Monday, June 11, 2018

AV #180 - Mission statements from 10 high-performing schools – education for LIFE

Character, Values, Citizenship, and - no surprise - not a word about training for the workplace
Caitlin Hendee, an associate editor for the Colorado Business Journal, asked me the best question. In an interview for her March article (see box), after listening to my fear that the business community seeks to change the mission of public education (to meet the needs of the economy), she asked (and I think her subtext was, OK, but it’s not enough just to say what you oppose): “What do you think the mission of K-12 education should be?”

Colorado educator, author offers critique of 'Swiss model' career-focused approach
As policy makers and leaders push to make high school education align with businesses' needs, one educator says we're losing focus on what really matters.
Colorado Business Journal, March 8, 2018
I mumbled a few clich├ęs, embarrassed not to be able to offer a concise, articulate answer. My five newsletters last January on “The business of education – is education” (AV#171- #175) also fell short.  I focused on what the purpose of school should not be: training for the workplace, mere preparation for careers.  But what should it be? What is the mission of K-12 schools?

Months later, I offer here a better answer: the mission, today, from ten of our best schools. As you will see, good schools see the boys and girls and teenagers in our classrooms as people—and future citizens, and not as future workers. 

These thoughtful mission statements echo my belief in the necessity—as I argued in AV #161 - Schools with a missionWhat if all public schools (not just charters) were asked to define what they are about? (5/23/17)—for a clear sense of purpose.  There I included the mission statements of two of the oldest high schools in the country: the Massachusetts school I graduated from (founded 1797), and the New York school where I taught for four years (founded 1814).  (On June 15th I will join the class of ’88, “the girls” I taught and coached, for their 30th reunion.)  Such schools have survived, and earned a strong national reputation, in no small part because their guiding principles do not change with the prevailing winds.  
These schools do not surrender to the language and mindset of entrepreneurs/politicians–e.g. what we hear, these days, from both our President and our Governor (see Addendum A).  Trump and Hickenlooper stress apprenticeships instead of academics, speak of training as opposed to learning, and envision K-12 schools as the source of the economic vitality of our country and our state. (Will our next governor articulate a different purpose—less simpatico with Mr. Trump’s—for public education? Based on the mission of the Colorado schools “launched” by Jared Polis and Michael Johnston, perhaps.  See Addendum B.)
Striking, is it not—our President and our Governor, with such different personalities, politics, and values—and yet on this issue, speaking with one voice. Their outlook would reconfigure the mission of K-12 education.  The new purpose: to serve the marketplace. 

This is not the vision of our best schools.  In showing how true this is, I hope it gives greater credence to my argument (AV#175) that we should be skeptical of apprenticeship programs like CareerWise and wary of the business community’s intent to foist its agenda on public schools.

As further evidence, I doubt any of you who attended high school graduations a couple of weeks ago heard any guest speaker—and, notably, any of the seniors themselves—echo the Trump/Hickenlooper lines about schools as career prep.  Instead, didn’t you hear—as I did at the Rangeview High School

“The success of this country depends on our ability to prepare citizens for active participation in democracy.”  (TED Talk[i])  Dr. Terrell Strayhorn
graduation speech by Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, an uplifting message on purpose and passion—talks celebrating responsibility and generosity, persistence and courage. To be sure, these speakers may have touched on future jobs—also seen in several mission statements below.  We see phrases like success in “college and the competitive world beyond,” in “college and the 21st century,” and through “college and career.” 

I focus on high schools as it is here we are most likely to see a mission statement that speaks of what happens after school.  The language of training for the workforce is not (or not yet anyway!) going to appear in the mission statement of elementary schools.
But show me one graduation speech—or any mission statement here—that suggests we value a high school degree based on how well it prepares an 18-year-old for employment.  

Good schools aim higher. 

10 high-performing Colorado high schools – mission statements, guiding principles

A.    From Denver’s 2017 School Performance Rating - 5 high schools with the highest rating of “Distinguished”

Note how often these mission statements speak of citizenship, of teaching “the values of a democratic society,” expecting graduates to make “meaningful contributions to society.”
A more profound and time-honored view of the mission of education than the Trump/Hickenlooper/business community’s vision: future workers.

STRIVE Prep –Rise                                                                                                 
KIPP Northeast Denver Leadership
Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) – College View
Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) – Stapleton
Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) – Green Valley

B.      From last month’s release by U.S. News & World Report on the top 25 high schools in Colorado. It included KIPP Denver Collegiate High (#2), as well as (see above) DSST-Stapleton (#5) and DSST Green Valley #15. Here are another five charter schools, located outside Denver, that were among the top 20 high schools in Colorado* on the U.S. News & World Report list.[ii]
    (*There are 72 Colorado schools recognized in 2018 among the U.S. News Best High Schools, ”including 11 gold medal schools, 31 silver medal schools and 30 bronze medal schools.”[iii])

The Denver Post – May 9, 2018[iv]
“Four DPS high schools named in top 10 best high schools in Colorado; No. 1 is a charter school”

“Peak to Peak rated best high school in Colorado”

#1 – Peak to Peak Charter School (Boulder)                                              
#4 – Liberty Common Charter School (Poudre)
#7 – Vanguard School of Colorado Springs
                         (Cheyenne Mountain)
#16 – The Classical Academy (Academy 20)
#20 – Twin Peaks Charter Academy (St. Vrain)

                                        Mission statements - from the websites for these schools

1.      STRIVE Preparatory Schools[v]

I have put in bold a few key words that appear most often in these mission statements:
and citizenship.
STRIVE Prep commits to preparing all students for educational success from kindergarten through college and career, by challenging them to realize their full potential through high expectations, in a safe, rigorous, and compassionate learning environment with shared accountability among students, families and staff.  

What We Believe

  • Every child deserves a demanding, standards-based education;
  • Accountable community develops character; and
  • Great teachers are essential for academic excellence. 
What We Value

At the center of our culture we hold the STRIVE Prep values.  We’re proud of our values and weave them into every aspect of our work with scholars, families, the community and each other. Together, these values help us help scholars STRIVE for college.

Scholarship, Teamwork, Respect, Intelligence, Virtue, Effort
2.      KIPP Colorado Schools[vi]
Our Mission & Vision
KIPP Colorado is a network of five free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools dedicated to preparing students in underserved communities for success in both college and life. KIPP Colorado's mission is to equip our students with the academic skills and character strengths necessary to succeed in college and the competitive world beyond.
Our vision is that one day, all public school students in Colorado will have the option to attend an excellent K-12 school and to graduate college empowered to choose their path in life and make positive contributions to their communities. 
Our Values
Adults, students, and alumni of KIPP Colorado's community strive to embody these values:
·         Team & Family - We treat one another with kindness, concern, and respect. When a teammate needs help, we give. When we need help, we ask. We work collaboratively to solve problems. We are all focused on the same goal. Our community is our Team and Family.
·         Excellence - We perform to a high standard of quality in all that we endeavor. We take accountability for our actions and performance, recognizing our own strengths and areas of growth, and strive to meet and exceed expectations.  When there are problems, we find solutions. When there is a better way, we find it.
·         Grit - We constantly push ourselves to do better and work relentlessly to achieve our goals. We get up when we fall. We find a way to overcome obstacles.
·         Zest - We show enthusiasm for learning. We demonstrate a thirst for knowledge and a passion for new discoveries. We all can and will learn.

3. 4. and 5.   DSST Public Schools (formerly Denver School of Science and Technology)

DSST's Mission: DSST Public Schools transform urban public education by eliminating educational inequity and preparing all students for success in college and the 21st century. 
DSST Public Schools is a values-driven organization and a deliberately integrated community, serving students from all walks of life. Our six Core Values are central to our program and to our results. These values are truly embedded in everything we do.
Respect: Appreciating the value of a person or an object through your words, actions and attitude - treating people appropriately with common courtesy.
Responsibility: Able to be trusted and or depended upon to complete tasks, follow directions and own up to your actions.
Integrity: Being truthful, fair and trustworthy in your words and actions - doing as you say and saying as you do.
Courage: Possessing confidence and resolve to take risks and make right decisions in the face of pressure and adverse or unfamiliar circumstances.
Curiosity: Eager to learn, explore and question things to gain a deeper understanding.
Doing Your Best: Putting your best effort into everything you do.

6.   Peak to Peak Charter School[vii]  (Boulder)

Mission Statement
·         Provide broad access to an exemplary K-12 liberal arts, college preparatory education that challenges students to achieve their academic potential.
·         Be a community that values and recognizes scholarship, academic achievement, and creativity.
·         Provide an environment in which each student is known, respected, and valued as an individual of great potential and promise.
·         Prepare students to become active and responsible citizens of an interdependent world.

7.  Liberty Common Charter School[viii]  (Poudre School District R-1)

The mission of Liberty Common School is to provide excellence and fairness in education through a common foundation. This is achieved by successfully teaching a contextual body of organized knowledge, the values of a democratic society, and the skills of learning. In short, we teach common knowledge, common virtues, and common sense.

A more extensive statement of the school’s principles and philosophy also states:[ix]

“To thrive in work, citizenship, and personal growth, children must be taught the values of a democratic society. These values include among others: Respect for others—their property and rights; Responsibility for actions, honesty and social justice; Resourcefulness—being ready to learn, to serve, and to share.
A high-school diploma should warrant that a graduate is capable of independent thinking and understanding of what is required to “live the good life.” A graduate must have acquired accurate familiarity with essential concepts rooted in literature and philosophy – joy and despair, happiness and tragedy, dignity and corruption, and other indispensable juxtapositions.

8.   Vanguard School of Colorado Springs[x] (Cheyenne Mountain School District 12)

We believe that excellence in character and excellence in academics go hand in hand, and we strive to develop a coherent, aligned K-12 program.
Our Mission is to help guide students in development of their character and academic potential through academically rigorous, content-rich educational programs.
Our Vision is that students develop lifelong habits of excellence in virtue and intellect, allowing them to prosper as classically educated individuals advancing a free society. Our enduring nationally acclaimed program prepares graduates for advanced education, meaningful contributions to society, and a life of purpose.

9.   The Classical Academy[xi] (Academy 20)

The Classical Academy exists to assist parents in their mission to develop exemplary citizens equipped with analytical thinking skills, virtuous character, and a passion for learning, all built upon a solid foundation of knowledge.

Parents look to TCA as a skilled and passionate partner in the educational journey of their school-age children--a journey toward becoming thoughtful, virtuous, and wise individuals, today and tomorrow. Within this values-centered learning community, TCA's dedicated faculty cultivates and unleashes the natural curiosity of learners through a stimulating, classically inspired curriculum.  We are a relational learning community committed to the following endeavors:
  • Growing the whole person developing habits of mind, body, and spirit
  • Passionately pursuing the highest ideals: wisdom, virtue, and compassion
  • Valuing the K-12th grade experience; providing opportunity for students to experience the “seasons” of education together
  • Engaging with rich academic content and the world of ideas in a way that invites relationship and encourages student voice—thus, valuing small class size
  • Guiding students’ learning experience to engage their minds through thoughtful questioning

10.  Twin Peaks Charter Academy[xii] (St. Vrain Valley School District)

Twin Peaks Charter Academy (TPCA) provides students with a rigorous education and the foundations of virtue and character, while building cultural literacy through a content-rich curriculum in an encouraging environment.

At TPCA, we believe character education is essential in developing outstanding students. Whether at home, school, or in play, we agree on six basic values to define ethical behavior. These values are known as the Six Pillars of Character: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship.

Addendum A - Trump and Hickenlooper: the workforce and apprenticeships

“The one thing Trump said about education policy in State of the Union address,”[xiii]
The Washington Post, Jan. 31, 2018

President Trump spoke for one hour, 20 minutes and 31 seconds (including applause) to deliver his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, and spoke directly about education policy very briefly — for one sentence, or two if you want to be charitable.
And he didn’t mention school choice, which is surprising, given that he has said it is his chief educational priority.
This is what Trump said in regard to education policy: (Bold mine)
As tax cuts create new jobs, let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.

“Trump Wants More Apprenticeships—Starting in High School,”[xiv]
Education Week, June 20, 2017
“The president signed an executive order last week that envisions apprenticeships in all high schools ….
   “The president's order punctuates his push for a system of workforce development in which apprenticeships play a key role in supplying the employees the economy needs. Trump's proposal is a response to companies' reports of difficulty finding workers with skills that match their job openings.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s State of the State Address – Jan. 11, 2018[xv]
(Bold mine)

… to create the kind of workforce that will keep our state at the forefront of the new economy, we need to go beyond the funding issue – we need to rethink and retool our approach. We need to transition from a degree-based education system to one that also includes skill-based training….        
We will need not just engineers but huge numbers of technicians and analysts with new sets of skills.  We need to get more kids learning skills that matter….
We need flexible solutions that can adapt to what employers need tomorrow, not just what they need today. This means training and apprenticeships.
Working closely with business and education leaders, in a public-private partnership, Colorado is igniting an apprenticeship renaissance with Careerwise.
We’re connecting companies, talent, K-12 schools, community colleges and training centers. We have youth apprentices in pilot programs at 31 schools in four districts and we’re partnering with 40 businesses.

Gov. Hickenlooper on “Face the Nation” – Aug. 8, 2017[xvi]

 “It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear….
 We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.

Addendum B – Two gubernatorial candidates and “their” schools

Polis - New America Schools (a network of three Colorado and two New Mexico schools)
“The mission of The New America School is to empower new immigrants, English language learners, and academically underserved students with the educational tools and support they need to maximize their potential, succeed and live the American dream.
“The New America School was founded in 2004 by philanthropist and educational activist Jared Polis, along with several leaders in the metro Denver community….” [xvii]

Johnston - Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (MESA)
“Mission: Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts is a community of students, staff and parents dedicated to academic exploration and discovery. We ensure all students excel as critical and creative thinkers who positively engage in the community through a system characterized by
·         Rigorous core content viewed through the lens of the arts;
·         Compelling, inquiry-based learning expeditions;
·         Deliberate character development;
·         Service learning; and
·         A culture that fosters both risk taking and reflection.”[xviii]
 “After earning his master’s in education from Harvard and a law degree from Yale, Johnston returned to Colorado to help found the Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts (MESA) in Thornton, where he’s currently the principal.”[xix] (April 2009)