Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Importance of School Mission and Vision

The panelists from our class last Thursday (October 21) on Charter Schools in
Baltimore left me thinking about the impact of student investment in the school
mission on student achievement. In the final question, panelists were asked, “How
do you message your school vision to your students, or is it just implicit in
everything that your students do?”

The answers varied between charter schools. Green Street Academy prides itself
on its five core values, which every student knows and recites in the form of a daily
pledge. Every discipline issue is framed as a breach of one of these core values. The
same teacher, who had worked at The Crossroads School the year before, mentioned
that sixth graders entering the middle school picked up on the “Crossroads Way”
and knew how to conduct themselves appropriately. And there are, obviously,
plenty of other Charter Schools around the country that adopt and communicate
similar concrete visions for their students, with successful student achievement
outcomes, including KIPP schools.

Other panelists, including the representatives from City Neighbors Charter School,
responded that having nonnegotiable pledges did not fit succinctly into their vision
for their school. President of City Neighbors, Bobbi MacDonald, commented that
several years ago, when founders first sat down to write the mission statement,
there was disagreement about using the word “enlivened” within it because it
wasn’t something that could be measured. Despite the debate, they included it, and
were rewarded last year by feeling as if their graduating middle school students
were truly enlivened upon exiting the school. City Neighbors’ success was perhaps
the result of their mission and vision, yet theirs is messaged more implicitly than
that of the previously mentioned charter schools.

Personally, I appreciate the more implicit messaging of a school vision, which is
embodied by all members of the school community; however, I think that it is more
difficult to pull off successfully. In order for a mission and vision to be successful,
students should be able to describe their school by citing their mission statement,
not necessarily repeat it in a pledge or do something because the school values
say so. But at the same time, how can we teach our students this without telling
them the values outright, bringing them up in conversation, or having them repeat
them on a daily basis? It is a difficult task, but as City Neighbors has proven, not an
impossible one.

Whether implicit or explicit, a school mission and vision that is understood and
embodied by all members of a school seems to have some effect on the success of a
charter school. The questions remain: How strong does the school identity need to
be? And how should we message it to students?

1 comment:

mct said...


I agree with your statement that a school mission needs to be understood and articulated by all members of the school's community. I also feel that this theory is easier said than done: incorporating the school's mission into every day lessons can prove very difficult and at times time consuming. Students should be able to relate the school's mission to their everyday lives, but as you said, this is often difficult to do if we do not outright state the answers and practice them daily. However, just like teaching any idea of theory, taking the time to instill the school's values and mission into its students is worth the effort.