Tales from the BudComm – what, no QA? Part 1

by Skip

textbooksQA: that would be Quality Assurance for those not in the know. In any manufacturing environment, if someone (if not EVERYone) is watching the quality of your product(s), the last person who holds or uses your product or service is your customer. While that customer really is the ultimate QA guy in the end (“do I have to return this for non-conformance” or worse “I’m not buying this again”), do you really want to give them a reason to go negative?  Expensive, expensive, expensive if you fail to do your QA.

During my first stint on our BudComm, I never asked the following question but just kept being amazed at how many new “programs” kept popping into the budget – new textbooks, time to train teachers, new teaching supplies; we’re talking on a new curriculum that may span several grades up to 100s of thousands of dollars.  And then see that new program replaces after a couple of years??  But the mostly costly question is:

What difference did it do and did it work better than what it replaced?

“HEY – THAT’S NOT IN THE BUDGET!”  HOW DARE YOU ASK THAT!

Well, actually not immediately.  When I asked that of the Superintendent, I got the prototypical deer in headlights look – as in “huh?”.  So I expanded on my question (essentially and paraphrased):

We’re spending a lot of taxpayer monies on new programs.  What metrics do you establish to set a baseline for Program A and what do you use for metrics for Program B against which to compare the two for better, worse, or no difference?

And we went back and forth – it just seemed to be a totally foreign idea – I don’t think he had ever confronted the subject before.  Silly me, being an engineer and former biologist – we ALWAYS have a control and an experimental group.  We ALWAYS had ideas about “what do we have, what do we want to accomplish, and how to measure the differences?”.  You can’t measure what you can’t quantify and you can’t quantify what you don’t think about upfront.  Will this new machine make a difference – what is your result?  Is it a better ROI than the current process?  Does it yields higher productivity?  How about better quality (the question that actually applies here)? Can it give us functionality / flexibility / results that we can’t accomplish now?

He said he’d get back to me. He did – here’s his answer:

Good afternoon,

For all of our curricular materials in the district we use a variety information to determine if the material is of benefit to teaching and learning in the Gilford School District. We use internal assessments; i.e. given by the district such as quizzes, tests, projects and other assignment in the classroom. We use external assessments, i.e. SAT, NWEA, AP, NH Statewide Assessment and National Assessment of Educational Progress. These are national assessments that provide information on how our students do compared to other students in the country and how our state does compared to other states. We use our graduation rate as another factor. We like to look at student growth over time, how the students have performed on assessments year to year. We also receive internal feedback from teachers regarding curricular material.

We review this data with the School Board twice a year and on a regular basis with teachers.

I read this with a feeling of nitwitery, disgust, and anger.  Can you figure out why?

Yes, Part 2 – Blister, Paint, answer

 

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