Public schools seem to be attempting to do the following (and a whole lot more) as part of a mission by default…one that has not been really thought out, but is rather a conglomeration of expectations and the reactions to those expectations:
- Maximize student achievement (often translated to = passing the test).
- Prepare students to be competitive in the world marketplace
- Encourage Life-Long learning
- Develop the whole person
What is the mission of your school? Is it written down? Was it agreed to by all stakeholders in your community (from people all races and economic classes, from parents and students, the disabled, business owners, retired folks, etc) after honest and lengthy conversations? Does it truly drive all of your day-to-day operations, and can all students, staff, parents and stakeholders recite it and know how it applies? Do they believe in it? If the mission was developed in partnership with all stakeholders, and is being carried out with fidelity, is it informed by and does it fit within the mission of the school district, or has the school gone rogue?
The term rogue is perhaps too harsh to describe where most schools have arrived at as far as their mission, because they have not done so formally nor with collective intention. Staff and leaders find themselves under heavy fire in a day-to-day grind of ever-increasing legal demands, economic crisis, and high stakes testing pressures as student social and emotional health seems to be on the decline. The most debilitating fact is not that the challenges they face have become so huge, but that they lack a mission that takes their efforts and best thinking and effectively starts to return fire on the enemy. It is time to take a quick halt, set up 360 degree security, and conduct a leader’s recon of the situation. What do we need from our public schools? What do we want from them? If we could imagine the perfect educational experience for children k-12, what would that look like, and how could we use it to inform our practice?