Ohio Educators Misunderstand Continuous Improvement

When recognition grows for a concept like continuous improvement, it is perhaps inevitable that the terminology will be more widely used – and misused. I recently saw a striking example of this.

            I had already noticed a trend of increasing use of the phrase “continuous improvement” in the field of education. In one sense, that is understandable. You could argue that educators are in the business of continually improving their students – or that continuous improvement is what education is all about. I am sure many educators see themselves this way.

            However, the Ohio Department of Education has found a way to completely misuse the term. I discovered this in recent news reports about the Cleveland school district, which has struggled in recent years to meet state standards for education.

            The latest reports were good news for Cleveland. Performance of the district’s students has improved. As a result, the state education department removed the district from the category of “academic watch.” Now Cleveland has been moved up to the classification of “continuous improvement.”

            Excuse me?

            Continuous improvement is a way of operating. It is an approach and, more importantly, a philosophy – the idea that you can always make things better. It is not a grade or a ranking or a category or a classification. Not only is Ohio’s use of the term incorrect, it is also confusing. I don’t know what their classification means.

            I am a journalist by background, so I tend to focus on word usage perhaps more than most people. However, this is not just about word usage. When the terminology surrounding an important concept is misused, it creates misunderstandings about that concept, which can damage or undermine efforts to promote valuable ideas.

            It is a shame that this has happened. Someone needs to educate the state educators.


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