L-O-V-E the toilet test:
Whenever I evaluate a school, my first stop is the boys’ bathroom because, without an unflushed urinal of doubt, it is every school’s least common denominator. Its sticky floors, calcified wads of toilet paper and juvenile-yet-timeless graffiti (“Here I sit broken hearted…”) are generally not what a principal shows off. Then again, I once visited a school run by the Knowledge is Power Program — which focuses on preparing students in underserved communities for college — and found fresh cut flowers next to an automatic recycled-paper-towel dispenser. At another school, there were toilet targets. (Apparently, research shows that they increase accuracy by as much as 70 percent.)
In today’s data-driven world of No Child Left Behind and high-stakes accountability, administrators and lawmakers tend to obsess over hard measures. Adequate Yearly Progress determinations and School Performance Scores are based on precise formulas — formulas made up of clean, cold and supposedly foolproof numbers. In this highly calculable place, soft measures are rarely factored in. Nonetheless, after my “inspection” discovers the good, the bad and the ugly of the boys’ john, I usually have a good sense (or scent) of how a school is doing. Though I wouldn’t necessarily hold the bathroom test up against SAT scores as a measure of school success, I do consider it a telltale sign of either problems or promise.
Oh, health care and education how you are so intricately entwined. The toilet test works in hospitals, too. The article bullets a laundry list of “soft” tests (the soft stuff is the hard stuff…). Ideating a few for hospitals on the decline, those areas that all visitors have access to:
- wildly outdated reading material in waiting rooms
- trash on the floors in main corridors
- outdated furniture and interior decor, anywhere (though especially on the floors taking care of inpatients on services that traditionally are profitable)
- boxy tube televisions in common areas, shared televisions in patient rooms
- anything unkempt on a mother/baby service
- posters/announcements/bulletin boards with aged information
There are…many, maybe even a limitless list (oh, those are fun…). Care to share? How do you judge hospitals or any other institution/place of business when you don’t have access to metrics/don’t care about measures?