so that they can focus on learning and achieving their goals? Those who have creatively addressed these and other opportunity gaps are encouraged to submit to this focus area.

Continuous Improvement for Advanced Practitioners

School districts, colleges and universities are at different places in their continuous improvement (CI) journeys. While many are familiar with the essential philosophy and tools of CI, some are ready to take steps beyond initial adoption. If your district or higher education institution has been using continuous improvement principles and tools for more than a few years, how are you now taking next steps to ensure sustainability and greater improvement? How have your goals changed, and what are you doing to ensure the cause for CI remains strong? What do advanced practices look like in the classroom as well as in the boardroom? Have you reached beyond your own district or university boundaries to assist others in their improvement plans? Sessions may address instructional goals, operational goals, or continuing professional development. PK-12 and Higher Education faculty and administrators are invited to share advanced goals, practices, and strategies in either a concurrent session or a pre-conference, four-hour workshop.

Implementing Common Core Standards and Assessment

As districts within the United States move toward implementing these internationally benchmarked standards to prepare students for careers, college, and citizenship, some districts and states are now asking for a delay in implementation as they realize the full complexity of adoption.  The debate will continue about how to assess common core standards and how curriculum and instruction may have to adapt to the new assessments. How are districts creatively addressing the implementation of these standards? Do local concerns require innovation in implementation and assessment of Common Core? How can continuous improvement practices and tools assist in implementing and assessing these standards? What can we learn from other countries that have adopted their own national standards? Proposals that address professional development and the use of continuous improvement tools and practices in implementation and assessment of Common Core Standards are encouraged.

Innovation for System-Wide
Improvement and Beyond
2014 National Quality Education Conference  November 16 – 17, 2014  |  Milwaukee, WI