School districts in six states Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio, and Texasare piloting a new grant program to improve teaching and academic performance in K-16 environments.
The program, known as the Baldrige in Education Initiative (BiE IN), uses technology and other tools to apply the “total quality management” principles of former U.S. Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige to education.
“The Baldrige framework has to do with innovation and creating rapid change through agile processes,” said Laura Longmire, a staff member of the American Productivity and Quality Council (APQC), an administrator of the BiE IN program. “We are seeking to support schools that are trying to become more agile and are using advanced tools to do it.” APQC is providing grants and quality-control experts to help school administrators learn to use technology to get instant feedback about student performance, make better decisions about curriculum, and improve school performance.
School districts in the six states chosen for the pilot are working with 26 national education and business organizations to implement systemic change in education. Activities funded by the grants include regular organizational assessments and benchmarking; extensive training, support, and networking; and implementing best practices.
BiE IN is leveraging educational and technology grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and state funds, often passed through from federal programs, to help school districts improve performance. Some of the pilot projects are multimillion-dollar efforts, though the most recent project BiE IN facilitated is a grant of $100,000 to the Tennessee Department of Education for 10 low-performing high schools.
Participants in the pilot programs are using technology to track student progress more rapidly and with more detail than is typically available in most school districts. As an example, the Houston Independent School Districtperhaps the most prominent BiE IN success story to dateuses a sophisticated database, known as Profiler, that takes aggregated test score data and disaggregates it along demographic categories.
“The Profiler database can analyze scores by grade, class, student [grade] level, and many types of socioeconomic demographics, “said Longmire. “It’s easy to see which students are not achieving key objectives and …to understand why. You can adjust teaching methods if another group of students [is] performing better.”
Technology plays a critical role in helping educators and administrators see what is working in schools, “based on fact, not intuition,” said Longmire. “It helps identify best practices in successful classrooms, as well as locate poor-performing classes.”
In other BiE IN pilot programs, technology is being used directly in the classroom. One Houston high school has created a sophisticated home page on the web that provides an extensive array of school-related and general information. A grant from one of the founders of Texas Instruments helped build the web site.
In another pilot program, an educational products provider working with BiE IN is developing a series of CD-ROMs that help track students’ progress and graph their achievements for teachers’ instant reference.
BiE IN also works with already-available online resources, such as Lightspan’s and IBM’s education web sites. “Knowledge-sharing through the web is critical for educators,” said Longmire.