5 Keys to an Effective School Mission

Instructional leadership offers administrators the opportunity to create a shared vision of learning for the entire school environment – allowing both educators and support staff to get behind a common goal. That common goal is most often articulated in the form of a school mission statement, which must be built effectively in order to be compelling.

What are the characteristics of a good school mission statement?

1.    Academically Focused

A school’s mission must be academically focused, as after all that is the primary function of the school environment. While there are other functions that a school serves, other roles that it plays, the academic growth of the students is where it all starts and where it should ultimately lead. The mission statement serves as a reminder to all members of the school community that strong academics are the prize.

2.    Objectives are Clearly Expressed

In order for all stakeholders to have the opportunity to participate in the school’s model, the objectives must be clearly expressed in writing. The language has to be clear and something that everyone can understand, from teachers and administrators to parents and support staff. Students should also be able to access the mission statement so that they can become participants in their own education.

3.    Clearly Displayed

A mission statement does no one any good if it’s kept locked up in the office or just posted on a web page. In order for a school’s mission statement to be of any use, it must be displayed in places all over the school environment. In hallways and on distributed materials, discussed in classrooms and assemblies. If a school wishes for its mission statement to drive the school culture, then it must be part of the school environment and conversation.

4.    Present in the Classroom

Besides being displayed and talked about in the school, the mission statement should be the primary driving force for teachers when they are planning and implementing lessons. This is something that can take some acclimation for teachers, who are might be reticent to change their focus when planning lessons. However using the school’s mission as a focus and a trigger point will help students to have a unified educational experience, which will help them to solidify their learning across the school setting.

5.    Actively Modeled

In addition to all of this, the mission must be expertly articulated by the school’s top administrators. If the mission has an academic focus, then that needs to be actively backed by the administration. Stakeholders will have a hard time pushing the mission of the school if they believe that there is a lack of integrity in the execution of it, for example if the mission pushes academics but the school more actively focuses on sports or societal concerns. Of course even with that academic heartbeat that’s driving the school’s mission, there will continue to be ancillary projects and activities going in in the school, but with that the pulse must still be academic, and that pulse is derived from the actions of administrators.

Applying Research to Mission Building

Instructional leaders should apply research to their mission building strategies. One key way to do this is to ask questions about the mission statement as it is in development and then later as it is implemented.

  • Are the goals clearly articulated and easy to understand?
  • Are the goals visible throughout the school environment?
  • Are they familiar with all of the stakeholders in the school?
  • Do the goals apply in the day-to-day activities at the school?
  • Do instructional leaders consistently and actively reinforce the misson’s goals?
  • Do all stakeholders in the school support the mission?

The Importance of the Mission Statement.

Direction-setting in the school environment is an essential aspect of instructional leadership. Framing and communicating the school’s goals through a mission statement is the perfect way to communicate the direction and focus of the school environment. Clear, measurable and time based goals are at the heart of the school experience. When these goals are communicated and achieve buy in from stakeholders within the school environment, then the school’s mission becomes attainable. Too often goals are not active drivers in the school community, but rather are sidebar considerations that don’t get much attention from school personnel. The mission is a wonderful tool to help create an effective school environment.

Nearly every school has a mission statement, and it can be a powerful tool that helps to codify and give direction to the enthusiasm, passion and expertise that educators bring to the classroom. Or it can be a jumble of letters that are posted on the wall of the office and left unnoticed. The choice is up to the leadership of the school environment. One thing that administrators must realize is that good goals, good mission statements that are well articulated and actively communicated, offer the possibility for radical change and success.

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