Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has been named the winner of the state’s most prestigious award for organizational performance excellence—the U.S. Senate Productivity Award.
Senator Paul Sarbanes announced the award during a luncheon on March 14 at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
The award is given to the organization or business in the state that best exemplifies the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—a management philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement in the constant pursuit of excellence. Baldrige organizations empower their leaders to take ownership and responsibility for performance, extensively use data in an effort to improve, and value the input of stakeholders when making decisions.
“I extend my heartiest congratulations to Montgomery County Public Schools for this outstanding and distinguished recognition,” said Senator Paul S. Sarbanes. “Those within MCPS strive for excellence every day in educating our future generations. Their work is a testament to the very ideals embodied in this award.”
To be considered for this award, organizations must submit an extraordinarily detailed report answering more than 200 questions, as well as participate in an arduous interview process.
Only School System to Win the Award
MCPS is the largest employer in Maryland and the only school system to ever win this award. MCPS is also the largest school system to win this level of award in the 41 states across the nation that give a similar award.
“This award is a well-deserved honor for the women and men of MCPS who have helped us achieve so much and who wake up every day dedicated to making our great school system even better,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “That’s what Baldrige is all about—continuous improvement. Baldrige helps everybody understand that you can get better over time, that you can grow and learn from mistakes, and that if you stay focused, you can achieve great things.”
The Baldrige framework includes seven criteria: leadership; strategic planning; student, stakeholder, and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; faculty and staff focus; process management; and organizational performance results.
In the application process and the subsequent on-site visit by an independent examiner team, MCPS had to demonstrate its fulfillment of these seven criteria to be considered for the state’s highest honor.
MCPS began using the Baldrige Criteria as a management tool five years ago in numerous departments and is expanding it to all of the central administration. Baldrige is also being implemented in schools. So far, 86 schools have been trained in the Baldrige methods. The remaining schools will be trained by 2006.
“Montgomery County Public Schools sets the bar for successful school systems both in Maryland and the nation,” said Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. “One of the primary reasons we are so successful is that we have embraced the Baldrige model for continuous improvement. Other school systems and organizations would do well to study the MCPS success story and learn from it in true Baldrige spirit.”
The Waters Landing Experience
Consider the example of Waters Landing Elementary School in Germantown. The school began using Baldrige in 2001 and students now take greater ownership for their learning. An observer is likely to see students perusing their own data notebooks to monitor their performance against their goals.
Classrooms are complete with mission statements, flow charts, and data display boards so that students and teachers always know where they stand in their journey of continuous improvement. It is not uncommon to find a classroom teacher alter a lesson to PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act, in Baldrige terminology) a problem that arises in class. The PDSA model helps the class create a plan to solve a problem, implement a solution, and then study its effectiveness.
“These elementary school students are doing at their level what CEOs of major corporations wish they could get their MBAs to do in terms of problem solving,” said Dr. Weast. “Baldrige is not only helping us improve as a system, it’s preparing these youngsters for success in life.”
In addition to the students, parents and staff regularly monitor academic, attendance, and behavioral data and collaborate on ways to make improvements at the school.
Students eagerly share their results and discuss how Baldrige has helped them improve their academic performance. As one student put it, “When I look at my goals and graphs, it’s cool to see how much I’ve improved.”