Dr. Hans A. Andrews and Dr. Greg Rockhold

Dr. Hans Andrews is a Distinguished Fellow in Community College Leadership through Olney Central College (Illinois). He is a former president of the college. He started the first dual-credit program in the country between community colleges and secondary schools. He authored the book The Dual-Credit Phenomenon! Challenging Secondary School Students across 50 States.

Dr. Greg Rockhold has served on the National Association of Secondary School Principals board, president of the New Mexico Coalition of School Administrators, and executive director of the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals.


“Our schools must preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that everyone is born with.  Joy in learning comes not so much from what is learned but from learning,” Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

Years ago, while growing up, many of us can recall the sights, smells, and sounds we learned would be important to us for the rest of our lives.  Living in San Francisco, one could remember watching the trolleys powered by overhead wires as they went by.  When your stop was approaching, reaching up and pulling the cord would allow the drivers to hear and stop when they heard the bell.

It is now time for education leaders, teachers, governing boards, and political leaders to ‘pull the cord’ on what has been happening in our recent journey in education.  We can no longer afford to continue on this same journey!  The crisis across the United States and other countries of teacher shortages must be stopped.  If we ‘pull the cord’ now, we can stop and get off this devastating path we’ve been on for over a decade.

Dr. Deming possibly best stated in his analogy to industrial leaders both in Japan and the United States what he felt they were doing at that time (1950s – 1980s):  Driving by rearview mirror:  This is like looking at the past to see where you are going in the present and where you will be in the future.

His analogy fits very well at this time as what has been happening in education is very similar to what he described to industrial leaders by looking at what they appeared to be doing at that time. Our research over the recent years shows that so much of what we are trying to do to solve the teacher shortages problem is by looking into the ‘rearview mirror.’

Dr. W. Edwards Deming produced 14 points he used in his ‘strategy for management to improve their methods and products in business and industry.  Several of his fourteen points are being reviewed in this article to see how they may also be best applied to improving the quality of education for students worldwide.  Deming’s selected points below are stated and followed by proposed actions that should be instituted to enhance teaching and student outcomes.

Previously, the teacher pipelines were primarily the four-year colleges and universities across states and countries.  Suddenly, we realized that these pipelines are starting to fail the school systems and students across many countries.  Why have these changes been happening? The following are some of the primary reasons:

  • The cost of a college education has increased much faster than other economic factors in our countries.
  • To move through a program preparing to become a K-12 teacher, many students have had to rely on financial loans.
  • Low entry pay and experienced teacher pay in many areas have not allowed many teachers to exist on their teaching salaries alone.
  • Over 60 teacher preparation programs have been dropped in the U.S. due to declining enrollments. Many others are in a declining position.
  • Political influences on curriculum and high-stakes testing are changes that have significantly disrupted the classroom teaching and creativity teachers need.

Educational leaders and political decision-makers are primarily looking in the ‘rearview mirror’ expecting these same ‘teacher preparation pipelines’ and these other mentioned negative factors to solve the problem now and into the future.

Time to move beyond the review mirror

Here is what we propose to assist K-12 school district governing boards, administrative staff, and teachers to look to in solving the teacher shortage crisis.

Seven of Deming’s 14 points are listed below, followed by our responses adapting them to educational leadership.  We try to show how his points can be applied to education and should help solve this crisis of teacher shortages.

DEMING: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement.
Replace short-term reaction with long-term planning to be competitive and stay in business. Decide to whom top management is responsible.

RESPONSE: No more looking for former ‘teacher preparation pipelines’ to be the only sources for new teachers.  Work with community and technical colleges to quickly repair new teachers’ broken and inefficient pipeline production.

1. DEMING: Adopt the new philosophy.
No longer accept delays, mistakes, defective materials, and defective workmanship. The implication is that management should adopt this philosophy and a philosophy of cooperation between employees, management, customers, and suppliers.

RESPONSE: School districts will no longer have to wait for the previous teacher preparation pipelines to be the only source of teacher preparation.  Community college faculty and student services personnel are ready and available to learn of the needs of each school district and recruit local area persons into the new local area pipeline for teachers.

2. DEMING: Dependence: Cease dependence on inspection.
Instead, it requires statistical evidence that quality is built in. If variation is reduced, inspecting manufactured items for defects is unnecessary because there won’t be any. Prevent defects instead of trying to detect them.

RESPONSE: Community and technical college faculty are products of four-year colleges and universities. To teach college-level courses that generally have been taken by their students preparing to transfer to these four-year colleges and universities, they are expected to have Master’s Degrees in their teaching fields.

With proper teacher evaluation processes and support for teaching improvements, students enrolling for teacher preparation will find the quality of instruction is built in. There are also many K-12 faculty members in every community college district with master’s degrees who could teach part-time in a teacher education program.

Quality in teaching is the main product and promise of the community and technical colleges.

3. DEMING: Institute training on the job.
If people are inadequately trained, they will not all work the same way, introducing variation.

RESPONSE: Teachers who are found no longer producing quality instruction will, in most colleges or districts, have gone through remediation to improve or will have been removed. Excellent teachers resent it when college or district leaders allow low-performing and incompetent teachers to remain teaching.

4. DEMING: Institute leadership.
There is a difference between leadership and supervision, the latter being quota and target-based. Shift to a focus on quality, which will automatically improve productivity. Management must take immediate action when alerted to process problems.

RESPONSE: While supervision tends to be driven by quotas and targets, authentic leadership encompasses a broader vision emphasizing quality, growth, and employee satisfaction.

Quality over quantity: When prioritizing delivering exceptional work rather than merely meeting targets, an environment can be created that encourages innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement

Taking action for process problems: This first step needs prompt action to resolve them.

Open lines of communication This will do much to foster a proactive problem-solving culture.

Remove barriers to pride of workmanship.
Pride of workmanship increases employee satisfaction. Having a ‘recognition program’ for outstanding teaching and support of students provides pride in one’s work. It is essential for teachers to know institutional support is available and recognized by the school administration and governing board.

5. DEMING: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.

RESPONSE: Institutional encouragement and financial support for attending regional, state, and national meetings adds to a healthy climate for educators in their school district.  Encourage excellent teachers to present at these conferences as it brings pride to the teachers, students, and institution.

6. DEMING: The transformation is everyone’s job
Create a top management structure that will push every day on the previous points.

RESPONSE: Deming taught what would become a significant part of his Total Quality Management (TQM) focus: Empowering all employees.  He taught that all employees working on an assembly line have the ‘power’ and ‘responsibility’ to “reach up and pull the cord,” thereby stopping the whole process.  Instead of just letting a defective item continue, they were taught to review up and down the line for any other faulty items.  Once the issue was resolved, the line started up again.

Most school district staff members know what issues need to be addressed. Yet, you seldom see someone “reach up and pull the cord,” as Deming taught.

Since the trolley on teacher shortages is not stopped, all suffer, and the downward spiral increases. So what has been done with teachers is having them take on heavier loads and students with thousands of unqualified persons attempting to teach.  In addition, the low pay situation continues in many school districts worldwide, leading to many teachers leaving the profession.

Building a team effort to support and help train teachers. Administrators at various levels within the institution must become trained and seasoned enough to move up within their departments and other positions. This will help improve morale and importance for everyone in the institution.

Moving ahead for success in overcoming teacher shortages

The community and technical colleges are strategically located throughout every state and close in reach for every K-12 school district in the United States.  Every other country will have to determine what may be available as their needed new pipeline(s) for producing fully qualified teachers.

It is not too late to pull the cord on the educational trolley in the United States and many other countries suffering from significant teacher shortages.

Reference on Dr. Deming

Starting in the summer of 1950, Dr. Deming made numerous trips to Japan after being invited to assist their top managers.  They wanted to learn his system of quality management principles that he had become known for.  His work with them helped improve their methods of quality control and did much to help the Japanese on the road to economic success.  Later, he was asked to assist American automotive companies in their quest to improve the quality of their manufacturing processes.  Over 20,000 attended his workshops per year during the years of 1981-1993.

Latzko, W.J., & Saunders, D.M.  (1995).  Four Days with Dr. Deming.  Printed in the United States and Canada.


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