School District Mission Statements

By Michael Corso, Linda Lucey, and Kristine Fox

Do your teachers, students, and community members know the goals your district and schools are striving to achieve? Does everyone in your learning community know your mission statement? As researchers and professional development providers, we find all too often that school mission statements are merely written documents posted in the main office and published in myriad handbooks. They are not what they should be: a set of beliefs that drive a district’s goals, hiring practices, instructional leadership, and program initiatives.

Often, mission statements are irrelevant, or worse, obsolete. Yet, in our work in hundreds of schools we have seen how creating and maintaining a mission-driven culture propels schools to new levels of excellence.

Through a joint research initiative, two nonprofit organizations, the Aspirations Research Center at the Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations and the Successful Practice Network, conducted a quantitative and then qualitative study examining highly ranked public high schools across the country. This project was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the International Center for Leadership in Education.

The schools that rose to the top in our study have mission statements that are widely known within the district and applied to decisions involving every aspect of teaching and learning.

What the high-achieving public high schools in our study share is evidence of the importance of having a mission that is genuinely and widely shared, lived, and aligned with the school’s policies and practices. 

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