Mission Statements Are Worth More than a Look from K-12 Students

Incorporating mission statements into strategic lesson plans creates a foundation for students to grow.

In K-12 districts, mission statements help provide a high-level overview of education’s role in students’ lives.

Mission statements abound in corporate America, but many view them as marketing-speak. In K–12 districts, however, mission statements help provide a high-level overview of education's role in students' lives. Coupled with a long-term strategic plan, mission statements enable school stakeholders to understand and support the sense of purpose that propels every decision, action and achievement.

In K-12 districts, mission statements help provide a high-level overview of education’s role in students’ lives.

Mission statements abound in corporate America, but many view them as marketing-speak. In K–12 districts, however, mission statements help provide a high-level overview of education's role in students' lives. Coupled with a long-term strategic plan, mission statements enable school stakeholders to understand and support the sense of purpose that propels every decision, action and achievement.

The language of mission statements varies by institution, of course, but the goals are almost always the same: to provide students with a safe, supportive environment in which they can learn and grow, and to equip them with the skills they'll need to function successfully as adults.

More than a mission statement is required, however, to ensure that students are prepared to function in a 21st century world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student, argues that young people must learn more than the core subjects in order to succeed in college and in the workforce. They must also master modern "themes" such as global awareness and innovation, technology, life and career skills.

The 21st century classroom concept isn't new, but it's always evolving. At its core, the modern classroom should help students meet state standards – and mission statement goals – by using technology in ways that engage and empower both teachers and students. The CDW•G 2010 21st Century Classroom Report finds that access isn't as widespread as it should be, unfortunately.

Opportunities Lost and Found

The survey of 1,000 high school students, teachers and IT managers reveals that students aren't getting enough access to modern technology in the classroom. Four in 10 student respondents either don't believe their school is preparing them to use technology successfully in college or the workforce (17 percent) or aren't sure if they'll have the skills they need after graduation (26 percent). Equally disheartening are these findings:

  • Only 9 percent of students characterized their classroom technology as "fully" integrated; 4 percent said their classrooms are "not at all integrated."
  • Six of 10 students said their teachers regularly use technology to teach, but only 26 percent said they're encouraged to use it throughout the day.
  • Fifty-three percent of surveyed teachers said they either don't conduct or are unsure if they conduct any of their classes in a 21st century classroom.

Clearly, we need to do a better job of fulfilling students' technology needs and expectations. That means schools also must train teachers so they can take full advantage of the resources at their disposal.

"Everybody talks about integrating technology into the classroom," said Paul A. Romero, executive director of IT for Rio Rancho (N.M.) Public Schools, at this summer's ISTE conference. "We think of it as integrating technology into the instruction process. That's key to what we're doing."

In the same session, Matthew G. Castanera-Bartoszek, director of technology at Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School in Washington, D.C., acknowledged the challenge of getting teachers to integrate technology into lesson plans. "We started giving notebooks to teachers" for personal use, he said. "Our hope is that if they can integrate these tools in their personal life, maybe that will bleed over into the classroom."

Romero added that his district has "education technologists" in its schools. "They're where the rubber meets the road for us in IT," he said. "I get feedback from them on what we need to do to make things better for students."

If every school took a similar approach, we'd know if we were adequately preparing students for the future. Technology makes many things possible, but only if it's used.

Oct 20 2010

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