Whaddya’ Think of This Vision?

So, I’ve been writing recently about the importance of clearly articulated vision statements for learning teams, right?  Well, here’s what I’ve put together for my group.

Check it out and give me some feedback.  Have I touched on key elements of accomplished vision statements?  Does my vision for student learning resonate with yours?  What do you like?  What did I leave out?

Here’s what I’ve written:

If our learning team is going to be successful at creating a collaborative community, ensuring high student achievement and valuing the unique needs of each learner, we must articulate what each of those terms looks like in action.  Without a shared vision serving as a standard for collective decision making, it will be impossible to meet the high expectations defined by our mission statement.  The following vision statement is designed to serve as a living guide for all stakeholders interested in seeing our students succeed:

Curriculum

A team committed to ensuring high student achievement and valuing the unique needs of each learner provides all students with a strong, fundamental education focused on the standards defined by the State of North Carolina’s Standard Course of Study. While clear emphasis is placed on core academic subjects, a strong commitment to educating the whole child is also evident in the development of top-quality art, music, drama, foreign language and other elective experiences for students.  Finally, a team committed to ensuring high student achievement recognizes and respects the changing nature of the learning and work environment in the 21st Century.

On such a team, the curriculum:

  1. Focuses on a handful of essential outcomes identified after a careful examination of student performance measures.
  2. Provides integrated learning experiences, enabling students to make connections between different subject areas.
  3. Encourages student-centered exploration of content rather than teacher-driven presentations.
  4. Allows students to engage in study of topics of deep personal interest.
  5. Remains consistent across classrooms.
  6. Incorporates right-brained lessons that emphasize design, play, story, symphony, empathy and meaning.
  7. Equally values non-tested learning that has been recognized as valuable by the community.
  8. Introduces students to tools for managing and evaluating information.
  9. Structures frequent opportunities for students to create, communicate and collaborate with others, both in and beyond their communities.

Teachers

Research—including the results of the North Carolina Teacher Working Conditions Survey—has shown time and again that the single greatest determinant in the success or failure of students is the quality of classroom teachers.  Pairing a deep understanding of their content and the characteristics of the students that they serve, accomplished educators tailor learning experiences and environments that both ensure student success and value the unique needs of every learner.

To maximize the human capacity in a schoolhouse, exemplary teachers:

  1. Believe that all students can learn and accept responsibility for results.
  2. Join as participating members of collaborative teams that share knowledge about high-quality instruction.
  3. Analyze data to identify and amplify effective practices.
  4. Demonstrate a commitment to constant professional growth by researching, reading and reflecting on learning.
  5. Use their school’s mission, vision and values statements as guideposts for every decision.
  6. Consider,confront and/or abandon practices that appear to be inconsistent with
    their school’s mission, vision and values statements.

Attention to Individual Students

Decision-making on a middle school learning team that is committed to ensuring high student achievement and valuing the unique needs of every learner is driven by the distinguishing characteristics of preteen learners. Still developing physically, cognitively and emotionally, middle grades students present more classroom diversity than their elementary and high school counterparts.  Struggling with organization, task completion, consistency and a developing identity, the students of most middle school classrooms will face moments of great challenge at some point during their sixth, seventh or eighth grade school years.

These differences are recognized and respected on exemplary middle school learning teams where:

  1. Multiple opportunities to master academic content are offered.
  2. Structured feedback about content mastery AND productive work behaviors are provided to both parents and students.
  3. Ongoing support is offered for students struggling with social interactions and personal development.
  4. A range of extracurricular experiences are developed that provide every child with a place to belong.
  5. Celebrations of student success are frequent and take many forms.

Students

While still developing physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally, students can—and should—play a valuable role in ensuring their own success.  With the support of their teachers, students on exemplary middle school learning teams:

  1. Begin to accept responsibility for their own learning.
  2. Identify and pursue areas of deep personal interest.
  3. Actively track their own academic progress, identifying areas of strength and weakness.
  4. Seek out connections between the content that they are studying in school.
  5. Understand their role as a co-learner in a classroom and respect the different
    personalities, opinions and abilities of their peers.
  6. Allow their own thinking to be challenged and actively challenge the thinking of their classmates.

Parents and Community Members

Perhaps the saddest reality in schools today is that parents and community members are often marginalized.  While schools expect constant support from the communities that they serve, there are few formalized opportunities for parents and volunteers to be actively engaged in efforts to ensure high student achievement and to value the unique needs of every learner.

Exemplary middle school learning teams recognize the power of parents and community partners by:

  1. Regularly communicating with parents about the academic, social and emotional successes and struggles of students.
  2. Establishing meaningful volunteer opportunities that support the academic, social and emotional development of students.
  3. Engaging parents and community members in conversations about school programs.
  4. Developing community orientation programs that introduce interested citizens to
    the content and curriculum of the middle grades classroom.
  5. Eliciting support and guidance for school programs from local businesses.

 

4 thoughts on “Whaddya’ Think of This Vision?

  1. Mary Pat Spon

    I agree that the vision statement needs to be shorter and more concise with a true focus on what you school should look and feel like , say, 10 years from now.
    However, I do want to comment on the subcategories. Let’s take the first one, Curriculum. I am a firm believer that, just as for students, we need to ‘activate prior learning’ for teachers so that they can see new strategies in a familiar context. For example, “Encourages student-centered exploration of content rather than teacher-driven presentations.” – identify a previous lesson that exhibits student-centered exploration and apply it to a state standard-driven lesson or lessons. Engage the staff in a dialogue about what works and what needs improvement so that the students achieve the desired outcome. As a facilitator for hundreds of National Board candidates, I have always stressed to candidates to repeat to themselves, “How does this impact student learning?” That’s where the dialogue must begin.
    Mary Pat Spon, UniServ Director, Montgomery County Education Association/MSTA/NEA.

  2. Belinda Man

    Hi Bill,
    I’m the research and production assistant for a documentary tentatively titled “The Teacher Salary Project” at the moment. And we’re very interested in getting you involved with it. We believe that teachers in American public schools are underpaid, under-supported, and undervalued. We feel there needs to be change and would love to talk with you. You can reach me through my email address. If you could get back to us as soon as possible (hopefully today if you can), it would be amazing. Hope to hear from you soon.

  3. Glenn

    Bill, I think you threw everything AND the kitchen sink in there.
    It is not a vision statement, it is a treatise on the philosophy of the department. Have you considered trying to whittle it down to a true vision STATEMENT? Can you, in no more than two or three sentences and no more than five or six statements, clearly articulate what you are trying to do?
    I am not trying to be too critical, but it seems that you are so broad that the audience you are trying to reach will tune out before they really reach the end of the list.
    Trying to summarize a philosophy very shortly is very painful, but it will allow you to hone your message to a razor point that all teachers will be forced to either buy into or realize they don’t agree. A philosophy statement that is too wordy and very broad will allow wiggle room, interpretation, hemming and hawing, and in the end, a lack of vision.

  4. John Tenny, Ph.D.

    It was this statement that caught my eye: “If our learning team is going to be successful at creating a collaborative community, ensuring high student achievement and valuing the unique needs of each learner, we must articulate what each of those terms looks like in action”.
    As the developer of the Data-Based Observation Model (and supportive software), I fully support any efforts to expand the goals, standards, indicators to include observable behaviors. In terms of teaching standards or implementation of curriculum what is most commonly found are broad statements that result in a breath of individual definitions. The judgments made on the basis of those scoring guides or checklists vary widely and are seldom scrutinized.
    In the Data-Based Observation Model objective data is collected and used as a basis for professional decision-making. The data collection tools are designed to align with standard/indicators (this where the more precise articulation would really be useful). In terms of professional growth, teachers are engaged throughout the process and are critical in the interpretation of data, developing any needed changes, and determining the effectiveness of the change. Note that the model is not an evaluative model, but one of providing a sound foundation for making decisions.
    The success of the model is based on clear goals and standards, objective observation and data collection, and full engagement of the teacher. The level of professional discussion and decisions increases significantly, and results in self-directed professional growth.
    More information about the thinking behind the model is on my blog: Data-Based Classroom Observation. Anyone curious about the optional software can download it at eCOVE Software. [if these don’t show up as links, just search for them]
    Peace, John

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