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Departments: Quality Applications

Rexam Beverage Cans Packed With Quality


Back to School: Teachers, Students Learn Quality


Back to School: Teachers, Students Learn Quality
PQ Systems Training and Consulting Services

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 to swell.

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:

Data-driven goals

Professional learning

Cycle review/purposeful sharing

Human/fiscal resources

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