The 2013 Baldrige Award-winning Pewaukee School District of Wisconsin began using the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework) at the prompting of a school board member, according to its superintendent, JoAnn Sternke. Larry Dux—then clerk of the Pewaukee School District Board of Education—was familiar with the Baldrige framework’s value to the business sector from his work.
Dux believed his school district could benefit just as for-profit organizations had from adopting a systems approach to improving its performance, among other Baldrige core concepts. He was right. As Sternke’s high-performing school system has since demonstrated, the Baldrige Education Criteria can be used as a self-assessment tool by a school and, better yet, the entire school system to improve performance in all key areas. Those include leadership and governance systems; strategic planning and development; approaches to engaging and supporting students, stakeholders, and employees; knowledge and data management as well as performance measurement; operations; and results.
Sternke and Liz Menzer—a longtime school board member and a leader in both Wisconsin’s Baldrige-based program and the nationwide network of local programs known as the Alliance for Performance Excellence—presented earlier this week on the Baldrige framework’s benefits to school boards at the 2016 annual meeting of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). I recently asked them to share some key information about their presentation for readers of the Baldrige blog.
As background, Sternke noted that NSBA has identified the following as core skill areas that effective boards of education need to ensure that all students achieve at high levels: vision, accountability, policy, community leadership, and relationships. “These five dovetail beautifully with the Baldrige framework,” said Sternke. “In fact, the Baldrige framework supports and makes these concepts become actionable. This is the focus of our presentation at the National School Board Association conference (held in Boston, April 9–11).”
When asked why school boards can find the Baldrige framework valuable, Menzer responded, “Ensuring that public education will meet emerging challenges requires a clear vision for the work and operations of school boards in the future. The Baldrige framework can help boards shape proactive strategies that make school board members more relevant, credible, and effective leaders of public education.”
Sternke and Menzer each shared examples of the value they described, based on their respective experiences in school communities in Wisconsin. “Using the Baldrige framework has helped our organization better utilize people, plan, and use processes to achieve [desired] results,” said Sternke. “Our board and our senior leaders clearly know their roles and their key work as we pursue our mission to open the door to each child’s future.”
For her part, Menzer said, “Using the framework has made us more data-driven, and this makes us better decision makers. It also makes us better ambassadors for public education because we can be less anecdotal and more factual about the good things going on in our public schools.”
Sternke and Menzer also provided their answers for three questions school boards are likely to ask about adopting the Baldrige framework, as follows:
1. Does adopting the Baldrige framework add more work for school boards?
Menzer: “No, it just organizes your work and provides focus.”
2. How do you get started?
Sternke: “The state-level, Baldrige-based programs of the Alliance (see link above) throughout the country can be great resources for educational leaders. In fact, Pewaukee School District got started with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, which is headed by Liz Menzer.”
3. What’s the board’s role and the superintendent’s role in pursuing school/district improvement?
Sternke and Menzer: “One of the nice things about using Key Work of School Boards along with the Baldrige Excellence Framework is that these resources provide clear direction about governance versus operations. The first clearly presents differing roles that superintendents and school board members hold in education organizations that function optimally.
These roles are supported by the Baldrige framework, which aligns the focus for all and also identifies the line between leadership (the work of senior leaders) and governance (the work of the board).”
Readers: To help your local school board get started using the Baldrige Excellence Framework, consider downloading and sharing copies of the following free resource containing sample Baldrige Criteria questions: http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/publications/baldrige_perspective.cfm
And please share how this or other Baldrige resources have helped your board of education and local schools improve and excel.