Journey to Excellence: Iredell-Statesville Schools

September 2, 2013 by ahmed

In the past five years, the US economy has been suffering and this has of course resulted in there being a number of cuts in various governmental departments and one of them was the education sector.

New infrastructure, supplies and programmes to improve teaching at such a time seemed impossible. However, even in such hard times, there has been a ray of hope– the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. The Baldrige criteria have helped to change Iredell-Statesville Schools from being average to high performing schools.

Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina is a district of thirty-six schools, that was struggling against a measly graduation rate and a high dropout percentage. However, ISS still had a dream to reach the top ten ranked districts in the state.

By 2008, the picture had turned around, with the help of innovative programmes like the early-college programme designed for people who are the first in their family to go to college, other imaginative methods like a differentiated diploma (letting a student graduate with less than the customary credits at ISS).

As a result ISS won the 2008 Baldrige Award, although funding was still a problem. Dropout rates became very low and the graduation rate soared to eighty percent. This improvement allowed ISS to apply to a grant to the US Department of Education later to solve the funding problem.

Baldrige processes have been highly effective for ISS and turned their performance around, which is evidence that everybody has the potential; one only needs to apply business excellence frameworks properly to bring out the potential.

Below is a blog post from Blogrige (the official Baldrige blog) on Iredell-Statesville Schools’s Business Excellence journey


It’s no surprise to anyone that the economy has been bad. And in the education sector, where healthy budgets mean that teachers have the needed supplies and students have the adequate guidance to learn, a bad economy can be especially bad.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program has been interviewing past Baldrige Award recipients to ask if they are still using the Criteria for Performance Excellence and what the Criteria have done for them; we call these interviews “success stories

At Iredell-Statesville Schools (ISS) in North Carolina, a 2008 Baldrige Award winner, the economy’s impact on the budget has been bad, but with the help of the Criteria, senior leaders have put processes in place and tightened up those processes. This has helped the district to be more competitive for grants and embed its culture of continuous improvement.

“Our district’s commitment to quality has served us well,” says Brady Johnson, superintendent, Iredell-Statesville Schools. “This is particularly true in the wake of the recession. In spite of draconian budget cuts, and the loss of 11 percent of our workforce, our students’ performance continues to improve. I attribute this to our focus on the Baldrige Criteria and our commitment to continuous improvement.”

Read more about ISS’s story. (See right-hand column and scroll down to the story “A Vision to be Among the Best.”).

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