by Dr. David A. Wells
A school’s Purpose is expressed through its Mission. I work with many schools founded by visionary entrepreneurs with an end in mind about which they are passionate – a difference they want to make in the lives of children and young people, in families, communities, countries, and even the world. Many times, the initial motivation was as singular as creating the school they envision as ideal for their children. I don’t recall interacting with any school founders who had the vision simply to start a school, build a business, or create a place to go to work. Rather, they all founded schools to make a difference at some level and in some way.
Purpose, or that difference, is often expressed through the school’s Mission. For example, it may be a statement that communicates to parents why they should enroll their child; a statement that communicates to personnel what is important; or a statement that communicates to the community what the school is, what it values, and what it strives to accomplish that is unique and worthy. In short, the Mission translates Purpose into a statement of what the school is, what it does, what it values, and what it hopes to accomplish.
A school’s Impact is expressed through its Outcomes. A lofty Mission isn’t enough. At some point, at some level, the Mission must be translated into statements that clearly communicate the Impact the school commits to make in the life of the child or young person – sometimes referenced as the school’s 'ends'. Increasingly, these statements are established at the Board level, and school Heads are held accountable for interpreting, measuring, and reporting their attainment.
When there is this level of direction and expectation of Impact, aligned with the school’s Purpose, school Heads and their professional teams operationalize these in desired Outcomes – often called 'expected student outcomes', which drive programs and services for all students, and which inform the attainment of the desired Impact in the lives and development of the students.
Outcomes attained fulfill Purpose. Navigating the pathway from Purpose and Mission to Impact and Outcomes is a worthy endeavor.