Friday, November 18, 2011

Rough Times Require Efficient Solutions

"No one makes tough choices in flush times."

"Don't let a crisis go to waste."

These are popular quotes nowadays. As I talk with educators across the nation, they are confronted with aggressive change agendas during a time of dwindling resources.

In a Kappan article this month, (“How to steer the tough budget road ahead - Accelerate your performance”), Rick Hess builds on his recent book Stretching the School Dollar with several key recommendations.
  • Districts should take a close look at talent distribution through the lens of identifying priorities. This may mean reductions in programs and services that are not top priorities.
  • Districts should look closely at performance management and benchmarking of key processes to identify waste and improvement opportunities.
  • Districts should look at unit costs for services and programs to identify inefficiencies in delivery.
  • Districts and states should look closely at salaries and benefits. 
While I am not in total agreement with Hess, we did recently host a productivity conference featuring Kentucky districts, the American Productivity Quality Council and 2010 Baldrige recipient Montgomery County, Md. The day culminated in a speech by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that celebrated Kentucky’s school success and challenges for improving student outcomes. You can see a recording of that speech here.

Moving forward, we announced two major initiatives that do reflect the recommendations from Hess. We will begin to highlight best practices of performance management through our Performance Efficiencies Recognition for Kentucky Schools (PERKS) awards, and we will convene district officials to start a study in unit costs (per-student costs) for operational services. It is not our intent to include these measures in accountability; however, we do want to provide districts with comparative information to identify potential savings in operations that could be redirected to classroom support.

While there are some signals of economic recovery, many experts are predicting Kentucky will not fully recover until 2015. School leaders are well advised to "not let a crisis go to waste." As we’re hearing frequently, "Now is the time to accelerate your performance."

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