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Quality Digest

Quality Insider

Administrators Grow Quality in Schools

Published: Monday, September 13, 2004 - 22:00

School administrators looking for ways to meet tough federal requirements have found a new ally in a rather unlikely place—the quality profession.

The need for continual improvement is familiar to quality professionals, but it’s relatively new to the education community. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in early 2002, includes requirements for school districts to have improvement plans and processes. That’s where the American Society for Quality comes in.

ASQ’s Koalaty Kid division recently started consulting with school districts looking to both meet federal requirements and improve the quality of their administrative processes. The results have been dramatic.

“The training approach really gives (administrators) the ability to focus on the root causes of problems and the ways to fix them in the short term and the long term,” ASQ education market manager Suzanne Keely says.

The training uses W. Edwards Deming’s plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle to show administrators how to get to the root causes of problems. It’s often foreign to them until they see the benefits the methodology brings.

“Instead of using improvement tools in isolation, it shows them how all of their processes can be improved,” explains Keely. “A lot of administrators tell me that they used to have meetings, flowchart a problem and then go out and fix certain things to solve it. But the PDSA cycle is different. It’s not just random acts of improvement.”

More school districts are interested in quality training since the No Child Left Behind act was passed and as knowledge of the Baldrige criteria has spread. Additionally, the 2003 Baldrige Award win by Community Consolidated School District 15, of Palatine, Illinois, made quality principles more visible in education. The district, which started using the Baldrige criteria nine years ago, after its then-superintendent met with executives from Motorola, uses a stakeholder-driven quality effort and the PDSA cycle to establish student performance targets. The process-oriented thinking allowed the district to meet or exceed every one of them.

“It hasn’t been easy to meet the requirements we’ve set for ourselves, but the results are outstanding,” says Bob Tenczar, CCSD 15 communications director. “We just decided that if we really wanted to improve, we would use the same processes as some of the best companies in the business world.”

Since its Baldrige win, the district has been overwhelmed with requests for information from other school districts about the process. CCSD 15 administrators have been all over the country talking to other districts about the process, but there was still so much interest that CCSD 15 hosted two information sharing days in the spring to accommodate all the requests. It plans to hold a third day in December.

ASQ’s Koalaty Kid training is available in seminars and/or six-day on-site training, where consultants create a customized PDSA cycle for the district.

“[Quality improvement] principles are very powerful tools in the education industry,” Keely says. “You have to see what needs to be changed before you can show improvements, and Deming’s approach works.”

For more information, visit www.ccsd15.net or www.asq.org/edu/kkid.

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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.