School & District Management

Pilot Project Will Enable Districts to Compare Effectiveness

By Lynn Olson — March 01, 2005 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nearly two dozen districts soon will be able to compare the effectiveness and efficiency with which they assess student achievement, recruit and select teachers, and manage their information-technology systems, thanks to a pilot project launched by the Houston-based American Productivity and Quality Center.

The Open Standards Benchmarking Collaborative for education will enable 22 districts across the United States to frame common terms and definitions for how they collect data in core areas related to both their instructional and management practices. The three areas targeted for the pilot were identified by the districts as top priorities that have a significant effect on student achievement, and for which they could collect measurable data.

Over the next year, the center’s staff will design surveys to collect qualitative and quantitative data from the participating districts. The information will be validated and “blinded” to protect the name of each district, and then entered into a database that is accessible to all districts in the pilot. Each district will receive reports that compare its performance with the mean, median, and top performer for each process examined.

The focus will be on cost-effectiveness; staff productivity, such as the number of full-time employees needed to produce a student transcript; process efficiency, such as error rates; and cycle time, such as the duration of time from a job posting to the acceptance of a job offer.

A similar database will enable districts to see how they measure up to some of the nation’s leading businesses, as well as government agencies, and health-care organizations, where the processes are similar, including such companies as IBM, Shell Oil, and Bank of America.

BRIC ARCHIVE

“Business, governmental, and health-care organizations have known for years that if you are to improve outcomes, you must improve processes,” said Jack Grayson, the chairman and chief executive officer of the productivity center, a nonprofit group with more than 12 years of experience in benchmarking best practices in the corporate and government sectors.

“But most education systems do not have useful process measures and metrics,” he said, “nor do they compare with others to see gaps and learn best practices to close the gaps.”

Working Better, Faster

Through the standards-benchmarking research, Mr. Grayson said, educators can ask where the same work is being done better, faster, or with fewer dollars, and learn how they could do it that way, too.

BRIC ARCHIVE

“We really haven’t had an opportunity or an avenue through which to do very standardized benchmarking within our own industry, within education,” said Tricia Kennedy, the executive director for curriculum and instruction in the 136,000-student Gwinnett County, Ga., school system, one of the districts participating in the pilot.

Like some of the other participants, Gwinnett County had been involved in a voluntary consortium, the Educational Benchmarking Network, that tried to share information across school systems, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions.

“That effort was essentially a homegrown effort by the participating districts, totally supported by them,” said James S. Johnson Jr., a special-projects administrator for the 165,000-student Fairfax County, Va., public schools, another participant in the APQC project. “It took a lot of effort on the part of individual members, and it was just difficult to maintain, difficult to even develop a really comprehensive set of measures that we could work with.”

A similar network, the Western States Benchmarking Consortium, has been active in the Western region of the country. Other districts were asked to take part in the pilot because they had won or were finalists for the Broad Foundation Prize for Urban Education, are part of the Public Education Leadership Project at Harvard University, had won or applied for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award or a similar state quality award, or had been recommended by others.

Time Commitment

The productivity center has committed $400,000 in seed money for the pilot. The 22 districts are not being charged a fee, but they must commit the time to complete surveys on up to 10 processes, or about 15 hours per survey. Mr. Grayson said his organization hopes to raise another $3.4 million in support of the endeavor. After the pilot year, the center hopes to make the collaborative self-sufficient through a combination of subscriptions to the database, membership, licenses, and fees for services.

Founded in 1977, the APQC is a member-based nonprofit serving about 500 organizations worldwide, mostly in the corporate sector. It works with member organizations to identify best practices, discover effective methods for improvement, and disseminate that knowledge both within and across organizations.

Participating school districts are: Aldine, Brazosport, Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Galena Park, Galveston, and Houston, in Texas; Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties, in Maryland; Boston, in Massachusetts; Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Pinellas County, in Florida; Clark County, in Nevada; Cobb and Gwinnett counties, in Georgia; Fairfax County, in Virginia; Lake Washington, in Washington state; Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz County, in California; Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania; and Wake County, in North Carolina.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 02, 2005 edition of Education Week as Pilot Project Will Enable Districts to Compare Effectiveness

Events

Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial
Jobs January 2022 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Proven Strategies to Improve Reading Scores
In this webinar, education and reading expert Stacy Hurst will provide a look at some of the biggest issues facing curriculum coordinators, administrators, and teachers working in reading education today. You will: Learn how schools
Content provided by Reading Horizons

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management From Principals, a Primer on Delivering Bad News
COVID and the upheavals of the last two years have raised the ante on often-emotional conversations with staff and parents.
9 min read
Conceptual image of balanced weighing the pros and cons.
Cagkan Sayin/iStock
School & District Management Opinion If You Can’t Maintain an Initiative, Maybe You Shouldn’t Do It
Schools are often really good at finding new initiatives to implement but aren't always good at maintaining. Here's a model to consider.
5 min read
Screen Shot 2022 01 21 at 7.57.56 AM
Shutterstock
School & District Management Schools Are Desperate for Substitutes and Getting Creative
Now in the substitute-teacher pool: parents, college students, and the National Guard.
10 min read
Zackery Kimball, a substitute teacher at Bailey Middle School, works with two classes of students at the school's theater hall on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in Las Vegas. Many schools have vacant teaching and/or support staff jobs and no available substitutes to cover day-to-day absences.
Zackery Kimball, a substitute teacher at Bailey Middle School in Las Vegas, works with two classes of students at the school's theater hall on a Friday in December 2021.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP
School & District Management 3 Ways School Districts Can Ease the Pain of Supply Chain Chaos
Have a risk management plan, pay attention to what's happening up the supply chain, and be adaptable when necessary.
3 min read
Cargo Ship - Supply Chain with products such as classroom chairs, milk, paper products, and electronics
iStock/Getty Images Plus