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Leaders From Various Sectors Exchange Ideas To Improve Education

There is no shortage of ideas for how to improve education. But the key to making any of them work is implementation.

"It's process, process, process," said C. Jackson Grayson, chairman of the American Productivity & Quality Center, at a Global Education Roundtable his organization hosted at the National Education Association in Washington today. The nonprofit based in Houston, Texas, hosted the gathering of government, education, military, business, and health-care leaders to discuss the importance of process and performance management in transforming education at all levels. Some participated by video conference from remote locations around the world.

APQC was founded by Grayson more than 30 years ago and works with a variety of organizations to share best practices. The idea behind today's event was to allow education leaders to benefit from exposure to various industries and spur collaboration.

Grayson encouraged education leaders to examine how they are doing business, to develop flow charts for their various procedures, and to look for ways to operate more efficiently. "There is a huge amount of waste in education," said Grayson. There are too many meetings, too much email, and too much waiting for layers of administrators to approve simple orders, he said.

"It isn't just the people on top that need to change. It's every level," said Grayson. "You have to enlist the support of everybody in the the organization, even the students."

Once people draw a process map, it becomes clear where things can be streamlined and good leaders then can get people on board to make improvements, said Grayson.

"Decisions are not implementation There is a gap between knowing and doing," he said. "The way to learn is to talk to people who have done it and are enthused about it."

Michael Perich shared his experience working as a consultant for systemwide continuous improvement at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, the 16th largest school system in the country. Over the past three years, the system has had to cut $400 million from its $2.1 billion budget. With students from 164 countries and no raises for teachers in the past three years, it has been challenging, but Perich said that test scores are up, and the achievement gap between minority and white students is narrowing.

Perich pointed to a number of initiatives that have used data and new models to save the county money and improve productivity. For instance, there is a new approach to streamline the way the district routes requests from schools for extra supports. Teachers also have the option of sending their materials to a central copy center, which save them time.

To reduce building operation costs, the county has turned out lights when not in use and become more energy efficient. To provide benchmarks toward achievement, Montgomery County developed the 7 Keys to College Readiness that sets goals beginning in kindergarten and through middle and high school.

"We have to be as efficient and effective as possible because we are using taxpayer money," said Perich. "It's amazing stuff. It's simple—we're building good processes."

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