THE QUEST FOR QUALITY:
Clovis Schools, near Fresno, California, demonstrate how even a fairly large district can ensure quality on a grand scale. Real estate people in the area never forget to remind prospective buyers of the added value to homes because of the district's reputation for quality schools. The subject of the book, A Measure of Excellence (Strother 1991), Clovis' current enrollment is 23,000; and it has increased 43% over the last five years. The quality measures this district has achieved and sustained over the years are all the more remarkable given the the twin difficulties of rapid growth and large size, which typically undermine quality efforts.
In the context of this book, Clovis Schools present a paradox in that they both resemble and at times seem to deviate from Deming's principles outlined in these pages. At first blush, they seem to violate some of Deming's most cardinal notions. Although they have made some ground-breaking efforts in the area of assessment, especially character assessment, they continue to evolve toward improvement in this area. But, as we shall see, in both the language they employ and the procedures they operate by, they are the most Deming-esque of school districts.
Floyd Buchanan, superintendent of Clovis schools from 1969 until 1991, deserves the greatest share of credit for the level of excellence Clovis Schools have attained. For many years Buchanan has made clear to every teacher and administrator that he expected 90% of the students in their charge would achieve at grade level. They hover at or near this level each year — a remarkable accomplishment. This constitutes, however, a clear and obvious "target," something which Deming — though not Toyota — disparages.