Collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity are all vital abilities and traits for today’s learners to develop. Creativity and innovation complement continuous improvement and systems thinking by focusing on teamwork, solutions, and the customer - in this case, the learner. Educators around the world are working collaboratively to create new ways of reaching learners and providing tailored instruction and programs to meet their needs. Learn new ways to improve outcomes and build capacity by bridging creativity and continuous improvement, goals that are important to both PK-12 and Higher Education initiatives, at this year’s National Quality Education Conference.
Innovative schools, districts, and colleges are discovering ways to build leadership capacity among all members of the educational community. This includes not only administrators and faculty, but students, parents, business leaders, and community and citizen stakeholders. Implementing sustainable improvement is more positive when the whole school community has buy-in and participation than when a sole leader directs change. Shared leadership applies to governance, professional development, school culture, and learning at the classroom and individual student level. How might teachers, faculty and administrators share instructional leadership roles? How can the whole school community foster a sense of ownership for learning and school or university culture among its students? How can we create higher levels of involvement among parents, business leaders, and the community at large to reach educational goals by developing shared decision-making, learning, and governance models?
In its 2010 report, How the World’s Most Improved Schools Keep Getting Better, McKinsey & Company stated that “There is too little focus on process” in the debate about educational improvement. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award process is one model used by many districts and higher education institutions to improve their processes and outcomes. Other improvement models such as the ISO 9001 family of standards and Lean/Six Sigma, like Baldrige, also emphasize customer satisfaction, leadership, across varying levels of an organization, PDSA, stakeholder engagement across all levels, and a systems approach to management. How do school districts and universities use these models to improve student academic achievement, non-instructional services, and financial outlooks? Schools, districts, and higher education institutions that have delved into any of these methods of process management are welcome to submit proposals for this focus area.
Supporting teachers in their professional development is essential to delivering the highest quality instruction to all students. Common lesson planning time and Professional Learning Communities (PLC’s) allow teachers to improve their teaching skills in a collaborative, group-directed environment, thereby improving student learning. Likewise, aligning the work of PLC’s to planning at the district, school and classroom levels is vitally important to increasing the likelihood that real, measurable improvement will occur. Schools that have invested in this aligned model for PLC’s or in other collaborative models and that have real data to demonstrate improvements or concrete examples of such models are encouraged to submit proposals for this focus area.
The 2012-2013 school year marked the first year of broad implementation of Common Core Curriculum Standards across most states, Washington D.C., and many United States territories. The first round of assessment using new measures developed for the Common Core Curriculum Standards will begin in 2014-2015. As the nation moves toward fully implementing these internationally benchmarked standards to prepare students for careers, college, and citizenship, what professional development strategies need to be developed to assist teachers in shifting instruction to ensure mastery of higher-level standards than are currently required of students? How can continuous improvement practices and tools assist in implementing and assessing these standards? Proposals that address professional development, the use of technology to enhance student achievement and teacher development, and the use of continuous improvement tools and practices in implementation and assessment of Common Core Standards are encouraged.
What are best practices in delivering the most appropriate content in the most appropriate way to the broad spectrum of students in our schools? Where do teachers start with Response to Intervention (RtI) and what do they do with the RtI model once students are placed in the Three-Tier Model? How can continuous improvement practices such as in-process (or formative) assessment assist in assessing students and monitoring their progress? What are successful districts doing to blend high-results approaches to differentiation, particularly in light of the broad adoption and implementation of Common Core Standards across most of the United States? Submissions to this track should focus on specific models for differentiating instruction to improve academic achievement or the tools used in these models to assess progress, adjust instruction, and report results.
Institutions of higher learning are focusing process improvement initiatives via “SOTL” conferences through which they establish research efforts, with the classroom as the “laboratory” or the setting for continued process improvement in pedagogy and heuristics, with improved student learning outcomes as a viable goal. If you are a professor or administrator at a community college, liberal arts college, or university and have conducted SOTL research or are part of leadership academies that support SOTL initiatives across campuses, please consider sharing your research. In addition, if you are part of a university-sponsored learning community which fosters professional development/leadership opportunities for both faculty and administrators, consider sharing your ideas via the NQEC conference experience.