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Aligning mission statements with the common core

With 45 states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity adopting the Common Core State Standards, many schools are re-creating their mission statements to include common core values.

Author and educator Heidi Hayes Jacobs tackled this topic during the session, “Shaping a School’s Mission Statement to be Supported by the CCSS,” offered during the Curriculum Mapping Institute held in Salt Lake City, Utah July 10 – 11.

“In your mission statements, what you’re looking for are the qualities that you can act on and that your students can act on, but don’t separate them [the standards from the mission],” Jacobs told attendees. “Every word counts, and if it’s thoughtful and creative, you get people thinking differently. ”

Here’s a an overview of some steps Jacobs suggested schools take before writing their mission statement:

Discussion

Begin with the notion that all stakeholders are going to contribute, and then hold respectful discussions about your mission statement with strategic groups. Develop protocols so the rules of these meetings are clear. For example, you might say: Everyone has three minutes to share and everyone should use a sentence starter like: “Important considerations for me include …” There are times for informal conversations, but you want  a formal discussion, Jacobs said, adding, “One of the reasons mission statements rescind back to boring language is because you didn’t’ come up with a way to make it fresh and say: ‘Here’s how we’re going to talk about it.'”

Mission rubric

Develop a mission statement rubric. Jacobs shared these four: 1) The statements are actionable; that is, they can be realized in observable outcomes and work product. “If you can’t act on them, we can’t meet them. What does respect look like? The key is that it will be linked to student demonstration,” she said. 2) Language is compelling and refreshed versus static and flat. “I chose words that got your attention because it’s about an authentic notion. The words do not have to be big, but they should be apt,” Jacobs noted. 3) Focus is clear on meaningful aims matched precisely to the student population in your setting. “If I look at a mission statement that could be for any kid, then it’s not for your kids,” she said. 4) Each component of the learning organization interdependently sees its role in the mission. “It’s not that we’re separate here. We all buy in to it,” she explained. Using PrimaryPad, Jacobs asked educators to brainstorm qualities to add this to this list and share them in real-time with the group.

Case studies

Do some research and development about the criteria for what will constitute a meaningful mission statement before you ever even draft it, Jacobs suggested. “You’re not even saying: ‘We’re drafting it.’ You’re saying: ‘Let’s look at mission statements and decide what makes a good one. What qualities do we think are important.” She shared these examples: Birmingham Public Schools, Avenues, South Sevier Middle School and The Clifton School.

Inspiration  

Ask faculty, students and others to review source materials like those on corestandards.org for math and English language arts and ask: What are some of the qualities you want in your rubric? The common core site is rich with language for your common-core aligned mission statement, Jacobs said. Pick out words, phrases, etc. and ask educators to share them in PrimaryPad. “Start with words, values — these get you thinking,” she explained. “You don’t just start with the sentence.” Just do a little research and development, and then ask: How can we use this information to inform our mission statement? How do we translate these words into statements we can act on?

Jacobs , creator of Curriculum 21, is also the founder and president of Curriculum Designers, Inc. and executive director of the National Curriculum Mapping Institute and Academy. She also authored the interactive book Mapping to the Core.

Melissa Greenwood is SmartBrief’s senior education editor, with responsibility for the content in a variety of SmartBrief’s education e-news briefs. She also manages content for SmartBlog on Education and related social media channels. Prior to joining SmartBrief, Melissa held a variety of positions in the education field, including classroom teacher and education editor and writer.