Without waiting another day, we now have the means to begin improving our schools — from our best to our worst — and to ensure their continued improvement. This book is an exploration of methods that, for us, constitute American education's best hope. The work of W. Edwards Deming is our template, an overarching body of principles that we think can promote intelligent action toward improving our schools. The benefits of this approach are already emerging, as we shall document in the pages that follow.
In advocating Deming's principles of management, we do not wish to appear doctrinaire. In gathering information for this book, we were surprised at how often we heard people accuse others of "not really doing Deming." What distinguishes Deming's philosophy from other educational fads is its adaptability, its capacity to embrace and refine much of what already is working. Rather than embrace a rigid view of his philosophy, we prefer to learn from it, perhaps even to expand on it. For Deming, even the most useful theory invites revision as it is applied. "May I not learn?" he asks. This is not to say that implementing his methods will not require a radical departure from the way we now do business. Rather than dividing us, Deming's philosophy invites a new synthesis, against which the educational debates of the day can be put in perspective.
Today, one hears a cacophony of voices competing for the soul of the educational improvement movement. Each speaks as though it is the solution. Should we have school choice? Should it include private schools as well as public schools? Should school standards be a local or a national matter? How should our schools be funded? Is more money necessary or can schools do a better job with what they have? Should schools be large or small? Should standardized tests be replaced by authentic assessment, or should there be a balance involving both? Should there be national testing, state testing? Should we abolish local school boards? Should schools be centralized or site-managed? Is class size a crucial factor in the quality of education? In light of this bewildering