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While BAE and HEI found an avenue to excellence through a new process, two other FMXcellence winners brought value to their organizations by applying a proven strategy in a new way. And both were motivated by the impulse to better serve their customers: students. The SchoolStat program created by the New York City Department of Education's Office of School Support Services and the Division of School Facilities (DSF) has nothing to do with cost savings or energy savings. It actually took its cue from CompStat, an initiative of the New York City Police, which used data-driven analysis to target high crime areas. "It's the broken windows theory of policing, where if you clean up an area and take care of the little problems, the big problems take care of themselves," says John Shea, CEO of the Division of School Facilities.
The idea behind SchoolStat is that if little details that need attention can be called out and addressed while they are still small and less costly to address, those are going to make a bigger difference, have a higher impact, and be more cost-effective in providing a better learning environment than other higher-cost strategies, says Shea.
Armed with netbooks and digital cameras, eight SchoolStat inspectors go out twice a year to evaluate the cleanliness and maintenance conditions at the school system's almost 1,300 buildings. Answering yes or no questions, they look at bathrooms, classrooms, gyms, auditoriums, dining rooms, staircases, hallways, and outdoor yards. An algorithm then determines the final scores, which are shared with the schools and district-wide. On a scale of 1 to 5, any cleanliness and repair score below a 3 is considered failing, as well as any fixture scoring below a 4.2. Annual review sessions with each of the 40 deputy directors of facilities and five directors of facilities then target areas that need special attention or corrective action.
Since 2005, the program has conducted 17 inspection cycles and citywide scores have increased by a little over 17 percent. And although not designed as a financial tool, Shea has been able to use the SchoolStat data to push back on two rounds of proposed budget cuts to the facilities budget to the tune of $70 million, he says. Charting over time, he can show how prior cuts have affected the score, showing a direct link between facility performance and the budget.
"Facilities people understand that we're always in the crosshairs," says Shea. "Anytime that people are looking for money they come to us because they consider the facilities department a cost, not a value. We use SchoolStat to turn that equation around and show people that it is a value."
In addition, SchoolStat helps to quantify values that had previously been more subjective. Traditionally, it would be the principal judging the facility's cleanliness, but they may not be the most objective judges. "We always say if the custodian makes a good pot of coffee and makes sure the parking spot is shoveled out, it's a lot easier to get a good principal rating," says Shea. "If we can use SchoolStat and have data on what affects teaching and learning, that's a better mark for us to measure against."
When software is successful and has the ability to expand to support other functionality, it can be easy to end up making it into a super-program, expecting it to do everything, says Shea. While this may seem convenient, it hazards corrupting the original intent and makes it harder to ensure data integrity. For example, while SchoolStat has been expanded to support roof inspections and building plans compliance, the trick is looking for ways to leverage the tool without letting it get too unwieldy, he says.
New York City Department Of Education's SchoolStat Program Helps Show Value Of FM