Saturday, May 24, 2014

How to improve Education?

This post is a deviation from my usual.  It is written in response to Julia McIntosh who put forward a June question for ASQ Influential Voices.  Enjoy.

One of the advantages of participating in ASQ is that it crosses all the industry and professional borders.  In ASQ we have the opportunity to think about and apply our common interest of Quality in the broadest variety of subjects and situations.  I think we call that being engaged in the world around us.

My personal interest in Education is much more at the adult end of the scale and in particular continuing education in the arena of healthcare.  To be honest, my kids are well beyond school age, and when they were involved in school, my wife was much more engaged than me.  It would be far to say that I am not an expert or an authority in the area of Quality and primary and secondary Education.  But that does not mean that I am without opinion.

Being from Canada, I am pleased with our record of OECD performance, but also recognize that we too have a ways-to-go to improve our schools.  In comparison to the United States, I note that on the aggregate Canadian schools and students do better, but as an observer of successes of the American side of my family (my mother was from Kentucky) I think that it is probably still true that our education performance falls within a fairly narrow band, above the OECD average, while the US performance is much broader with more higher peaks and and unfortunately more lower valleys. 

OECD indicates some strong correlates with educational performance.  The ones that jump out in the most recent The OECD Programme For International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2009 [see:] at me are:

1.    Socioeconomic background of students and schools does appear to have a powerful influence on performance.
2.    Regardless of their own socio-economic background, students attending schools with a socio-economically advantaged intake tend to perform better than those attending schools with more disadvantaged peers.
3.    Across OECD countries, first-generation students – those who were born outside the country of assessment and who also have foreign-born parents – score, on average, 52 score points below students without an immigrant background
4.    Successful school systems – those that perform above average and show below-average socio-economic inequalities – provide all students, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, with similar opportunities to learn.
5.    Schools with better disciplinary climates, more positive behaviour among teachers and better teacher-student relations tend to achieve higher scores in reading.
And in my mind, most importantly…
6.    In all countries, students who enjoy reading the most perform significantly better than students who enjoy reading the least.

My first comment here is that from the OECD perspective, there is a lot of room for finger pointing at those who design and administer education, those who work within it and students and their families.  Put in the terms of ISO and Crosby, Education does not appear to be "meeting requirements" for many, or perhaps, hardly anyone.  

And maybe within that group there are some apathetic students and teachers and administrators who think that “good enough” is indeed good enough, but on first glance the issues seem to be a lot bigger and maybe a little less petty. 

The message to me is that large and powerful structural issues abound with socioeconomic statues, single parents, ESL, teacher engagement, and the student desire to read. 

And that is what concerns me.    The aforementioned are “big ticket items” that require and demand a lot of thought on how to address and focus on better schools, better teachers, more societal wealth stable families and more engaged students who love to read. 

These are not issues that Qualitologists are going to solve. 

These are big issues that must be addressed in the arena of engaged and honest brokers; debate devoid of party politics, and unions, and media bias.  These are not the sort of issues that go away tomorrow, or next month.  OECD measures time in decades and multiple decades, and that makes sense to me.  This is about LONG TERM commitment and resources and vision. This requires acknowledgement that “Baby Steps” are part of an important path forward, but certainly not  the goal. 

So upon reflection, maybe Michelle Rhee is part of the solution.  Maybe the first step has to be the understanding that “success” will ONLY be found when we understand acknowledge demand and accept that “Good Enough” will never be good enough.  

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