Do Meaningless Mission Statements = Poor Schools?

To our way of thinking, a school’s mission statement should contain measurable goals. After all, if you cannot measure progress towards a set of goals, there’s no way to prove whether or not they are being met. Schools with the poorest reviews on the ISR web site seem to expound the most lofty, unmeasurable goals. Read these actual International School mission statements, for example:

  • The Mission of ___ School is to provide high quality holistic education in an inspiring learning environment that maximizes the potential of each individual to become a responsible global citizen.
  • The American International School of ___ prepares its students to be responsible global citizens and inspires in each a passion for knowledge and lifelong learning. We are a nurturing and diverse community that instills respect for self and others, develops the whole child, and strives for academic excellence.
  • The goal of The ___ School is to liberate the joy of learning within every child and nurture them as citizens of the world. We believe that global education is the key to continued success.

What, if anything above, is quantifiable or measurable? Are goals being met? Maybe, or maybe not. Who really knows? And maybe no one in administration really cares! In fact, the reviews of these schools tell the real story beyond the mission statement.

In contrast to the statements above, here is a mission statement from a school with many strong, outstanding reviews:

  • ABC Academy challenges its students to academic excellence through the medium of a college preparatory curriculum and U.S. academic standards, with instruction in English language. ABC Academy values community service and responsible global citizenship and promotes the integral development of each student within a multicultural setting.

What has your experience been with school mission statements? With the ever growing number of “for profit” schools springing up, a school’s mission statement could be a good indicator of what you may be signing up for!

18 Responses to Do Meaningless Mission Statements = Poor Schools?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Seems like it, but, hey, this is the only place I’ve found where there is any kind democratic conversation happening about what is often the very undemocratic side of international schooling.

    My pick for a blog topic soon:

    Where are we with an International Teachers Bill of Rights? I’ve read the comments on the site but none of it is dated, so, if you are just discovering this, like I am there’s no context. Have schools publicly adopted this?


  2. terrancewilson says:

    Mission statements don’t mean much (that seems to be the consensus), yet the lack of one on a school’s website would seem pretty weird. So mission statements are meaningless and necessary.

    Is ISR scrambling for blog topics?


  3. Anonymous says:

    International schools seem to specialize in vague, airless mission statements that sound good but ring hollow. I challenge anyone to find a school where the majority of staff can come to consensus on just what is a “global citizen.”


    • Ferd says:

      Take a look at what ‘7 Habits / Leadership’ schools are doing. Muriel Summers was the first school principal to introduce Stephen Covey’s principles to elementary students a decade ago after consulting with community and business leaders and parents as to what 21st century skill sets they required. As with successful businesses, her school’s mission statement is an integral aspect of how the school functions. There are now 100s of schools around the world using teaching Covey’s principles.


  4. TedBob says:

    I worked for one of those schools. The mission statement was first made in the local language with a very local perspective then mangled into English. It was meaningless. It should’ve just said “The schools aim is make as much money as possible, to promise the world and never deliver, to exploit it’s staff, to provide it’s students with crappy facilities and to forever function well below it’s potential” That’s a mission statement they would be fulfilling!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Anybody can write this crap. Just cut and paste. I agree with Nick, look at the objectives, the curriculum and the results, and I don’t mean IGCSE and IB results, which are usually just statistics. We chose our only 5 good students to register for IB exams and got 100% success. How do the student (whoops, learners) perform in MUN and other related activities?


  6. Debby Lyttle says:

    I believe the examples posted above are really vision statements which can be lofty, undefined, and open to interpretation. Mission statements should be more concrete.


  7. Nick says:

    A mission statement reflects a vision (even less quantifiable) and is a broad brush stroke of a belief about education as seen by the organisation.It is not a measurable statement.The measurable information is in the objectives, school wide learning results or whatever you call them,where you put the meat on the bones and the skin, facial hair etc (!) is in the curriculum…..


  8. Anonymous says:

    This is a very ambiguous topic. Nothing is quantifiable without some sort of mastery level. A mission statement is not going to provide such data, is it simply a holistic and broad overview of the schools beliefs and values. Surely this is obvious??


  9. Nas1976 says:

    I’m with the poster above. Mission statement = a sometimes worthy, often vague statement detailing the values of the school. How does one begin to quantify this? There seems to be some kind of weird idea that a school’s mission statement should be some kind of inviolable “product” description, like a list of ingredients on the side of a soup can. Does anybody honestly believe this? At best, a good mission statement should explain the schools priorities and ethos; it is then the purpose of the school’s strategic plan to turn ideals into clearly definable goals and aims.


  10. trav45 says:

    Actually, I think you’ve got that wrong. Mission statements articulate the school’s vision, and tend to be nebulous and, well, visionary. Strategic Plans nail down the specifics for where the schools wants to head and how it plans to get there.


  11. JW says:

    In my experience, mission statements have been called upon when a crisis came up in the school and provided a framework for discussion. In this way, it wasn’t such a bad thing as it led to a discussion where different individuals’ views were exposed. Yet the fulfillment of the mission statement depended upon the the strength and character of the administration and the level of involvement of the board. In the end, the mission statement is only as valid as these bodies allow it to be.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Bollocks! Mission statments are universally meaningless, pedantic and irrelevant; they are ALWAYS window dressing for all schools, international or otherwise. Wet behind the ears I am afraid…Don’t you have better things to discuss?


  13. NA says:

    Mission statements are only useful if an accreditation team or other party compares the mission statement to what is actually happening in the school. If the mission statement truly guides the school, then it is relevant, but most are just nonsense and they all sound the same.

    I dread meetings where mission statements are on the agenda because usually there are more important issues to address.


  14. Domhuaille MacMathghamhna says:

    There is always a considerable dichotomy between what the School states in its mission and what they actually do. It is the difference between goals and objectives. The usual IS mission statements speak to goals but the actual strategic planning and daily operations are focused on objectives (goals with timeframes and deadlines) such as maintaining enrollment, graduating as many kids as possible, getting the best IB/AP/IGCSE/national diploma or certificate results as possible, getting the best SAT or ACT scores possible, keeping costs down, keeping parents ¨happy¨, etc. Many of these objectives can be mutually exclusive or at best contradictory.
    Mission statements end up being a pretty bit of PR at the entryway of the school or opposite the DG’s office but when asked how these goals apply in everyday life, 90% of the management and staff cannot tell you what that application would or should be.


  15. 2xaround says:

    This is an interesting topic and it rings true with the experiences I have had in different schools. At one of my schools we met multiple times as a faculty to work on the mission statement. We even broke into groups and then reported back to the complete faculty. Eventually we came up with something that made us sound great. Only problem was we were none of those things. It was a great piece of advertising and it helped the school sell itself to unsuspecting parents. Since when should teachers be called on to do the work of a PR firm? Especially since it was false advertising.

    These people were so cheap they exploited the staff for what ever they could get out of them. I left at the end of the year, disgusted with the lot of them in admin. The mission statement should of said something like: Our goal is not to kill the cow, but rather to milk it nicely. The parents being the cow. The faculty the hired hands.


  16. Anon says:

    Not everything can be measured. I have no opinion on those schools, knowing nothing about them. But for a group (educators) that grow more concerned about teaching to a test that isn’t able to measure the bigger picture, it seems weird to attack schools for wanting to broaden their goals to include things that you could never quantify.


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