Improving the Quality of Michigan's K-12 Education: Consider Baldrige

The Detroit Free Press just published the editorial,“In Michigan, it’s not just Detroit schools that are in trouble”.  Besides the recent headline on Detroit schools, the editorial describes that Michigan  has a quality problem in most Michigan’s schools.   The statistics are significant:  to begin with, 22% of high schoolers do not graduate on time (in 4 years).  This is not surprising when you read the following statistics:

  •     “About 71% of fourth-graders aren’t proficient in reading”
  •     “71% of eighth-graders aren’t proficient in math”

Overall, according to the article, Michigan’s education is ranked 40th among states.

This is not where we want Michigan schools to be, at one time Michigan’s K-12 education was highly ranked.  Our students need to be prepared for college and successful careers.  Poor reading and math skills significantly decrease student success in college and the workplace.  

As Michigan educators prepare for the next academic year, let me take this time to suggest a revisit of Baldrige systems thinking in education. 

Consider Baldrige systems thinking

If you are involved with school improvement and have not heard about the success schools are having with Baldrige program, I suggest that you consider the Baldrige program in your school improvement strategy.  K-12 schools have been successful in using Baldrige concepts, some winning national awards.  

The prestigious Baldrige National Quality Award is presented annually to national Baldrige award recipients ;  most states also have a Baldrige program with state awards.  

A Baldrige award is recognition of both organizational quality in educational processes and performance excellence, including improved student learning outcomes.  For the education sector, a Baldrige recipient often demonstrates or includes:

  • a student-focused culture
  • school leadership that uses systems thinking and quality concepts/tools
  • collaborative innovation among teachers
  • partnerships between the school and stakeholders/businesses in the community
  • a continuous improvement mindset based on data-driven decisions.

Although in this blog, I have highlighted Baldrige in K-12 schools, Baldrige systems thinking has been successfully implemented in higher education. For example, the University of Wisconsin-Stout is a recipient of the Baldrige National Quality Award. 

Here are a few links to read about Baldrige systems thinking for education:

Introduction to Baldrige thinking for Education and how Baldrige relates to education

Results with Baldrige in Education schools/ colleges -  give an idea of significant improvements in student learning that can occur :

"How one Wisconsin district took a QA approach to innovation"; interview with Dr. Joann Sternke, superintendent of Pewaukee Schools (WI), a Baldrige National Quality Award recipient.

Michigan Performance Excellence Program (Michigan's state Baldrige program):


Feel free to contact me if you like to discuss Baldrige in education further.  

Cindy Veenstra, PhD, ASQ Fellow

Veenstra and Associates, Email