Recently, I was in a committee meeting that went long. A few educators, myself included, stuck around and discussed matters not directly from the meeting but of the utmost importance to education and education reform. This was kind of a “meeting after the meeting” and the discussion became philosophical, as these types of “meetings” often can. Well, one of the individuals was discussing elements missing from our curriculum and things our school needs to change. He referenced a story of a student being tutored for the ACT and how the tutor had an immaculate track record of raising student’s ACT scores. The individual recounted that the tutor only focused on how to take the test and not what was on the test itself. His argument, of course, was that our school should offer a lot more time teaching students how to take tests. He even went so far as to suggest that answering C for all ACT questions would statistically earn a student a 19 on the ACT (I have found absolutely no evidence of this being true. In fact, I have found the opposite here and here.) While the intentions of the individual were good and he has the best interest of our students at heart, this bothers me.
Tests are meant to be tools to measure if students, and our education system, are accomplishing a greater goal: learning. However, in the testing culture that we are currently living in, learning is taking a backseat to a student earning a certain number on a test. One only needs to look in recent news to see examples of this fact. When we take time out of our lessons to teach students to answer C on questions they do not know the answer to, or any other “testing strategy,” we are sending the message to our students that scoring a certain number on a test is the priority and purpose of education.
Let’s Check Our Vision
I know of no school vision or mission statement that proudly states the purpose of the organization’s existence is to have every student score a, insert number here, or better on, insert test here. Many speak to ensuring students are successful in work, life, and/or their future; being an active citizen in their community; and even finding and living up to their greatest potential. With competing interests entering schools from politics, big business, technology, and athletics; a solid mission and vision statement has never been more important. We, educators, administrators, and community members, must come to an agreement, yes an agreement and not a directive, of why we do things. Only after this is accomplished, can we focus on the what we do and how we do it. This is true for an entire school, a new educational initiative (one-to-one for example), as well a teacher in his/her classroom (Watch the video below where Simon Sinek explains the Golden Circle and the question of Why).
The Stuff That Makes a Vision/Mission Great
If you don’t have a solid vision or mission, it can be just as useless as no mission at all. So what does a solid vision/mission have?
- Input from all stakeholders: community, students, teachers, and administrators
- Consensus: Common values must be fleshed out through open communication
- Some Specificity: Enough specifics for it to be a guide when making difficult decisions
- Some Vagueness: Enough vagueness to allow it to be practical for the future
As a teacher, I like examples. And as a social studies teacher, I like examples that relate to social studies. Therefore, here is one of my favorite examples of a great vision/mission statement.
Question: Do you agree or disagree? What makes a great vision/mission? Thanks for posting your answers and thoughts in the comment section.