APQC: Process management can improve education


• Public Training: Face-to-face and virtual courses relating to all aspects of PPM.

• Benchmarking: Identifying and comparing data and best practices within a district and with other schools.

• Communities of Practice: A virtual networking tool that lets districts collaborate on ideas and support.

• Process Maturity Model: A framework that allows for assessment of the participant’s own PPM system.

• PPM Knowledge Base: An online education database that acts as a repository but also is a vehicle for collaboration and learning.

School leaders should identify who can influence a process positively and negatively, and Grayson said strong leadership is essential from the very beginning. “We don’t let any district [participate] in which the superintendent is not involved enough to know what’s happening,” he said.

The North Star Project includes face-to-face coaching, but Grayson hopes to move to virtual coaching in the future. APQC is a nonprofit organization, but it does require varying financial assistance from participating districts. However, schools will receive a refund if they fail to identify cost savings during process evaluations.

Everything in a school district, including bus schedules and cafeteria service, is somehow related to student achievement, Grayson said.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he wants to move the focus from only outcomes to include work on the process by which schools achieve those outcomes.

Districts pilot the process–and realize substantial cost savings

From January to March 2009, APQC launched a year-long North Star pilot project in 11 districts across nine states. Each district assembled project teams, received PPM training, and selected projects that the district wanted to implement. Teams received face-to-face and virtual coaching while they outlined and put plans into action. Projects included new construction, common math assessments, reducing textbook order errors, and creating a teacher evaluation system.

In November 2009, all participating districts met in Houston to share lessons learned and results of their projects.

Laura Ascione

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