Sam Ritchie

Samuel Ritchie is a consultant with 35 years of experience as a practitioner. For most of those years, he was the director of technology at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois.

Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals: The PLC Foundation

I know many of you reading this may not have an interest in the Chicago Bears and the hiring of their new coach Marc Trestman, but as I was reading an article this morning, I was struck by his description of being a head coach. He said, “I get to be the GPS system of the team. Every day our team will know where we are, where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. That’s the way to do it, one day at a time, so they can focus on doing one thing, and that’s winning the day.” I don’t know if Coach Trestman will be successful, but I like his approach. His statement brought to mind the importance of having a collaboratively developed mission, vision, values, and goals (MVVGs) to guide districts and schools on the school improvement journey.

In the foundational books Professional Learning Communities at WorkTM and Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at WorkTM, the authors identify and define the four building blocks of a PLC. These building blocks (MVVGs) define the purpose, destination, behaviors, and checkpoints on the journey. In chapters five and six of Revisiting Professional Learning Communities at WorkTM Richard DuFour, Rebecca DuFour, and Robert Eaker provide not only the research base for why, but also the process for how a district or school embarks on establishing its MVVGs.

What is the impact of having collaboratively developed MVVGs that are implemented with fidelity? Recently I had the pleasure of returning to a district I had previously assisted in developing the MVVGs. The district had implemented its MVVGs with fidelity and had celebrated successes both as a district and as individual schools over five years. The district was ready to establish its MVVGs for the next five years to guide its continued growth as an educational community and to raise the level of learning for all students. The district solicited volunteers from the school community and community at large. Forty-two people, representing all stakeholder groups, of over 70 volunteers were selected to participate in the process.

At the first meeting, committee members were asked to share why they wanted to be members of the district MVVGs committee. A typical response was, “I wanted to be part of this committee because I know the tremendous impact the last document (MVVGs) had on moving the district forward—creating a supportive collaborative culture and raising the level of student learning—and I wanted to be part of creating the new document (MVVGs) that will set the direction and have the same impact for the next five years.” The responses of all 42 committee members included these sentiments. I believe it is important to point out that only 3 of the 42 were members of the previous committee. Without exception, community members, parents, support staff, teachers, administrators, and board members understood the impact and value of having collaboratively developed MVVGs that are implemented with fidelity.

Does your district or school have a MVVGs document? Does it know what it wants to look like in five years? Can administrators, teachers, parents, board members, and others articulate how the district or school will be different in five years? If the answer is no, then how will you get there? How will you know which initiative to adopt and which to skip? What is the GPS system for the district or school?

If MVVGs are the GPS system for your district or school, then every day the school community will know where they are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there. That’s the way to do it so staff can focus on doing one thing—and that’s working collaboratively to enhance student learning today.


Adela Lopez

We have MVVG but most of the staff is not sold on the concept. I believe because they did not have a say in its development. They do not feel heard or respected. As teachers, we know how important it is to have all the students become part of the community , but yet our administration fails to be our role model.

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I think it is essential for schools and districts to develop MVVGs. Sometimes the problem of getting everyone on board arises. From my previous experiences, a lot of the same concepts were brought up but there was never any follow through, especially from the administration. Would you have any suggestions as to the best way to see an idea like this implemented successfully? Sometimes as a classroom teacher, I feel like I do not have much influence on such matters where admin support is needed. Thanks for your insight and suggestions.

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We desperately need to establish a MVVG. Where to start is a bit overwhelming. I noticed you wrote, "...assisted in developing the MVVGs." Are there examples available of school's MVVG's, to offer a springboard to creating and taking ownership of our own. I'd love a point in the right direction!

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