The Importance of a School Mission Statement

Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Dr. Rick N. Bolling
Elementary/middle school principal; Ed.D. in Leadership
Notebook and pen on a wooden background with the words “mission statement” written out.

A school mission statement is a living work that guides the daily decisions of the school. These statements should align with the school culture and climate to have substantive value. These statements combine with long-term vision statements, strategic plans, logos, and daily practices to create a brand for the school.

In order to create a positive school climate in which students want to attend, and parents want their children to be a part of a school, this brand must be relevant, purposeful, clear, and genuine.

What is a School Mission Statement?

A school mission statement is a sincere work that relays the purpose and guiding principles of a school. The statement should be concise, with each word having purpose and adding value. Mission statements are the “why” a school exists and what the learning, school community aims to achieve. The message must represent consensus and collaboration from all stakeholder viewpoints and needs.

School mission and vision statements should be written collaboratively with input and feedback garnered from all stakeholder groups. The final product establishes the tone and purpose for the learning community. To be effective, the statement needs to be memorable and genuine while representing the community’s varying needs.

Once a mission statement is drafted and approved, it must become the guiding force for the school’s daily interactions and decisions. Course offerings, staff recruitment and retention, instructional practices, and student engagement programs should align and grow from the mission statement. By communicating a mission statement with purpose, stakeholders should see that all other decisions are logical and align with the school’s purpose.

How to Support your School Mission Statement

Actions Speak Louder than Words

School mission statements are supported when staff aligns their daily choices with the purposes conveyed in the mission statement. For instance, if the mission statement includes belief in the ability of all students to learn and succeed, the staff should remain positive and collaborate on ideas to assist when students are struggling. Further, if academic achievement is noted, data-driven instructional practices should be in place to assess and refine classroom instruction.

Many mission statements relate to the value of a positive culture, preparation for the future, and community engagement. For these mission statements to have value, the schools should have expectations related to positive interactions, customer service, job and skill preparation, vocational training, and community outreach. The mission statement should be shared with the faculty, not just adorning walks within the physical structure. A school is made up of the interactions of the stakeholders that make up the school.

The aim should be for all stakeholders to know, understand, and apply the mission statement. As school leaders proceed with grade-level meetings, meeting agendas should reinforce the purposes outlined in the mission statement. A mission statement has no value if a school administrator, the school principal, or school leaders do not believe in and value the words.

Share the Mission Statement with Students

Teachers can share with students the purpose of the school’s operations and how those decisions align with the mission statement. For instance, if project-based instruction and authentic assessment are valued, those practices should be evident throughout the learning community. Teachers show support of the mission statement by teaching in ways that reinforce the school’s purposes.

Community Engagement

Central focuses of most schools include preparing good citizens and students who are prepared to succeed in college and contribute to the workforce. Showing that a school prioritizes engagement with its surrounding community is a given. Programs should aim to strengthen relationships with stakeholders and enhance community engagement.

Everyday Equity and Diversity

All students should feel represented in the mission statement. Schools must show value for students going to college and refining skills through strategic vocational trainings. Therefore, curricular options must exist for multiple pathways through and beyond the school.

Society needs people to bring various skills and talents. Schools must aim to eliminate stigmas and support all students so that they are equipped to have a bright future and become contributing members of society.

Common Problems with School Mission Statements

The most significant problem associated with many school mission statements is that they are drafted without purpose or intent. Further, these statements only sit on a shelf or hang on walls. These statements are often created in isolation who are looking to fulfill a checklist; stakeholders do not value these statements. Also, school mission statements that are too long and complex often produce few tangible results.

Mission statements must be concise and convey the purpose with the clearest possible language. Each word should be deliberated, and the words in the final statement should all add value and purpose. Leaders sometimes want to create a statement that is “fancy” and sounds scholarly. That is not the purpose; mission statements should represent everyone in a way that is easy to internalize, reflect upon, and remember.

Additionally, mission statements that are not student-focused and do not lead to enhanced outcomes are problematic. The purpose of a school clearly should be student-focused. Therefore, relevant school mission statements make the students the clear priority.

Also, the mission statement must align with the school’s strategic plan, brand, and goals. The best mission statement for school examples must become part of the overall package assisting the school in achieving these desired outcomes.

How to Create Mission Statements

Deep Reflection

These statements are written through reflection and prioritization. School leaders should invest time to ensure all stakeholder groups are heard and considered in the creation process. Drafting a meaningful mission statement takes time, and the time should be considered an investment in the betterment of the learning community.

Meetings

School leaders must meet with school staff, community leaders, and other stakeholder groups early in the creation process. Conversations should center on what the school values and aims to become. Focus groups with staff and community leaders are an effective part of the process.

While town hall meetings should occur with students and the community at large, all persons should feel comfortable to share. These stakeholders need to be heard and see that their contributions are considered. While a mission statement can’t include each idea, the key is to arrive at a consensus.

Refining and Tweaking

Multiple drafts may need to be refined as the process proceeds. In the end, stakeholder groups need time to reflect and approve the final statement. Once the mission statement is complete, other brand components such as the strategic plan and logo should be revisited to ensure direct alignment. The key to an effective process is bringing people together and listening. The process should be clear, transparent, and communicated effectively.

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