The student demographic profile of Jenks Public Schools has significantly changed since the Oklahoma district became a Baldrige Award winner in 2005. The pace and variety of population shifts that Jenks has experienced may resemble those in your own school system’s environment, whether you live in the same region or a southern, northern, eastern, or western U.S. state today. Since 2005, Jenks’s enrollment of prekindergarten through grade 12 students has grown from 9,400 to 11,173. The ethnic mix of that student body has shifted as the numbers of Hispanic, American Indian, African American, and Asian students have each increased by 5% or more, while the proportion of Caucasian students has shrunk from 90% to 66%, from 1990 to 2013.
What evidently has not changed at Jenks, according to Lisa Muller, the district’s assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, is the district’s commitment to improvement and excellence. Muller outlined two key ways in which Jenks’s continued use of the Baldrige Criteria has driven performance improvement over the past nine years. First, she said, “We have refined our Continuous Improvement Model to include the district’s core competencies, an idea which was not around in the Criteria in 2005.” Second, she said, “We have developed a school culture framework that reflects the way in which the district seeks to create a positive school culture through the coupling of best practices with strategic thinking and planning,” she added. “When combined with our key processes, this framework captures the district’s understanding of who we are as an organization.”
At the Baldrige Program’s upcoming Quest for Excellence® Conference, Muller will share guidance on a foundational step in a Baldrige self-assessment: getting started with writing an Organizational Profile. Jenks has used the tool—an essential part of the Baldrige framework—for both self-assessment and for completing the Criteria-based application for the Baldrige Award.
Muller and others in her organization see the value of the Organizational Profile as follows:
· It encourages valuable conversation about the organization’s identity.
· It provides opportunities to discuss the organization’s strategic situation.
· It creates a snapshot in time of the organization, how it operates, and the challenges it faces.
· It introduces the idea of core competencies.
In a recent interview, Muller also shared why Jenks has found it worth the investment of time and other resources to conduct a full self-assessment using the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. “Jenks Public Schools chose to use the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence because they provide nationally and internationally recognized standards by which to measure organizational performance,” she said. “The Criteria not only provided a means of assessing our continuous improvement work in the district during the early stages of our journey but also continue to stretch us as the Criteria themselves improve and change over the years.”
“While some additional time and resources are required to ‘do Baldrige,’” she added, “we try as much as possible to weave our continuous improvement processes in to the way we do our work and conduct business, rather than viewing organizational improvement as a stand-alone initiative.” In addition, she explained that employees from across the district who work in many different roles are involved annually on teams that conduct a thorough review of one Baldrige Criteria category each year.
For organizations getting started with Baldrige, Muller offered the following tips based on Jenks’s experience:
1. Organizations in the earliest stages of the continuous improvement journey will likely find the “Are We Making Progress?” surveys valuable as a starting point. These surveys—one for the senior leadership team and another for other employees (available for free download from the Baldrige Web site via this link)—are based on the Organizational Profile questions in the Baldrige Criteria.
2. Once the survey results are in, pull together a cross-functional team to analyze the results and discuss potential answers to the questions from the Organizational Profile.
3. Conduct a gap analysis based on this work; it will likely provide several “jumping off points” for continuous improvement efforts in the organization.
To learn more, attend the school district’s presentation, “How to Get Started on Your Organizational Profile,” at the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence Conference in Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday, April 8.