Obviously, transformative change in k-12 education has been slow to materialize. In my last post I presented 11 school district Mission statements and made the point that essentially every one of these statements is fully supportive of the outcomes we would like transformative change to deliver. Here are just a few of the outcomes mentioned in Mission statements from that post:
It is the mission of the (Name of school) to develop:
active, life-long learners
curious, compassionate learners
integrity as a core value
creative and critical thinkers
appreciation of self-worth and individual differences
independent learners able to work collaboratively to solve problems
responsibility for their own learning
development of students’ individual strengths, skills, and talents
engaging, challenging and personalized learning environments
connection to the global community
Impressive and worthy goals, right? The problem, as most of us know, is that these statements bear little resemblance to what is really going on in our schools. The gap between what we envision and say we want and what we do in our schools is enormous. It is so enormous we tend to look at our written Missions as ‘fluff’.
I believe we can use these Board adopted Mission statements as a pathway to transformative change.
How? What if we approached our Mission statements differently? What if, immediately after creating or adopting a Mission statement, we spent significant amounts of time and energy, deciding how we were going to measure and assess our progress in achieving our vision? Wouldn’t holding ourselves accountable via these assessments force our hand?
The elements of our Mission may not be easy to measure and that is the beauty of this approach. Think of the great educational conversations that would need to take place to decide the best way to assess whether our students are “active” learners, or not.
- Would we survey the students to see if they felt they were “active” in their learning?
- What exactly does being “active” in their learning mean?
- Could we create a rubric that pertained to “active” learning and use it in the annual classroom observation process?
- How often would we want to check on our classrooms to see if students were “active” in the learning process?
The same would hold true for “life-long learning” or “curious and compassionate learners”. We would have to agree on what we meant by “curious”, and “compassionate” learners. We would have to agree on the rubrics that would be needed to assess our progress in meeting these goals.
The reason I am focused on Mission statements as the “tip of the spear” for transformative change is because they are Board adopted, public statement of the values, beliefs, and vision that the local community has for it schools. Why not use this to instigate change? Why not say, “Great Mission! Now, let’s measure how we’re doing in making it real”
Some great man or woman somewhere once said something like,
“What gets measured gets done!”
Let’s start measuring whether our students are developing “connections to the global community”, or have become “independent learners able to work collaboratively to solve problems” and whether our schools are providing “engaging, challenging, and personalized learning environments”.
If we live up to our Mission statements we will bring tremendous change to our schools.