Grades in School: Joy in Learning

Updated: August 26, 2022. This post on FaceBook – Brown County Matters 

W. Edwards Deming’s contributions in the area of quality management were recognized in FORTUNE magazine as being among the 20 that have shaped the modern world of business and by U.S. News and World Report as one of nine turning points in history. The top turning point was identified as “The Apostle Paul, whose preaching and eloquent writings led to mass acceptance of Christianity.”  Deming has been referred to as the “father of the third wave of the industrial revolution.”  He concluded that if he was to reduce his message to management to just a few words, it all had to do with reducing variation.

Deming identified that individual performance rankings and grades in school as among the deadly diseases of management.  The reason is that grades reflect the performance of the system and not the individual.  Top management is responsible for the results of the system – not the children. This point is illustrated in the following post:

Local ApplicationsBrown County Indiana Community Corrections: Suicides, Substance Use Disorder (SUD), overdoses, adverse childhood experiences, parental incarceration rates, children in single-parent households.  Would the data indicate common or special causes of variation?  

Further Explanation on Grades  – W. Edwards Deming Institute

Exciting new podcast series: Deming in Education with David P. Langford! Over a series of short episodes David and Andrew talk about implementing “Joy in Learning” in classrooms and school systems – not just “why” but also “how.” … One proven tactic is to replace A-F grading with “met/exceeded standards” and “needs more help.”  

How to Track Progress: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 2)

How to Track Progress (Continued): Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 3)

    • In the previous podcast, we were discussing tracking learning and the typical way to track learning is grading people; A, B, C, D, and F, and Deming was very adamant that we could significantly improve the education system if we just stopped grading people.

By What Method: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 4)

    • So today I wanted to talk about, “By what method?” Dr. Deming tattooed that on my forehead, because so many times people would propose things to him and he would say, “By what method?”

Continuous vs Continual Improvement: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 5)

    • Deming taught us about, you let the system run basically, because you have to understand the data, what is the system producing, and once you understand that data, understand the variation in the system, then you can do a PDSA process and Plan-Do-Study-Act and come up with a small trial method to figure out what could I change to get a significant difference in the system, and then start applying that in a larger and larger scale level.

Quality is the Answer: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 6)

    • I wanted students to have maximum ownership in everything that they did. From the time they came in the door till the time they left, we were maximizing their ownership, because what… When you have that control, you also have that learning that goes deep within your brain. And it’s not just here today and gone tomorrow.

      0:16:50.0 AS: Fantastic. Well, on behalf of everybody at the Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for this discussion, and that concludes another great discussion. I want to remind everybody to go to to continue your journey. This is your host Andrew Stotz, and I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming.”People are entitled to joy in work.”

Optimization of a System: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 7)

    • In this episode, David and Andrew discuss going beyond solving problems in schools to preventing them from happening. David also shares a tool for finding the area where optimization of the system would have the greatest impact.

The Problem with Standardized Tests: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 8)

    • Langford: So one of the reasons these things did evolve, was a quick and easy way that we could rank individuals or rank systems, and that was one of the things that Deming was most opposed to, ranking people, either through performance appraisals, grades, standardized tests, whatever it might be. So a lot of the purpose of why we do it, is a simple way to rank schools and try to understand, “Well, who’s number one? And who’s not?” And that kind of a thing. 

The Taguchi Loss Function: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 9)

    • Genichi Taguchi’s idea that the further you move from a measurable quality target, the more quality is lost, even if the item still “meets specifications.”  

I was at a conference with a whole roomful of school superintendents and I asked them, Anybody know what the Taguchi loss function was? And not a single hand went up.

Weaponizing Special Causes: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 10)

  • In this episode, David and Andrew talk about Common Cause Variation vs Special Cause Variation, and the problem of confusing the two. Using the example of transgender students, David describes how a system’s capability should be expanded rather than using that special cause situation as a weapon to destroy the entire system.      

Deadly Disease of Employee of the Month: Deming in Education with David P. Langford (Part 11). In this episode, David and Andrew discuss the harmful practice of awarding “teacher of the year,” “student of the month,” or other traditional recognition practices. David also offers practical suggestions for alternatives.

  • Yep. So to wrap it up, I think I’m just gonna challenge the listeners, the viewers, if you’ve got employee of the month, if you’ve got student of the month, if you’ve got teacher of the month going on, this is permission to start questioning it, start discussing it, start thinking about alternatives because there are many, many challenges that David’s raised today.

Additional Information

PQ Systems – Total Quality Transformation – Education Examples 

Taguchi Loss Function

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s