Research Perspectives on the Purpose of School

A Coding Rubric for School Mission Statements

To better quantify, summarize, and compare school mission statements, our team developed a school mission statement coding rubric using emergent coding.

Through an iterative development process, random samples of school mission statements were reviewed by independent research teams to extract their dominant themes. The research teams then met and established consensus on the major themes present across the mission statements. From these themes, a preliminary coding rubric was developed. To test this new rubric and coding scheme, researchers independently coded new samples of school mission statements and compared their results for reliability. Finally, we provided this rubric to a new sets of raters to independently rate samples of school mission statements. Through these reliability trials, we found acceptably high levels of interrater agreement suggesting that different raters could consistently and reliably apply our rubric (i.e., Cohen' kappa > .70).

Major Themes in School Mission Statement Coding Rubric:

Each letter (A, B, C...L) represents the 12 major themes we encountered in school mission statements. Note that six of these themes are focused on student characteristics/outcomes while six are focused on school characteristics/inputs. Within each of these themes we also developed sub-categories that further summarize school mission statements (represented by numbers 0, 1, 2, 3...).

Using this coding rubric, we have found that nearly all school mission statements can be easily evaluated across 12 distinct possible categories/themes.

Examples of School Mission Statements

Here is an example mission statement from the Curtis Senior High School in University Place, Washington. This example shows a very broad school mission statement incorporating a wide variety of different themes:

Each person affiliated with our school is a valued, needed member of the Curtis Viking community. Every Viking is responsible for promoting positive learning opportunities in a caring, equitable manner. This environment will enable all to develop fully their academic1,emotional2, social3, and physical4 potential and, thus be empowered to assume responsible citizenship5 in our local6, national, and global7 communities. To this end, we value achievement, respect2 and concern for others2, affiliation and pride, diversity, equity and opportunity, communication, safety8 and order, collaboration, responsibility and accountability, and trust2 as cornerstones of our learning community.

Using our coding rubric, eight different themes were observed for the Curtis High School mission statement:

1cognitive development, 2emotional development, 3social development, 4physical development, 5civic development, 6local community, 7global community, 8safe environment

Here is a second example mission statement from the Pierson Vocational High School in Nogales, Arizona. Note how this mission statement has greater focus on cognitive/academic development as well as a citizenship component:

Pierson Vocational High School’s Philosophy is to inspire all students to develop marketable 21st century skills. These skills include reading, writing, mathematics, computer knowledge, collaboration and the integrity of being a responsible and productive citizen.

Published Research on School Mission Statements

Abelman, R. (2014). Reviewing and revising the institutional vision of U.S. higher education. Review of Communication Research 2(1), 30-67. do: 10.12840/issn.2255.4165.2014.02.01.002

Bebell, D., & Stemler, S.E. (April, 2004). Reassessing the objectives of educational accountability in Massachusetts: The mismatch between Massachusetts and the MCAS. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association: San Diego, CA.

Boerema, A.J. (2006). An analysis of private school mission statements. Peabody Journal of Education, 81, 180-202.

Chapple, J. (2015). Mission accomplished? School mission statements in NZ and Japan: What they reveal and conceal. Asian Pacific Educational Review, 16, 137-147. doi: 10.1007.s12564-015-9360-2

Davis, J., Ruhe, J., Lee, M., & Rajadhyaksha, U. (2007). Mission possible: Do school mission statements work? Journal of Business Ethics, 70, 99-110

Gioia, D.A., Nag, R., & Corley, K.G. (2012). Visionary ambiguity and strategic change: The virtue of vagueness in launching major organizational change. Journal of Management and Inquiry. doi: 10.1177/1056492612447229

Gurley, D.K., Peters, G.B, Collins, L., & Fifolt, M. (2015). Mission, vision, values, and goals: An exploration of key organizational statements and daily practice in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 16, 217-242. doi: 10.1007/s10833-014-9220-x

Jones, L., & Crochet, F. (2007). The importance of visions for schools and school improvement. Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 9, 463-496.

Kurland, H., Peretz, H., & Hertz-Lazarowitz, R. (2010). Leadership style and organizational learning: the mediate effect of school vision. Journal of Educational Administration, 48(1), pp.7 - 30

Morphew, C.C., & Hartley, M. (2006). Mission statements: A thematic analysis of rhetoric across institutional type. The Journal of Higher Education, 77(3), 456-471.

Rozycki, E.G. (2004). Mission and vision in education. Educational Horizons, 82(2), 94-98.

Stemler, S.E., & Bebell, D. (2012). The School Mission Statement: Values, Goals, and Identities in American Education. Routledge: New York.

Stemler, S.E. (2012). What should university admissions test measure? Educational Psychologist, 47(1), 5-17. webtable_1 webtable_2

Stemler, S.E., Bebell, D., & Sonnabend, L. (2011). Using school mission statements for reflection and research. Educational Administration Quarterly, 47(2), 383-420.

Stemler, S.E., & Sonnabend, L. (April, 2007). A large-scale analysis of the purpose of schools in the era of NCLB. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization: Portsmouth, NH.

Stemler, S.E., & Bebell, D. (April, 1999). An empirical approach to understanding and analyzing the mission statements of selected educational institutions. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the New England Educational Research Organization: Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

School Mission Statements

Over the past two decades, we have conducted numerous research studies on how schools, as organizations, define themselves and their primary purpose. In the course of this research, we have developed a unique rubric that helps illuminate how schools define their purpose and role through their mission statement. In our book and on this website, we provide a variety of examples and resources for educators, school leaders, policy makers and anyone else considering how to better define and express the core values and purpose of schooling.