Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD

Introduction to Principal's Handbook

What is the purpose of the Baldrige Principal's Handbook?
How have the contents of the handbook been organized?
How should the handbook be used?
Considerations when using the handbook for Baldrige-guided school improvement planning

What is the purpose of the Baldrige Principal’s Handbook?

Building An Organizational Learning System: The Baldrige Principal's Handbook for Guiding the School Improvement Process

image of cover of handbookThe purpose of the handbook is to outline processes for school improvement planning, incorporating the Baldrige Categories for Performance Excellence and Core Values/Best Practices. This model builds upon a school improvement planning process already used in Montgomery County Public Schools (i.e., the 10-step process outlined by MSDE); however, by incorporating the requirements of the Baldrige Categories, along with the embedded Core Values/Best Practices, increased rigor is added to the school improvement planning process.

The Baldrige model outlines very specific requirements for processes that can be used to both develop and assess school improvement plans. The model also places significantly increased emphasis on the need for professional learning communities (PLC) or school learning systems (SLC), organizational development theory and practice, and systems thinking.

Other Elements of the Handbook

The handbook also:
  1. Aligns the best current research on organizational development with the Baldrige Criteria Education for Performance Excellence

  2. Applies the Baldrige Criteria as a framework for school improvement planning to achieve consistency (alignment) in school improvement planning among schools

  3. Integrates the Baldrige Categories with expectations or requirements of MCPS initiatives such as:

  4. Focuses on a leadership system rather than the leader; leadership is not the person but a system of leadership working in a culture of empowerment and collaboration to plan for school improvement and a school learning system/professional learning community

  5. Provides a framework or forum for building a professional learning community focused on school improvement among principals, Community Superintendents, and Directors of School Performance that allows for sharing of background knowledge/experiences and best practices to build capacity

  6. Addresses achievement for all students as the bottom line (results!) in strategic planning asking and answering the question, "What value for student achievement has been created by this process/system, program, approach, strategy, etc.?"

  7. Provides the means to conduct an analysis of processes and systems by asking and answering the following questions throughout the year:

    • What processes and systems do you/we have in place?
    • How do you/we know what is working and not working?

How have the contents of the handbook been organized?

Ch. 1: What is Baldrige? An Introduction

The handbook begins with an introduction to the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. This chapter:

  • provides an overview of Baldrige: definition of the criteria, core values, and categories
  • defines the purpose and rationale for using the Baldrige model
  • outlines the alignment with the Professional Growth System and with the effective schools research
  • describes how the handbook should be used

Ch. 2: Developing the School Culture

A strong school culture, based on collaboration and empowerment, provides the essential foundation for effective school improvement planning, focused on continuous improvement and performance excellence. This chapter:

  • provides the research/literature as background or rationale for developing the school culture;
  • outlines the building blocks in developing the culture of the school (e.g., vision, mission, Core Values/Best Practices; shared leadership, decision-making and accountability; professional learning community/school learning system).
  • provides the rationale for using the Baldrige Core Values/Best Practices as those research-based practices drawn from successful organizations.
  • emphasizes the importance of building a strong school culture to go hand-in-hand with the building of processes and systems if the goal of improved learning for all students is to be achieved
  • identifies actions to sustain what has been put in place or what has worked

Ch. 3: The Essentials of Baldrige-guided School/Office Improvement Planning

This chapter:
  • includes a linkages chart (197K PDF) with the essential “how” and “what” questions
  • provides the essential questions as the basic or priority category requirements of Baldrige-guided school improvement planning for school just beginning with Baldrige
  • includes Title I requirements, aligned with the Baldrige requirements so that Title I schools do not need to meet the same requirements twice.
  • includes the systems checks (237K PDF) to correspond with the essential questions as a self-monitoring tool asking the following questions:
    1. Do we have a system in place for determining this? What is it?
    2. If not, what systems will we put in place?

Ch. 4: Meeting the Requirements of the Baldrige Categories Related to School Improvement Planning

This chapter is organized around the seven Baldrige Categories and provides detailed guidance for meeting each requirement (i.e., the “how” or process questions). The ‘how’ or process questions are the outline of the table of contents for each category section: Each category section provides for the following:

  • Two expanded linkages charts:
  • A review of the literature and research supporting the category focus
  • The process for meeting the requirements of the category in developing a school improvement plan
  • A guide for meeting the requirements of each category:
    • If a school is working with only the essential questions, the corresponding sections from this chapter can be used as a resource.
    • For schools having met the requirements for the essential questions, the next steps or processes (questions) may be chosen or prioritized according to the school’s needs.

The handbook also includes:

  • A reference list
  • Appendices that consist of:
    • Information and explanations of processes that a school may use in its improvement planning process (e.g., Milestones, Data Points, and Targets Identified by the Strategic Plan for MCPS; a process for prioritizing goals and objectives; data-driven decision-making)
    • Examples from principals and schools for category requirements (e.g., school improvement plans, vision and mission statements, Professional Development Plans, effective meeting agendas, action plans, processes for monitoring student progress)
  • A glossary of the terminology used in the document
  • An index

How should the handbook be used?

Implementation of the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence in the school is about developing processes systematically and systemically in a culture of collaboration and empowerment. Therefore, the content of the handbook begins with a chapter on building a strong culture in the school, the foundation for effective school improvement planning. Sections of this chapter are designed to be interactive, providing the reader with reflective or self-assessment tools to provide a preliminary study of the culture of the school.

Building processes systematically and systemically is the focus of chapter three (The Essentials of Baldrige-guided School Improvement Planning) and chapter four, Meeting the Requirements of the Baldrige Categories Related to School Improvement Planning.

  • Schools that are in their initial stages of Baldrige implementation may chose to focus on the Baldrige Essentials in chapter three, using the Baldrige category sections in chapter four as a resource.
  • Schools well into the implementation of Baldrige requirements can use the category sections in Chapter 4 for increasing their knowledge and experiences with the Baldrige requirements of each category. Each category section is designed with sufficient explanation so that a principal having experience with Baldrige-guided school improvement planning can use each individual section as a resource. On the other hand, the principal must remember that the categories are linked to enhance alignment and integration. If the categories are implemented in isolation of each other, the power of the model is lost. .
  • Both chapters also include systems checks for the categories that provide schools with a self-assessment tool to determine the extent to which systems have been put in place to sustain each category
A review of the literature and research that validate the Baldrige Education Categories as a research-based and proven model is included in each category section. Staff members may wish to use this resource or the quotations when introducing the Baldrige-guided school improvement planning process to the staff and community, when explaining the rationale for developing the school culture and systems, or when planning an agenda for a meeting.

Overall, the handbook should be seen as a work in progress. It is presented in a loose-leaf binder so that additional resources can be added in time. The handbook should provide adequate assistance to help a school create a positive school culture and implement Baldrige processes. Because each school will have its own journey with Baldrige, it is expected that, in time, a myriad of resources will be available to a school as it begins to see the many possibilities for implementation specific to the school’s needs. There will be many opportunities for a school to receive or share such resources through study groups, the Baldrige web site, etc., that can be included in the handbook.

Considerations when using the handbook for school improvement planning

1. It is important to analyze and prioritize what the school needs to work on first and foremost. Do not try to do it all at one time. This model may take years to implement. The focus should be on continuous improvement of what you are currently doing and then defining, designing, and deploying those next steps (processes) that will to take you forward toward performance excellence.

2. The handbook is a work in progress and is not meant to be the definitive or final word on school improvement planning. It is a jump-off point from which Community Superintendents, Directors of School Performance and principals, working creatively and collaboratively, will add their knowledge and experiences to further define the category requirements and the positive attributes of school culture during quad-cluster meetings and other meetings. (Note the “Other” space following each category question for noting additional ideas and the interactive formats in the culture chapter.)

3. To gain a collective understanding of the "essentials" of school improvement planning, all schools, regardless of cohort, may wish to visit the essentials. Check the linkages charts from which you are working; check the titles of the categories and the how/what (process/content) questions. These have not changed significantly in content; however, the wording has been clarified in the spirit of continuous improvement.

4. The Baldrige framework focuses on the development of well-defined, well-designed, and well-deployed processes. Check your plans for processes and systems. If you have noted tasks or activities in your SIP, develop these into processes and/or systems. (Systems checks have been included to conduct ‘gap analyses.’)

Related Topics in Baldrige for Leadership

November 23, 2010 | Maintained by Web Services | Content Manager: Michael Perich