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Dawn Bailey

Quality Insider

Insights on Excellence from a Baldrige Education Leader

A systematic, data-driven approach can help every child succeed in school

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 11:16

One of my favorite educators was my high-school American history teacher because I remember really learning something. Rather than taking primarily written tests, we often reenacted notable moments in history, and our tests came from how well we understood the issues facing our characters. 

In my mind, it allowed us to learn vs. just memorize the history, and the assumption was that no matter the complexities of the situation, we all could learn.

Today, one of my favorite educators to hear speak is Terry Holliday, commissioner of education at the Kentucky Department of Education. And lucky for me, he is also a Baldrige-Award-winning superintendent from Iredell-Statesville Schools who recently presented at the Baldrige 25th Anniversary Gala.

Educators must have “a firm belief that every child can achieve and have a brighter tomorrow” said Holliday. If you believe that every child can learn, and with the help of tools such as the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence, students who might otherwise not graduate can turn their lives around.

Holliday told the story of watching a young lady in Statesville, North Carolina, who had two children and who had originally dropped out of high school, accept her high-school diploma.

“She was headed toward a life of drugs, crime, and public support,” said Holliday. “Our team [members] at [Baldrige Award recipient Iredell-Statesville] analyzed the data. They developed an approach for an alternative program. They built relationships with students and parents. They created day-to-day processes and capacity-building throughout the organization. The end result was that this young lady was the first in her family to graduate from high school, and a life headed toward hardship had been redirected toward a life filled with pride and productivity.”

Holliday said this systematic, data-driven approach to help this young lady and others like her was due to the school system’s use of the Baldrige Education Criteria. “I truly believe that children have benefited due to the Baldrige Criteria,” he said.

Now the commissioner of education in Kentucky, Holliday said that using a systemic and systematic approach, Kentucky became the first state in the nation to adopt common course standards that ensure benchmarking against international competitors.

“Kentucky was the first state to implement these standards, assess these standards, and get a waiver from [No Child Left Behind] based on these standards,” he said. “In the past, many students who graduated from high school in Kentucky had to take remediation courses in college. Only one in three kids were ready for college and careers. We’ve now raised that bar in Kentucky, and we’re going to double that percentage by 2015.”

Holliday also shared his experience attending Baldrige training and serving as an examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

“There were two things that I learned that I would never forget: ADLI and LeTCI [evaluation factors used by Baldrige examiners: approach-deployment-learning-integration and levels-trends-comparisons-integration]. So I used those throughout my career and use them today in education. We’re always looking for a silver bullet. We think if we just get a little bit more money or this new program in place, we can solve all of the academic problems of all of our children. But the only silver bullet I ever found was hard work; systemic, systematic approaches; and data-driven decision making. You have to have humility and feedback loops, and you’ve got to integrate what you learned throughout the K-12 system.”

At the conclusion of his Baldrige 25th-anniversary speech, Holliday said, “I thank you, the Baldrige community, for providing this educator and many like me, with inspiration, determination, knowledge, skills, and a firm belief that every child can achieve and have a brighter tomorrow.... So on behalf of the thousands of potential dropouts from Iredell-Statesville Schools who have graduated; on behalf of the hundreds of Special Education, African-American, and Hispanic children at Iredell-Statesville who have closed the achievement gap... and on behalf of 4,500 additional high-school graduates in the class of 2012 in Kentucky who graduated high school and were career ready, I say happy twenty-fifth, and I’ll see you all for the fiftieth.”

For me, this focus that each and every child can achieve and learn is as inspirational as it gets in education. What has been your inspiration for helping children learn?

This column first appeared June 18, 2013, on Blogrige. Reprinted with permission from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, Gaithersburg, MD.


About The Author

Dawn Bailey’s picture

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience (18 years at the Baldrige Program) working on publications and education teams. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.