Influential Voices: Quality in Education

I have to admit that my first thought when I read Paul’s April blog post, my first thoughts were competitive ones. I went to HS in Wisconsin for most of two years. My freshman year I was at Homestead High school in Mequon. My sophomore year I was at Nicolet High school in Fox Point. Both of these schools are in the general vicinity of the Pewaukee school district. In April of my sophomore year, we moved to Florida. I thought both Homestead and Nicolet were excellent schools.  Really, though, education in all schools should be a race to the top.

One of the things that has impressed me the most with my own children’s education (on the other side of Wisconsin) is that in spite of the fact that they are in what one would consider to be a traditional classroom setting, I see them being treated as individuals rather than part of the group so that they can excel. My son (age 9, grade 3) is asked to help mentor other students when he finishes his own work – this helps reinforce his own learning of the material as well as prevents boredom. My daughter (age 7, grade 1) is in an advanced reading group with one other student, and should be on chapter books before the end of the school year. Both of my kids have learned through their education and experience to set goals in ways I can’t imagine having done at their age. I still can’t get over Hannah breaking down her larger gymnastics goals into by event goals, and then setting new goals as she achieved the ones she set earlier. This is the same approach she has taken in her reading goals – one level at a time, currently on L, they typically start chapter books after M. This flow down of goals, helping individuals see how their own actions are tied to a higher goal is consistent with the Baldrige criteria.

Whether or not schools embrace Baldrige (ours hasn’t and still outperforms the state averages in spite of being a rural school district), the important thing is the commitment to quality. Is No Child Left Behind and AYP the answer? I don’t have an answer for that. Perhaps what we should aspire to teach our teachers to teach and our administrators to administer in a way that quality is integrated, not separate from what they do. What if the Baldrige criteria were taught as the standard way to run a school district and its schools? What if quality in education wasn’t something extra, a program – it was just what we did? What if?

The future of Baldrige

When I first read Paul’s post on the Baldrige award and the fiscal commission proposal to de-fund the Malcome Baldrige Performance Excellence program, I have to admit that my initial reaction to the issue was similar to that of one of those who commented on Paul’s post, that every special interest would be looking to defend their piece of the budget pie.

The bigger picture look, however, is that the Baldrige criteria are being used to help organizations improve their performance, and this can give US businesses a competitive advantage. As noted on the website, “The Baldrige Program’s mission is to improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations.” Our local ASQ section is always able to draw a good audience when we have someone speaking on a Baldrige-related topic, and for a very good reason: the use of the criteria is not exclusive to those who seek recognition through the Baldrige Award or a state quality organization. Anyone who uses the criteria can benefit from them. This is an investment in the future, especially considering how the criteria have been embraced by healthcare and educational institutions, not just the traditional manufacturing sector.

How do you keep your organization competitive?