Back to School: Teachers, Students Learn Quality
PQ Systems Training and Consulting
Although much is made of quality
initiatives in the manufacturing industry, the movement
is also chipping away at the often-flawed edifice of educational
methodology. Vision systems and laser scanners track component
assembly on production lines from the beginning to the end,
but similar systems are unavailable to ensure that a sixth-grader
has completed his math homework. Instead, many students
are subjected to a traditional pre-test/post-test routine,
which gauges the effectiveness of an educational regimen
by comparing initial and eventual knowledge levels. Not
all schools are content with this educational crapshoot,
however. At Pekin Public School 108 in Pekin, Illinois,
the tide has turned and a qualitative sea change continues
Pam Rosa, the principal at Pekin 108, already had a handful
of quality tools in her arsenal when she began working with
PQ Systems’ trainer Sally Duncan several years ago.
What she didn’t have--and what her institution lacked--was
a verified improvement cycle within which to implement those
tools. Pekin 108 displayed all of the earmarks for potential
quality resurgence: an enthusiastic staff, buy-in from the
superintendent and room for improvement. Duncan and PQ Systems
brought the school the plan-do-study-act system.
The PDSA process puts a new spin on the concept of “no
child left behind.” The foundation of the process
requires constant supervision of progress, thereby eliminating
surprise failures that show up only after it’s too
late. In addition to the instructors, students were required
to record and report their own progress, a practice that
facilitates personal initiative and a sense of responsibility.
Before students began tracking their advancement, Pekin
teachers worked to standardize their metrics for success.
“Unless you’ve operationally defined your data,
your conclusions are unreliable,” states Duncan. During
the first year of Pekin’s quality efforts, the district
aligned its core objectives with Illinois state standards.
Written in educational, jargon-free statements for students
and parents, the district objectives were then operationally
defined to provide instructional clarity. Instructors and
administrators delineated improvement targets in the areas
of reading comprehension, writing, math problem solving,
middle school teaming and study skills, among others.
Teams from the school met with Duncan regularly to establish
a customized improvement plan within the PDSA framework.
Duncan ensured that key system requirements were met in
each improvement plan, including:
Cycle review/purposeful sharing
A step-by-step process action plan
Like many other organizations, the district had been using
Microsoft Excel as its lead data tool due to its ubiquity.
Duncan introduced Pekin to CHARTrunner, a program from PQ
Systems that charts data from Excel files. With the new
software, users at Pekin were able to track Excel data through
a variety of means, including line and bar charts and Pareto
and scatter diagrams. Suddenly, the grades that had formerly
existed only as numbers on a spreadsheet now linked to provide
a tangible illustration of each student’s progress,
including learning patterns, tendencies and anomalies.
When Pekin students were presented with bar charts of
word recognition skills throughout the year, teachers asked
how many words they recognized from the standardized word
list. In September, the average was one. By November, recognition
was up to 19. For the winter cycle, recognition included
all 45 words. With help from PQ Systems and the dedication
of their teachers, students know not only where they started
the year and where they ended it but also how they got there.
PQ Systems Training and Consulting Services
- Customized training emphasis
- Data-driven analysis
- Seven-step process based on PDSA
- Continued implementation support