Thursday, October 3, 2019

By Lois J. Gray

The University of Iowa College of Education was recently recognized as a role model organization for its commitment to continuous improvement and performance excellence.

The accolades came during the Iowa Performance Excellence (iPEX) Conference in May, which honored the UI College of Education with a 2018 Iowa Recognition for Performance Excellence Award. The college was honored at the Tier 3 Navigator Level – Ruby Achievement.

UI College of Education Dean Daniel L. Clay accepted the award from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“I am proud of our college’s commitment to continuous improvement,” Clay says. “We achieve this by utilizing data to create a working environment that supports our staff, faculty, and students to achieve our greatest potential.”

Clay adds this commitment is one of many reasons the college is the No. 1 College of Education in the state of Iowa and among the best in the nation.

“However, we strive to constantly improve overall productivity and effectiveness, using cycles of continuous improvement based on data so we can continue to be the very best we can be,” Clay says.

The Iowa Recognition for Performance Excellence (IRPE) judges and the Iowa Quality Center Board of Directors made the announcement of this year’s recipients.

“The purpose of the IRPE is to recognize organizations that are on the journey of excellence and the rigorous organizational assessment based on the Baldrige criteria,” said Iowa Quality Center Executive Director Deb Oliver. “For these organizations to be on the journey for excellence and receive feedback from volunteer examiners willing to spend over 150 hours of assessment time is a testament to their commitment to build great Iowa-based organizations.”

Malcolm Baldrige was U.S. Secretary of Commerce (1981-1987) and a leader in quality management. He helped create the U.S. Quality Improvement Act of 1987. The Baldrige performance excellence process, named in his honor, involves a framework that any organization can use to improve overall performance.

In November, several Iowa Quality Center examiners spent more than 150 hours at the college, meeting with leadership, faculty, staff, and students to learn more about how people were incorporating best practices into their work. A team from the College of Education has also undergone Baldridge system training and has done assessments of other organizations.

Jeremy Penn, who joined the college in spring of 2018 as the college’s first assessment coordinator, is spearheading efforts to systematically collect data and use it more strategically to drive future decisions that are helping the college to continuously improve and excel.

Jeremy Penn smiles
Jeremy Penn

"The faculty and staff in the college care deeply about providing the best experiences for our students, about producing high-quality research, and about effectively engaging with our communities” says Penn. “As an expression of that passion, our participation in IRPE helps us improve our performance in all of these areas by providing a framework we can use to examine our performance and by giving us feedback from trained examiners who know what it takes to be the best.”

Penn holds a Ph.D. in Qualitative, Quantitative, and Psychometric Methods and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction (Mathematics) both from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to joining the college, Jeremy was the director of assessment and director of student affairs assessment at North Dakota State University.

In his role, Penn is helping to develop and maintain an assessment system that supports the college’s mission and strategic initiatives. This includes working with faculty to implement and assess student learning, providing guidance for continuous improvement initiatives as well as state and national accreditation requirements, and designing and delivering faculty and staff professional development relevant to the college’s continuous improvement efforts.

In 2019, a undergraduate student satisfaction survey was made available to six other teacher preparation programs to provide context for the college’s satisfaction scores and to learn more about the effectiveness of the satisfaction survey in a range of populations. Penn says he is also proud of the progress the college has made over the past year in developing a dashboard of performance indicators that highlights the college’s progress in pursuing its strategic plan.

The dashboard can be used internally by faculty and staff to quickly see areas of strong performance, as well as areas where efforts to improve could produce big gains. For example, in 2019 one area of strong performance was the pass rate on the edTPA exam, which was its highest ever at 98 percent.

Clay says he is especially pleased with the progress made in connecting continuous improvement to the college’s new strategic plan and performance excellence.

“Systematic data collection will help us ensure that we continue to be a top-notch, research I institution that innovates and excels,” Clay says.

Read more from the 2018-2019 Annual Report.