School Missions Matter

by | Dec 14, 2015 | Leadership, School Climate, Strategic Brief

I recently examined 13 school vision and mission statements, which I believe are representative of schools throughout the nation. It led me to ask two questions:

  1. How does a school’s mission and vision statement drive instruction, engagement and collaborations?
  2. What assessments are in place to measure progress toward a school’s mission and vision?

I was delighted to discover the use of very dynamic descriptions of the school’s environment, strategies and impacts in the schools’ mission and vision statements expressed below:

  • Provide all students a superior education so that they achieve their full human potential
  • Provide all students with a safe and nurturing environment with a core curriculum rich and rigorous and which respects diversity in student learning styles and excellent instruction in every classroom
  • Provide all students with a high quality education that enables them to be contributing members of a multi-ethnic, multicultural, pluralistic society by creating an environment that achieves equity for all students and ensures that each student is a successful learner, is fully respected and learns to respect others
  • Nurture, educate and graduate students who are civic-minded and prepared to make ethical decisions; who are confident, competent communicators, skillful in problem solving, capable of creative thinking; who have a career motivation and a knowledge of our global and multicultural society
  • Cultivate the potential in every student to thrive as a global citizen by inspiring a love of learning and civic engagement, by challenging and supporting every student to achieve academic excellence and by embracing the full richness and diversity of our community
  • Prepare all students for college and life by providing a challenging curriculum (Rigor) that connects students’ lives and their future (Relevance) in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment (Relationships)
  • Enable and inspire our diverse student body to achieve academic excellence and make positive contributions to our world
  • Instill a love of learning in its students and prepares them to be responsible and productive global citizens
  • Ensure each student achieves intellectual and personal excellence and is well prepared for college and career pathways through a caring and collaborative learning community; enabling each student to flourish as a responsible citizen in the global community
  • Empower every student to become a life-long learner who is responsible, productive and engaged citizens within the global community; achieving his or her maximum potential in an engaging, inspiring and challenging learning environment
  • Establish a community of learners and learning through relationships, relevance and rigor, one student at a time so that they believe in their power to embrace learning, to excel and to own their future
  • Ensure that each student acquires the knowledge, skills and core values necessary to achieve personal success and to enrich the community in partnership with students, families and the community
  • Provide a quality education that encourages every student to realize his/her potential and become lifelong learners that demonstrates the knowledge, skills and values required for productive global citizenship
  • Prepare students for the 21st Century (excelling in a complex, interconnected and changing world) by engaging all learners in meaningful learning experiences that meet the highest educational and ethical standards in a caring, collaborative learning environment supported through partnerships with parents and families, businesses, civic organizations and higher education

My analysis identifies six common topics within these schools’ vision and mission statements:

  1. Commitment to provide high quality services, programs and opportunities to every or each student
  2. Development of a safe, engaging, equitable and challenging school climate
  3. Focus on diversity and multiculturalism as both an outcome and a process
  4. Commitment to teaching strategies that lead to student development of knowledge, skills and dispositions
  5. Ensure students develop local, national and global citizenship competencies
  6. Engagement of parents, families and communities

So, let’s go back to my first question: How does a school’s mission and vision statement drive instruction, engagement and collaborations?  Using a backward mapping exercise, schools can draw direct lines between the anticipated outcomes and impacts and specific strategies to achieve them.  For example, given a commitment that every and each student will be effectively engaged, school leaders and constituents can determine which teaching and learning strategies, school climate characteristics and engagement processes align with all students.  They can then determine if there are students missing from this analysis and create strategies to close potential gaps.

Using the same process, education stakeholders can map existing strategies to determine how they lead to student development of diversity and multicultural attributes and implement a corresponding gap analysis. These strategies can be adopted/adapted in schools to determine the intentional alignment of practices to achieve the vision and mission.

Now to the second question what assessments are in place to measure progress toward a school’s mission and vision?  Using the six common topics identified above here are some questions for schools to consider:

  1. What existing assessments are in place to measure the connection between specific strategies and intended outcomes and impacts?
  2. What enhancements can be developed to expand existing assessments to ensure each strategy is assessed for its contributions to the school vision and mission?
  3. Given that the school’s environment (quality and character) provides the context for student development, are there assessments in place to measure and enhance the school’s climate?
  4. Acknowledging a commitment to ensure students develop attributes to be effective contributing local, national and global citizens are there assessments in place to analyze corresponding teaching and learning methods and student competencies?
  5. What specific methods and measures address parent, family and community engagement and in what ways are they engaged in the development and implementation of the assessments?
  6. Given the wide range of assessments necessary to determine the alignment of organizational conditions and classroom practices how are the results shared with school and community-based constituents?

A school’s vision and mission statement is a public declaration of the organization’s objectives.  In addition they guide the school’s decision-making.  They are most relevant when (1) direct lines are drawn between those outcomes and impacts and strategies and (2) assessments are in place to accurately and adequately measure progress toward the objectives.

I encourage a review of your school’s vision and mission statements and conducting the analyses suggested above, to do so ensures the school’s objectives guide decision-making to determine which strategies best lead to the stated outcomes and impacts.

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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