Welcome to the Turnaround for Children Toolbox! Please tell us about your professional role so we can learn about our community and provide you with the most relevant tools and resources.

My role is:

WHOLE-CHILD DESIGN

Using the science of learning and development to design practices that support the whole child

WHOLE-CHILD DESIGN > WHOLE-CHILD PURPOSE

Cohesive School Vision

A school vision that expands upon the academic purpose of school to paint a picture of holistic, developmental outcomes for students becomes the driving force for whole-child design and continuous improvement. As community members co-create this vision, the process seeks to address inequity as is invites those the system is meant to serve into the conversation that shapes the system itself. It is grounded in the specific context of the school community – its history and culture(s), assets and challenges, needs, and dreams for its students.

Beyond just being put on paper, the school community has deeply internalized the vision, and it meaningfully shapes all aspects of practice, school design, culture and decision making.

CONTINUUM OF PRACTICE

Co-Creating the Vision

A vision of success for the students is created by school or district leaders, without input from the broader school community. This may create or deepen lack of alignment and trust with students, families, caregivers and community partners. The process may be grounded in the values of those with positional power in the school/district or using only state or federal standards or accountability measures. This dynamic reinforces inequity as the power to participate in shaping the education system is withheld from those the system is meant to serve.

Once the vision of created, it is rarely revisited or updated.

Holistic, Developmental Student Outcomes

The vision narrowly focuses on students’ academic achievement, lacking a holistic sense of what it would mean for students to thrive across all domains of development and in all aspects of their lives. Success is defined only by meeting readiness standards for college and career (e.g., completing graduation requirements, acceptance into higher education). Because the visioning process was not inclusive, these outcomes do not necessarily reflect the values and hopes the community shares for its children.

Focusing only on these outcomes represents a continuation of an education system designed to track and sort student by performance, which reinforces inequitable ideas about which students are capable and deserving of success (e.g., working to solve an “achievement gap,” problematizing students instead of the system that does not support them as whole people).

Continuously Aligning Vision and Practice

The school vision is put on paper (e.g., in a mission statement, portrait of a graduate, core values, school motto) so that it can be used in perfunctory ways (e.g., to meet accreditation requirements or to have content on the school website), but not in ways that meaningfully shape practice. The stated vision for the school and the actual driving forces for its design, culture and decision making may be at odds.

Big-picture goals and priorities (e.g., annual school and staff goal-setting processes, selecting initiatives or “big rocks” for the year, long-term planning) may be set according to differing perspectives, various external or internal pressures, or in an attempt to “put out fires.”

Without a cohesive vision, leaders and staff are not able to align their day-to-day practice with an overall direction. When it comes time to reflect on successes and challenges, evaluate choices, and problem-solve, individuals may be left to figure it out for themselves or, conversely, given little to no autonomy (in leaders’ effort to create cohesion).

Lack of a cohesive vision results in either disjointed efforts and perpetually changing direction or stagnation (e.g., adding program after program that do not work in cohesion, abandoning new initiatives after a setback, or resistance to any significant change to the way things are), at the risk of losing any momentum and investment from leaders, staff, students and the school community.

Show More

Co-Creating the Vision

A vision of success for students is created by school and district staff and leaders, soliciting some input from the school community or inviting select stakeholders to participate. This process is grounded in the values of the individuals participating, which may or may not effectively represent the perspectives of the broader school community. This dynamic reinforces inequity as the power to participate in shaping the education system is largely withheld from those the system is meant to serve.

Once the vision of created, it is occasionally revisited and updated according to feedback from the school, district or community.

Holistic, Developmental Student Outcomes

The vision focuses primarily on students’ academic achievement, with some discussion of what it would mean for students to thrive across multiple domains of development. Success might be defined primarily by meeting readiness standards for college and career (e.g., completing graduation requirements, acceptance into higher education), with some acknowledgment of the importance of other skills (e.g., social and emotional skills). Because the visioning process was only somewhat inclusive, these outcomes do not reflect the values and hopes the community shares for its children.

Continuously Aligning Vision and Practice

The school vision is both put on paper (e.g., in a mission statement, portrait of a graduate, core values, school motto), and most school community members can describe the vision, but it does not often show up meaningfully in their practice. The vision is used to shape limited aspects of school design, culture and decision making.

Big-picture goals and priorities (e.g., annual school and staff goal-setting processes, selecting initiatives or “big rocks” for the year, long-term planning) are set using the school’s vision, although external pressures sometimes take precedence (e.g., new district initiatives or state requirements).

Similarly, leaders and staff try to use the vision in day-to-day practice to reflect on their successes and challenges, evaluate choices and problem-solve. However, competing priorities and unexpected obstacles may derail these efforts.

When the vision is consistently used to reflect on practice, it gains investment from leaders, staff, students and the school community – but when there is inconsistency, this momentum dissipates.

Show More

Co-Creating the Vision

A shared vision of success for students is developed through authentic collaboration among all school community members (including leaders, staff, students, families and caregivers, community partners, etc.), laying the foundation for trust and partnership. The process is grounded in the specific context of the school community itself – its history and culture(s), assets and challenges, needs, and dreams for its students. This dynamic seeks to address inequity as is invites those the system is meant to serve into the conversation that shapes the system itself.

The broader school community revisits the vision often to ensure it evolves with new perspectives, learnings, and a changing world.

Holistic, Developmental Student Outcomes

The vision is holistic, oriented towards students’ growth and future – what thriving can look like within their academic careers and in all aspects of their lives. Definitions of success expand upon the academic purpose of the school to encompass all domains of development. It reflects the values and hopes the community shares for its children (e.g., to be independent learners, agents of change in their local and global communities).

Focusing on these holistic outcomes represents going one step further than previous education system reforms – in contrast to a system designed to track and sort students by performance, these outcomes position school as a developmental endeavor (rather than an achievement-oriented one).

Continuously Aligning Vision and Practice

The school vision is a shared, living set of ideas and ongoing conversation. Beyond just being put on paper (e.g., in a mission statement, portrait of a graduate, core values, school motto), school community members deeply understand and have internalized the vision, and use it meaningfully in their day-to-day work and interactions and for long-term planning. It shapes all aspects of practice, driving school design, culture and decision making at all levels (e.g., using language from it in daily interactions with adults and students, using it to guide instructional choices).

Big-picture goals and priorities (e.g., annual school and staff goal-setting processes, selecting initiatives or “big rocks” for the year, long-term planning) are set accordingly. When external pressures arise (e.g., new district initiatives or state requirements), they are inputs into, but not sole drivers of, practice.

Leaders and staff also use the vision in day-to-day practice to reflect on their successes and challenges, evaluate choices and problem-solve – empowering individuals to both make decisions in their roles and collaborate with shared direction.

This ongoing reflection against the vision allows for “staying the course” on continuous improvement towards goals (e.g., learning from successes and failures, anchoring in priorities instead of jumping to the next new thing, without rigid adherence when something isn’t working). This maintains momentum and investment from leaders, staff, students and the school community – laying the groundwork for shared leadership and ownership.

Show More

Coming Soon…

More tools for Cohesive School Vision will soon be available!

Sign up for a free Toolbox account to be the first to know when they are launched.