Either in the case of designing a training program or for the purpose of being included in a book such as the one you are holding in your hands, my criteria for selecting a particular case study can be for a handful of reasons.
First, is the information presented by the case study creditable? The information has to be creditable in that it is believable by the reader. Does the information align with the life experiences of the reader? Are the facts something that the reader can comprehend?
Second, does the case study present verifiable examples of strategies that can be used in your classroom or administration? Is the information able to be supported by the general public if an inquiry were made?
Third, does the case study present both actions and strategies that are repeatable and can be taken into your classroom? Without an elaborate effort, can you take these concepts and apply them in your world?
It is rare that you find a case study example that truly this all three criteria to the fullest. The Menomonee Falls School District fully meets these three criteria. The district actually fulfills the criteria both in the transformed classroom and the transformed administration. As a result, the school district case study is presented in two parts. The rest is the use of the toolbox in the transformed classroom discussed in the current chapter.
Menomonee Falls is a community located in the suburbs of Milwaukee with a population of 35,828 residents. The school district services a student population of 4,019 students.
What I advocated in Part 1 was that to use the TLS Continuum toolbox, you had to see the problem, feel the problem, and create the new normal. In 2007, the school district saw the problem when the Milwaukee Magazine ran its annual best schools report and identified the Menomonee Falls School District as one of the most underperforming school districts in the Milwaukee metro area. The district was plagued by tightening budgets and a changing education environment in the state as a whole. The result was that the school board determined that they needed to change the focus of the district. One of those changes was an endeavor to bring business improvement methodology into the school district at all levels. This change required a different view of education. It meant that instead of a staid view of the world, the schools had to look at the classroom as a business with anticipated outcomes. It required the school administration to view the classroom as a system rather than a unique entity. To further help this change along in 2011, the district hired Patricia Fagan Greco from the West Bend Joint School District #1.
Her mandate from the board was to bring this new methodology to all facets of the district from the classroom to the front office.
The basis of any successful continuous process improvement effort is the upfront education that is provided to the organization. It needs to explain not only what the change is but also why the change is being made. In the case of the Menomonee Falls Schools, the why is centered on the poor performance of the district. As a result, the school district creates a training program for all the members of the school district staff. This training is based on responding to a vision statement which calls for “readiness to use the principles and practices of a system approach to continuous improvement to improve the classroom learning system.” Notice that the vision statement requires the staff member to look at the district from a system approach. Part of the training involves explaining to the staff member that for it to be a true system, there are certain requirements that need to be present. The responses to the vision statement were recorded in a tool called a consensogram.
The consensogram is not an educational tool per se, but it can be used in any situation where you need to assess the level of under- standing of a process.
Used at the beginning of the district’s education effort it categorized the staff responses in four ways.
The first group consisted of all the staff that had no idea what the district was talking about. Most likely they had never heard of the principles and practices of continuous process improvement nor did they have any idea what a system approach to education consisted of. This group is the one most likely to feel that the way they have always done things in the district was sufficient. This group represents the staff in need of the most education and training in the new normal for the district.
The second group responded to the vision statement with the belief that they knew what the principles and practices were but it was in name only. They knew the concept behind the tools; they just did not know how to use the tools in real time. This group at least is more likely to see the problem but may not understand the effect of the problem on the transformed classroom. Their training efforts involved exposure on how to apply the tools. They see what the tools are but don’t see the applicability to the education system. Like many human resource professionals they don’t grasp the language of business applicability to the school. Their belief is that they are there to “teach” the students, not be business people.
The third group responded to the vision statement by indicating that they knew what the principles were and why they exist but did not know where to start the process. They see the bene t of the principles and practices but have missed how to implement the problem-solving method that is presented to them. These are the ones who need to be reminded that the process is no different than what they did as students in a science classroom.
The final statement is that they know what the principles and practices are and understand how to implement the concepts within one class or content area. These individuals see the problem, feel the problem, and understand how to bring about the new normal through change in the classroom.
It should be noted that if you change the nomenclature of the four groups, the consensogram could be used with students in the classroom to resolve the problems being studied in the project-based learning at the upper elementary grades and higher. The use of a consensogram is not limited to just four responses; in the classroom you can create as many response categories as fits the process under consideration.
Following the training, the district implemented the education into the curriculum while supplying coaches who understood the tools and how to implement them. The purpose was to coach along the instructional staff when they encountered difficulties with the new normal in the classroom.
The implementation within the classroom and with the students utilized the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) format as shown in Figure 7.2. This is similar in construct to the Six Sigma plan-do-check-act cycle. The student was asked to begin by planning the process. This established the goal for the process, when it would happen, and how the result would be measured. This created the creditable, verifiable data that was needed to prove that the goal was achieved.
Following the planning stage the class moves to the do stage in which the students indicate how they will learn. During this phase, both the student and the teacher lay out the responsibilities of each in reaching the planned activities. It also provides the milestones of the project that provide the evidence as to whether we have achieved the goals.
The third stage of the process is the study phase. This is the point where we look at what we have done and ask ourselves what did we learn, how did we go about doing it, and what still needs to be changed.
The final stage is the act phase. With every experiment there are always things that do not go as planned, so in the study stage we look at the process and see what has to be changed and then assign the responsibilities. As in the do stage, there are separate lists of responsibilities for the student and the teacher.
The proof as to whether what I have proposed here is working is to look at the results from districts like Menomonee Falls. In 2007 they were one of the worst performing districts in the area. Jump ahead 9 years, and the district today is internationally recognized for its continuous process improvement to the point where they now present a 2-day boot camp to show others how it is done. The results on student tests show high American College Testing (ACT) scores and record participation on advanced placement (AP) tests with 80% earning passing scores. Further, the district is now partnering with higher education to align the curriculum with potential future careers.