At our monthly administrator meetings in the north part of the state we typically do a book study together as a part of improving instructional practices in our charter schools. Last year, we read the book, "Failure is Not an Option" by Alan Blankstein. Since the book talks about the six principles "that guide student acheivement in high-performing schools" I am beginning a six-part series on these principles.
The first principle is: Common mission, vision, values and goals. This is the one part of the book that I don't completely agree with. I think the author uses "mission" and "vision" exactly the opposite of how they should be. The overall premise that school leaders need to coalesce around a common vision is correct.
Every charter school application, according to the Charter Schools Act, requires a mission statement. Many charter schools also have a vision statement. The vision statement is the big picture and the end product. The mission statement, is how the school will reach that point. To begin the process of writing a vision and mission statement, there should first be a discussion on what values or beliefs the founders have for the school. These should be noted in a bulleted format. From these belief statements, pull out the important words or phrases and create the vision and mission statements.
Vision and mission statements should be specific and avoid phrases that mean little and are over-used such as "prepare students to be global citizens." Most important, these statements should clearly convey a message to parents and staff. The statements should mean something!
As a part of the Charter School Support Initiative, team members look to see if the vision/mission statements are posted in the school and if students, parents and staff members know what the statements mean.
The book also talks about creating school goals. Charter school governing boards do this as a part of their annual strategic plan. The plan includes both long-term and short-term goals. Administrators can use the board's strategic plan to create personal professional development goals and staff goals.
The four pillars -- mission, vision, values, and goals - create the foundation for a professional learning community (PLC) or an environment that models continuous improvement, good communication and effective practices. According to the book, "Creating a 'product' for each of these pillars is technically simple. But the real gains in doing this come from the process and the relationships that are shaped along the way."