The district that I work for is now in it's third year or so of implementing a systems approach to continuous improvement that is grounded in the Baldrige criteria.  I found this article interesting.

Baldrige and the Assault on Our Schools

March 14th, 2011 • Related • Filed Under

The effort to weaken teachers’ unions in Wisconsin, which was supposedly about balancing a budget until the bill that passed limited collective bargaining without doing a thing to cut costs, raises a bigger question for all American schools that is not going to go away: Why should we spend more money on education when the money we’ve been spending is not producing results?

According to the Broad Foundation, a national entrepreneurial philanthropy dedicated to transforming urban public education, 68% of American 8th graders can’t read at grade level (and most will never catch up) and 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year. American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science compared to students in 30 industrialized countries. The national high school graduation rate is 70%.

Some argue that the problem is that we have not been spending enough on education. World-class school systems in other countries spend more on teacher salaries and provide more time for staff development than most systems in the U.S., and they produce better results (i.e., Korea, Finland, Singapore, China, New Zealand, Netherlands, and others). I just read that teachers in Singapore are paid more than doctors and lawyers.

That’s not going to happen in this country. Most people think we’re already spending too much on education, especially for the results we’re getting. For American schools to succeed, they will have to do more with less. They will have to provide social and economic support for students who do not get it at home. They will have to teach to the tests mandated by No Child Left Behind. Individual teachers will have to help 30 students or more in a classroom make progress despite significant differences in intelligence, emotional state, economic disadvantages, parent apathy, and other pressures. It is a very difficult job for average pay in the face of daily attacks, such as those by the misguided governor of Wisconsin, that only make the job harder.

It’s too bad more states and school systems haven’t discovered Baldrige. School systems that integrate Baldrige deliver the kinds of results we all want from our public schools. Case in point: Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, which won the Baldrige Award in 2010.

In an interview for the American Association of School Administrators (available here), Superintendent Jerry Weast notes that, since 1999, the number of students receiving free and reduced-priced meals in his district has increased by more than 57% while the number of students who don’t speak English as their first language has more than doubled. Yet despite these changes—changes that are common across the country—MCPS has the highest graduation rate among the nation’s large school districts. From 2007 to 2010 it improved Adequate Yearly Progress in reading for all subgroups, lowered its class sizes, increased parent satisfaction to 87%, and raised employee satisfaction above 90%.

So it can be done, and Baldrige provides a proven path. To see what Baldrige Award-winning school districts have accomplished, check out their profiles and application summaries here. To learn more about MCPS, click on these articles:

A Role Model for Public Education

Integrating Baldrige Big Time

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