What drives growth in your school community?
It could be your school’s culture, a focus on teacher professional development, or even prioritizing useful teaching strategies. However, none may be as important as school mission statements, which are essential for student development and effective learning.
School mission statements indicate the priorities and goals of a school community, and can have an incredible impact on student achievement.
Wondering how to make your own? In this post, we’ll cover:
- What a school mission statement is
- How school mission and vision statements work together
- 6 steps for writing your own mission statement
- Common problems with school mission statements
- Why school mission statements are important
- How Prodigy can help you support your school mission statement
What are school mission statements?
If your school is a car, then the mission statement is the engine.
School mission statements are documents that define where your school is going and drive decisions accordingly. They lay out educational goals, community priorities and the purpose of your school.
Lots of different organizations have mission statements — non-profit organizations, government departments, small businesses, big corporations. Mission statements guide growth and learning in many different contexts.
School vision and mission statements
If your school is a car and your mission statement is the engine, the school vision statement is the GPS system.
Vision statements aren’t the same as mission statements, but they are closely related. To create a mission statement, you should first have a vision for where you want to see your school in the future.
John C. Gabriel and Paul C. Farmer, authors of How to Help Your School Thrive Without Breaking the Bank, write:
“A vision is your school’s goal — where you hope to see it in the future. The mission provides an overview of the steps planned to achieve that future. A vision is concise and easy to recall, whereas a mission is lengthier and more explanatory in nature.”
The vision statement provides a glimpse at your school’s ideal future.
Everyone — students, faculty and staff — in your school should be able to recite your school vision statement.
How to write a school mission statement
1. Gather stakeholders
To start, consult students, parents, teachers, staff and any other members of the school community with insights to offer.
District 100 teacher leaders met yesterday after school to help craft the new district belief statements. The vision, mission and belief statements will be presented to the BOE at their January regular meeting. Thanks to all stakeholder groups for their input. pic.twitter.com/V9B7eWOrQb
— Berwyn District 100 (@BerwynSouth100) December 20, 2017
Put together a small group that reflects all your stakeholders, and get them brainstorming. Where do they think the school is now? Where do they see it in the future? What part of the school’s identity should be emphasized?
Working with different members from your school community has several benefits:
- It reduces the fear of change — It’s natural to be apprehensive when school culture starts changing. Opening a dialogue now will help smooth out any tension.
- It improves buy-in — When teachers are consulted on changes to the school’s mission statement, they’re more likely to support it in the classroom and throughout the day-to-day operations of your building.
- It makes your mission better — Teachers, parents, staff and students all have unique perspectives. Use their feedback to build a comprehensive school mission statement that recognizes the diversity of opinions found in the school community.
Make sure the group is representative of all your stakeholders, but still small enough to be able to complete meaningful work in a reasonable timeframe. Values can differ widely within a community, so be sure to take enough time to make informed decisions about all your different options.
2. Look at your school
Every school has unique opportunities, challenges, weaknesses and strengths. Luckily, your school is full of data that can help you identify these areas. To gather data, look at:
- Socio-economic status of students
- Urban versus rural schools
- Diversity in the classroom
- ESL or multilingual students
- Graduation rates
- Common discipline problems
- Attendance rates
- Staff turnover
- Staff assessment results
- Special needs students
- Student extracurriculars
- Standardized test results
- Student achievement
- Special communities (military families, immigrant populations, international students)
Every piece of information is an important part of your school’s unique identity. Use the data you have to identify the top issues, strengths and opportunities for growth in your school community.
3. Look at the future
A vision is what you hope the future will be, and a school mission statement is what’s going to get you there. It’s extremely important you write your mission statement with the future in mind.
With your stakeholders, take all the data you’ve collected and ask:
Based on what we know now about our school, what will it look like in five or ten years if we’re completely successful?
There’s your vision.
To develop your school mission statement, ask what steps the school community needs to take to achieve the vision. Questions to ask include:
- What’s already in place to help us move forward?
- How do we envision our school growing?
- What needs to be changed?
- What characteristics should we emphasize?
- What changes do we see happening in the future?
School mission statements shouldn’t need to be changed every year, but they’re not static. They’re going to grow and adapt with your school community.
Achieving a vision is a big task, and it should seem a little challenging. Vision and mission statements push growth and learning in an aspirational direction. You might be surprised at what your school can achieve.
4. Write your first draft
You’ve answered the questions and gathered the data. Now it’s time for the hard part — putting it all down into words.
It might seem like a daunting task to create an articulate, comprehensive and inspiring plan for your school’s future. Just start with a draft — it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to revise it over the next few steps.
If you’d like, ask stakeholders with a talent for writing to give you a hand, but keep the group limited to two or three people.
Some best practices for writing include:
- Avoid cliches — Global citizenship, 21st century skills and a nurturing environment are all important aspects of an effective school, but they’ve been overused to the point of meaninglessness.
- Get specific — Take those cliches and make them fit your school, not the other way around. In your school, global citizenship could be a focus on second language literacy, or learning about other cultures through the lens of different subjects.
- Be authentic — Keep your school and community in mind at all times as you’re writing, and speak to the real needs they’re seeing.
Consider including the ages and characteristics of your students, teaching strategies or curriculum philosophies used in your school, and one or two other features you feel are important for communicating your school’s mission.
When you have a draft you’re satisfied with, bring it back to the larger group of stakeholders you brainstormed with in the first place. Make sure:
- They’re happy with the priorities you’ve laid out
- They have no major concerns about any of the school characteristics you’ve highlighted
- The school mission statement is a true representation of how they want the school to grow
This could be difficult and may require some compromise, because all groups will have members with conflicting beliefs and priorities. There’s no sure way to solve it, but try to reach a consensus on big issues and focus less on smaller concerns, like specific wording.
At the end of this, you should have a mission statement that reflects the values and priorities of as many stakeholders as possible.
5. Give the school mission statement to the community
Present your school mission statement to the whole community. This could be through a meeting with district leaders, a parent evening, or through the school newsletter.
Invite community members to raise any serious objections with you. If you’ve missed a key issue, this is their opportunity to contribute ideas.
Gather feedback from the community and make sure:
- The concerns of the majority of stakeholders have been met
- The mission statement compliments the vision of the school, as well as any other messaging materials
- Stakeholders agree the school mission statement is an accurate representation of current and future school growth
Use this opportunity to explain why your school mission and vision statement will be important for future growth, and how you see the needs of the community reflected in it.
6. Put your school mission statement into action
Congratulations! You’ve written your school mission statement.
Now for the hardest part — using it!
All the hard work you put into your school mission statement is useless if you put it up on your website and forget about it.
Put the vision and mission statement everywhere: on the wall, in your office, in your weekly newsletter, on your website. Make sure it’s visible to the entire community.
This is also a great opportunity to run a professional development session on how to effectively use school mission statements in the classroom. Go over why it’s important, how it reflects the school’s priorities and how it should be used to guide classroom decisions.
Schools are not defined by the mission statement on the wall; they are defined by what actually goes on in classrooms.
— Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) November 12, 2017
Make sure parents and students know what the mission statement means, and tell potential students why it’s so important to you school.
It’s also a good idea to revisit the mission statement at the beginning and end of every year. Is it still relevant? Has anything major changed? Are you still actively working to achieve your vision? If there are changes, it’s time to re-align your goals and priorities.
Common problems with school mission statements
It can be difficult to write school mission statements well. Common problems include:
- Too vague
- Too broad
- Too narrow
- Insincere, generic language
- No staff or community buy-in
Writing an effective mission statement requires self-reflection as a community, and a lot of consultation with different stakeholders. It’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed.
Why school mission statements are important
Guides community growth
Your community should be able to access the mission statement easily. If they don’t already know it, it should make sense to them when they hear it.
School mission statements are a tool used to drive growth within the school community and guide it towards a desired outcome (the achievement of the school vision statement).
Use the school vision and mission statements to guide staff development and build a school improvement plan. Focus on areas of growth not just in the classroom, but for your staff. When school mission statements guide teacher learning, teachers are better equipped to serve students in a way that aligns with the school’s vision and mission.
Guides decision-making and priorities
According to a study by educators that analyzed the mission statements of K-12 schools in Texas,
“Once written, the mission statement must become a living document that informs all day-to-day practices of the administration, teachers and students. Too often mission statements exist only on paper rather than being a lived philosophy and commitment to the ongoing development of an effective education institution.”
This means school mission statements have serious implications for the priorities and goals of your school, including how money, time, and other resources are allocated. Use your vision and mission to effectively use all available resources.
Gives weight to the learning process
School mission statements are a tool for guiding and shaping the learning process. In some places, school mission statements are even a precursor to accreditation because they have such a large impact on how student learning is prioritized.
Ultimately, school mission statements are classroom tools. If your mission statement places an emphasis on digital skills, it might lead teachers to use a blended learning approach. If curiosity and exploration are a priority, then project-based learning or inquiry- based learning might be useful classroom strategies.
When vision and mission statements align with what’s happening in the classroom, student learning will improve.
After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?
How Prodigy can help implement school mission statements
It’s almost inevitable your school mission statement will prioritize academic excellence. Math competency is a key component of academic excellence, but it’s also a subject many students struggle with.
Here at Prodigy, our mission is simple: to help every child in the world love learning.
Prodigy encourages math fluency through a daily math practice that keeps students engaged and motivated. Our unique game-based design challenges students to complete quests, explore new worlds and collect points while answering curriculum-aligned math questions.
Unique reporting and alignment features give teachers the tools to deliver a personalized learning experience for each student in an engaging and adaptive environment. A powerful algorithm ensures students receive questions that build on their existing skills to keep them moving forward in the curriculum.
As a school leader, you’ll be able to ensure Prodigy is aligned to your school’s mission statement through a dedicated administrator dashboard with real-time reports on each student, charts and graphs about learning achievement and weaknesses, and reports organized by class, school and district.
And the best part? Prodigy is available at no cost to you and your school.
Learn more about how Prodigy can deliver customized learning in your school:
- How to use Prodigy to reinforce in-class lessons
- How to use Prodigy for formative assessments
- 3 steps to use Prodigy as an RTI tool
Interested in how many users are in your building — right now? Fill out the form below.
Next steps for developing school mission statements
Use your school mission statement to drive learning and empower your teachers, students, and community! Your school community will benefit from a clear plan for growth, and students will thrive.
As Gabriel and Farmer write, “the collective force and talent of the faculty is more likely to be realized when there is a common understanding of a shared vision.”
Imagine what an entire community can do when it’s united through a shared vision. Get started today on a school mission statement to harness your school community’s potential.
Create or log in to your school leader account on Prodigy – a free, game-based learning platform for math that’s easy to use for educators and students alike. Aligned with curricula across the English-speaking world, it’s loved by more than a million teachers and 50 million students.👇👇👇