Malcolm Baldrige, the late Secretary of Commerce under President Reagan, “started a competition for companies that involved management and workers alike in a relentless drive for quality and customer satisfaction . . . Winning the Baldrige became the most prestigious honor in American business, and the systematic effort to set organizational goals and measure progress became pervasive.”
— David S. Broder, The Washington Post, July 14, 1999
Congress created the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 1987 to recognize U.S. companies and organizations for their achievements in quality and performance, and to raise awareness about the power of quality management to tap the full potential of American businesses. In 1998 Congress authorized an expansion of the award to include educational institutions. School districts are beginning to apply for Baldrige Awards, and though a few have reached finalist status, none have received this highly competitive honor to date. The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) sponsored a forum on Capitol Hill to inform policymakers and educators about the lessons that schools have learned in striving to meet the criteria of the Baldrige Award.
Our first speaker was Peggy Siegel, the Director of Business/Education Initiatives for the National Alliance of Business (NAB). Siegel discussed NAB’s partnership with the American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) in forming the Baldrige in Education Initiative (BiE IN—pronounced “buy in”) in 1999. The twenty-six leading companies and educational organizations that make up BiE IN have spurred a nationwide reform effort using the Baldrige Award criteria to raise student achievement. Award nominees are judged on leadership, strategic planning, data collection and analysis, human resource development, and results. These criteria, according to Siegel, respect the capacity of front-line teaching staff and students to improve the quality of their own educational institutions given clear goals and sufficient data.
Educators and their business partners who have tried to follow the Baldrige criteria in reforming schools echo Siegel’s claims for the potential of quality management. Brenda Clark, Principal of Azalea Elementary School and Doug Smith, Principal of Osceola High School, work in the Pinellas County School District in Florida. In striving to meet the Baldrige criteria, the Pinellas District won Florida’s Sterling Award for quality in education. Clark and Smith spoke about how these business techniques and quality management strategies actually work on the educational front lines.
At Azalea Elementary, the Baldrige strategies invested teachers and students in the reform process and the standards movement. According to Principal Clark, teachers and students now create classroom data systems to measure and foster academic success. When asked how the school approached behavior management, Clark described helping the students create bar graphs to chart bus referrals for bad behavior, so that they could analyze and learn from the buses that maintained order and ran smoothly. This and other quality management techniques contributed to a 20% increase in student test scores at Azalea over a two-year period. The rise in student achievement convinced Lisa Deprez, who works with Azalea’s business partner, the Raytheon Corporation, to transfer her son to Azalea from another public school that is considered “elite,” but is not quality driven.
For Osceola High School’s principal, Doug Smith, the use of the business strategies and quality management techniques in the Baldrige criteria was a tough sell. But Smith has been recently converted with the help of Osceola’s business partners, people like Star Glock, Staffing Specialist at GTE. GTE won the Baldrige Award for its business practices in 1994, and the educational arm of the award inspired the company to partner with Osceola High School after several graduates with the equivalent of 9th grade skills applied for GTE’s entry level positions. GTE helped Osceola collect data on achievement and target areas where quality management could improve student success. According to Principal Smith, the data and quality management strategies helped align expectations of success for business leaders, school administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Along with the help collecting data, GTE also hosted hundreds of Osceola students at the company offices for training in effective business practices and helped a smaller group create a student-run greeting card company. These efforts by GTE and the students and staff at Osceola paid off. The business partnership and Baldrige criteria helped increase student pass rates from 68% to 84% on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in mathematics and 61% to 78% on the FCAT in reading between 1998 and 1999.
The addition of an educational component to the Baldrige Award has already begun to have a positive impact on schools. In part, this is due to the healthy injection of old fashioned business acumen in educational reform strategies. The Baldrige Award’s educational arm has also fostered a new attitude in the business community toward school partnerships and brought recognition to the role of young people as critical actors in developing their own educational experiences. These new strategies and partnerships hold exciting potential for improving the quality of American education.
This brief is from an American Youth Policy Forum held on April 28, 2000 on Capitol Hill as reported by Steve Estes.
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Peggy Siegel, Ph.D.
Business/Education Leadership Initiatives
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