SAM Celebrates Launch of the John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement

March 21, 2019 - Dozens of community leaders gathered from across Spartanburg County yesterday afternoon to celebrate the legacy of the late John T. Wardlaw, Spartanburg’s pioneer in community data analysis; and to express appreciation for a philanthropic gift designed to honor and further his work.

A very significant designated gift from Mr. Wardlaw’s philanthropic legacy supports the establishment and first three years’ operation of a new training center offered by the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), the

John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement.”

Members of the Wardlaw Family celebrate the formal launch of the John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement. L-R are: Ms. Ashley McCollum, Mrs. Mary “Pootsie” Wardlaw, and Mrs. Saunders McCollum.

Members of the Wardlaw Family celebrate the formal launch of the John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement. L-R are: Ms. Ashley McCollum, Mrs. Mary “Pootsie” Wardlaw, and Mrs. Saunders McCollum.

The Institute serves to build Continuous Improvement (CI) science practices across schools and non-profit support organizations working to advance academic achievement. It offers free training to Spartanburg County educators and agencies willing to employ and expand CI practices, track results and work with SAM to monitor progress across key stages of learning. 

SAM is a member of the StriveTogether national network working to bring communities together around data to make decisions and improve results for kids.

“Creating a culture of continuous improvement is core to our work at StriveTogether. When communities embrace continuous improvement methodology, they get better results for children,” Jennifer Blatz, StriveTogether CEO, said. “We believe the Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement will be a game changer for the Spartanburg Academic Movement.”

Jennifer Evins, President of the Chapman Cultural Center and Board Chair of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, expresses heartfelt thanks to the Wardlaw Family for their generous gift that launches the John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement as the Institute branding was revealed.

Jennifer Evins, President of the Chapman Cultural Center and Board Chair of the Spartanburg Academic Movement, expresses heartfelt thanks to the Wardlaw Family for their generous gift that launches the John T. Wardlaw Institute for Continuous Improvement as the Institute branding was revealed.

 “The goal of SAM is to improve academic outcomes for children, anchored in improved achievement, cradle to career. Adopting continuous improvement practices in this effort supports the development of data-driven strategies yielding reliable results that can be replicated at scale, making possible widespread and long-term impacts on academic achievement,” said Dr. John Stockwell, executive director of SAM.

John T. Wardlaw was a true leader with a deep understanding of how local data can drive positive change. He started what is now known as the Spartanburg Community Indicators Project, which uses data to track community well-being across multiple sectors: civic health, cultural vitality, economy, education, natural environment, public health, and social environment.  His goal was simple: use local data to derive solutions to local challenges. 

Mendy Mossbrook, Director of the Wardlaw Institute listens on as early successes of Institute training is shared.

Mendy Mossbrook, Director of the Wardlaw Institute listens on as early successes of Institute training is shared.

“Continuous Improvement science provides a disciplined approach to improving education outcomes by innovating in a controlled and data-driven manner,” said Mendy Mossbrook, Director of SAM’s Wardlaw Institute. Mossbrook comes from a management and engineering background wherein continuous improvement science guided decisions and success measures.  She now leads educators and community leaders seeking to adopt improvement science strategies.

SAM’s CI training initiatives began in the spring of 2018.  Last night Mossbrook recognized early adopters, referred to as the “coalition of the willing,” now numbering more than 60, who have already received training during the six months prior to the formal launch.   

Mossbrook also shared that continuous improvement science is not new, having started with the automotive industry by W. Edwards Deming in the 1950’s. But embedding the effective practice in a human-centered environment like a classroom is a new application of the science.

In a few communities across the country studied by SAM and Spartanburg educators, this work is proving successful in improving student achievement and served as models for the formation of Spartanburg’s effort.

Before closing the formal portion of the reception, Stockwell announced that the Wardlaw gift provides funding for Wardlaw Champion awards recognizing those demonstrating success using these new teaching and learning strategies. An event is already being planned for the afternoon of September 18, 2019 for the announcement of those awards.

Dr. John Stockwell, Spartanburg Academic Movement Executive Director, shared fond memories of data review meetings John Wardlaw

Dr. John Stockwell, Spartanburg Academic Movement Executive Director, shared fond memories of data review meetings John Wardlaw

Mrs. Mary “Putsy” Wardlaw also attended the event, greeting guests warmly and sharing her delight with the launch of the Wardlaw Institute honoring her husband’s life’s work and passions.

“I am proud that my father’s dedication to Spartanburg County and his love of data as a driver of change is going to continue to live on through the Wardlaw Institute. Having been an educator myself, and with our daughter now teaching in Spartanburg County, the effort to empower teachers and ultimately build the success of children is deeply meaningful to us all,” said Saunders McCollum, Mr. Wardlaw’s daughter. 

The Wardlaw Institute’s training is ongoing and year-round.  Teachers can register for free training classes through the website.  For more information visit www.wardlawinstitute.org; email info@wardlawinstute.org; or call 864-573-5804.

Photo credits: Jeremy Powers

See below images for training participant comments and course background information:

Dozens of community leaders gathered at the Mary Black Foundation Pavilion to celebrate the legacy of Mr. John T. Wardlaw and the gift that establishes the training hub of the Spartanburg Academic Movement named in his honor.

Dozens of community leaders gathered at the Mary Black Foundation Pavilion to celebrate the legacy of Mr. John T. Wardlaw and the gift that establishes the training hub of the Spartanburg Academic Movement named in his honor.

Launch group.jpg

For additional background on CI in the Classroom, read our “CI Forward

The following comments have been shared by SAM CI Training participants:

“This has made me more intentional about what I’m doing and what I want my students to be doing.”

- veteran Spartanburg County teacher

“It’s about understanding the “why” and “how” around your decision making in the classroom.”

- veteran Spartanburg County teacher

“If I’d started with this, I’d have been in a better place by now.”

 – first year Spartanburg County teacher

“We have a new emphasis on learning standards - helping students see them as “I can” statements: while understanding the rigor and goal of each.” 

- Spartanburg County CI Coach

“Many of my staff appreciate the idea of testing before implementing. Many had felt discouraged on the client record completion and were excited to see a tangible, visible solution. Supervisors who are mapping are thinking more strategically and more through systems- which I know will have big impact.  It really is giving us tools to move from reviewing lots of data to using it in a tangible way.  Thanks for the opportunity!” 

-      Spartanburg County Nonprofit Director (following implementation of CI strategies with her staff after she participated in SAM’s CI Leadership course)

This is the most practical program I have experienced and a district doesn't have to spend money to implement.

-      Felicia O., District Level Administrator

The workshop was a great way to put an educational approach/twist to a successful model that is being used in health care and businesses.

- Bernart F., District Level Administrator

Suggestion from participant: “Offer this training to 1st year/new teachers during their induction year (mandatory).”

– veteran educator