Cultivating a sense of shared educational values, goals, and ideals for a school is one of the primary ways that leaders can inspire positive outcomes in their institutions. In fact, research shows that a positive school culture—defined as the collective values and beliefs of a school’s staff—can:
- Increase attendance rates and academic achievement
- Elevate school morale significantly
- Improve staff wellbeing
- Reduce aggressive behavior in students
- Lessen teacher turnover
One way that educational leaders can establish and encourage a positive culture that benefits everyone on campus is by creating well-written school mission and vision statements. Such statements set the tone for staff and students alike, making the purpose of the school clear and inspiring everyone to join together in realizing it. Learning how to write school mission and vision statements is an important step for educators who want to lead their institutions to succeed.
Why School Mission and Vision Statements Matter
Mission and vision statements help to set the course for a school. These statements communicate core educational values, speak to the culture of the institution, and provide faculty, staff, students, and community members with ideals to reach for in participation with the school.
In addition to communicating what is important to a school, mission and vision statements can also be useful for creating unity on campus. A clear mission and vision statement communicate to everyone involved at the school what they are collectively aspiring to attain. When individuals share a purpose, they may be more likely to trust one another, engage in collaboration, and have a positive experience in the school setting.
When it comes to teachers, in particular, mission and vision statements can be effective in a few ways. First, being aligned on a mission and vision can help prospective candidates and hirers determine if a teacher is a good fit for the school. Additionally, teachers—who are often overwhelmed and overworked—can look to their school’s mission or vision statement for guidance in prioritizing their tasks and setting their focus when many things call for their attention at once. Finally, teachers can benefit from strong school mission and vision statements when it comes to their relationships with fellow teachers as well as with students, as the common language and purpose of the statements provide common ground for those relationships.
Students may experience several key benefits of school mission and vision statements, too. The Values Education Good Practice Schools Project found that well-written vision statements can improve student-teacher relationships. The project also discovered that students in schools with good vision statements that truly impacted the day-to-day culture of the school enjoyed more calm and focused class activities. Lastly, students were more empowered to develop self-regulation and self-management skills in schools with strong vision statements.
What Are the Differences between Mission and Vision?
While school mission and vision statements have some overlap, there are a few key distinctions between the two.
The primary difference between a mission statement and a vision statement is that a mission statement describes the school’s current and/or founding identity and the key values that characterize the school as it is in the present. A vision statement, on the other hand, looks forward to the future. Oftentimes, a mission statement will begin with a phrase like “[School name] is…” while a vision statement might begin with “[School name] will be known for…”
In other words, a mission statement is largely a definition of the school, answering questions like:
- What is important to this school?
- How does this school seek to reach its objectives?
- What are the fundamental traits, cultural influences, or beliefs of this school?
A vision statement, on the other hand, answers questions such ask:
- What does this school aspire to accomplish in the years to come?
- What does the school want to become known for doing?
- How would this school define future success?
While school mission and vision statements will likely arise from the same core values, they serve two different purposes. The mission statement speaks to the school’s operations in the present. The vision statement speaks to the school’s hopes and intentions for the future.
Who Should Be Involved in Writing and Approving School Mission and Vision Statements? What Is the Process Like?
Experts agree that gathering insight from a diverse population can help create the best school mission and vision statements. By including various groups of people connected to the school—including teachers, students, administration, parents, and community members—education leaders can ensure that they are gathering as comprehensive of a perspective as possible. While it’s important to hear from a variety of people, education leaders should take care not to grow the group too large, as it could become difficult to find consensus or be productive.
Once a group has been established, discussion can begin. Educational values are a good place to start. Through data, anecdotes, and personal perspectives, group members can share their perceptions of the school’s current values or the values that should be prioritized. Identifying strengths and opportunities for growth can be insightful as well.
From there, the group members can discuss what their hopes are for the future of the school. What outcomes might the school’s educational values help produce? What does the school want to be known for in 5, 10, or 20 years? What are the school’s current priorities, and how might they be reordered for greater success?
Once a group has gathered, identified the school’s values, and discussed hopes for the future, then it is time to write the first draft.
How to Write a Mission Statement
At this point in the process, it is likely that there could be several pages of notes filled with ideas, values, and hopes for the future that the group has produced. This is exactly what is needed in order to write a mission statement, but condensing the content into a succinct sentence or paragraph may feel daunting.
Reading the mission statements of other schools and organizations may be helpful at this stage. Consider, for example, the Marymount University mission statement:
Marymount is a comprehensive Catholic university, guided by the traditions of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, that emphasizes intellectual curiosity, service to others, and a global perspective. A Marymount education is grounded in the liberal arts, promotes career preparation, and provides opportunities for personal and professional growth. A student‐centered learning community that values diversity and focuses on the education of the whole person, Marymount guides the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual development of each individual.
Notice that this mission statement fulfills several key objectives:
- Communicates a value system (Catholic)
- Sets priorities (intellectual curiosity, service, global perspective)
- Establishes an educational framework (liberal arts)
- Describes the community (student-centered, diverse, holistic)
At the elementary school level, a mission statement may read something like:
Our school fosters a love of lifelong learning by guiding each student to build foundational academic skills that will contribute to their ongoing success and by encouraging creative collaboration in an inclusive environment.
This statement makes clear that the school values the love of learning, basic skill development, and cultivating a positive community.
How to Write a Vision Statement
School vision statements should align with the values communicated in school mission statements, but they need to communicate forward thinking as well. The Marymount University vision statement reads:
Marymount, a leading Catholic university, will be nationally recognized for innovation and commitment to student success, alumni achievement, and faculty and staff excellence.
- Succinctly describes the school (a leading Catholic university)
- Sets the scope for success (national)
- Establishes goals to attain (recognition in student success, alumni achievement, faculty and staff excellence)
A high school vision statement may read something like:
Our school will develop critical thinkers who model an inclusive spirit and graduate prepared for success in a profession or higher education.
This statement communicates that critical thinking and inclusivity are prioritized educational values at the school and that employability and admission to college are the standards for success.
Lead in Education with Vision and Values
Do you want to develop a school mission statement that clearly communicates the educational values of the institution you lead? Are you interested in setting academic standards, establishing a campus culture, and doing the work to produce positive future outcomes as an education leader? If so, the Marymount University Online Doctorate in Education program can help you reach your professional goals.
Created for working professionals, Marymount’s flexible online Ed.D. allows students to personalize their coursework according to their vocational goals. Students in the program cite many personal benefits, including building relationships with fellow students and faculty members, honing their project completion skills, and improving their research abilities.
Student Alexander Gagnet says, “What I love best about the program is the care and attention the faculty put into the success of all the students. You really feel wanted and appreciated for your hard work and effort.”
Students also appreciate the way that the program allows them to meet their personal and professional obligations while in school.
“Not to be ignored is the fact that the online program allows you to be who you are AND be a student,” explains Marie Gemelli-Carroll. “It is a key benefit to be able to do classwork on your own time as long as you meet the assigned deadlines.”
Are you ready to further your career by earning a doctorate in education? Marymount University’s online Ed.D. features a practical curriculum and is a top program choice that will prepare you to lead positive change in education. Click here to connect with an enrollment advisor.