A systems approach to school improvement : the identification and prioritization of core educational processes using the Baldrige quality criteria as an improvement framework for high-performing schools
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The purpose of this study was to identify and prioritize core processes of using total quality management theory as outlined in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Education. School systems are complex organizations with complex social, technical, and managerial sub-systems. To achieve and maintain high performance, school districts require sophisticated leadership to manage the complexities of the system and its processes. The premise of this study was that by identifying and prioritizing highyield core processes in the educational system using quality management principles, school district leadership could remove barriers inhibiting highperformance. To examine this premise, two quality-driven school districts were studied to identify and prioritize their core educational processes using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Education. The unit of analysis for this study was the district. Therefore, district-level systems and processes were studied and district leaders were interviewed.. Results of this study indicate that leaders in quality-driven school districts may use the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Education to develop a “blueprint” for systemic improvement and support the following conclusions: 1. Systemic improvement begins with understanding the system, its components, and its underlying processes. 2. Senior leadership commitment at the district level is necessary to implement quality management. 3. The principle of shared leadership and building leadership capacity throughout the organization must be adopted. 4. Quality management requires a focus and dependence on the use of data to make informed, aligned decisions. 5. Students should be active participants in their teaching-learning processes rather than passive recipients. 6. Alignment of processes and initiatives requires coordination and focus based on strategic planning. 7. A commitment to training and learning at all levels of the organization is necessary for adoption of the quality philosophy. 8. Use of the Baldrige criteria in school districts requires understanding of the underlying principles of quality management. 9. Leaders in quality-driven school districts may use the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Education, and with a research base such as the Effective Schools Research and Total Quality Management, develop a “blueprint” for systemic improvement.