Most organizations today have a mission statement. Some are very focused; others seem to be a bit more, how shall I say this, ephemeral. Regardless of what it is, an effective mission statement does, or at least could/should, serve a purpose.
The main purpose, as I see it in a school context, is that a mission statement sets the direction and focus for a school. Schools are educational institutions and teach children, and yet each school, depending on geography, specific student and staff body, time period, or leadership (however that gets defined) would and should have a slightly different mission statement. The main reason for the differing mission statements is that the focus can be fine-tuned to the student body and the greater school community. A school an in inner city versus a Christian school should have very differing missions.
Once the specific mission is set, the school community can then start to become a mission-driven school. What that means is that every policy and every procedure, from admissions to technology, can then be filtered through that mission statement. If a policy, procedure, resource, instructional strategy, no matter how good or effective, does not line up with the mission statement, then that gets dropped; only those things that further the specific mission of the school are utilized.
A clear mission statement also serves the marketing of the school. The mission statement becomes something to rally around; a calling that will attract some and repel others. It is much easier to attract like-minded people with a clear, effective mission statement than it is without one. More importantly, it helps to filter.
Jim Collins, in his book From Good to Great, coined the phrase ‘getting the right people on the bus.’ This concept was later expanded to getting the right people on the bus in the right seats (with a bus driver who is going in the right direction). In this context, the people on the bus are staff, teachers for the most part. A clear mission statement helps to filter out teachers so that the ones who really get behind the mission remain and others choose to leave. The same filter holds true for students (and their families). A clear, effective mission statement will attract that families that are desired and will help filter out those families that do not support that specific mission.
In light of these various reasons, it becomes imperative to have an effective mission statement, one that can actually be followed and leads to the fulfillment of the planned vision. Words (and concepts) matter. A clear mission compels; an unclear mission muddies the waters.