TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Mission and Vision for Inclusive Education

An organization's vision is what it wants its students to attain, and it is its "North Star" for its students and families that guides all of their work. An organization's mission is what they are committed to doing to achieve that vision for each student.

In inclusive education systems, the vision and mission capture the direction and commitment for ALL students. This includes all students with disabilities and must consist of students with significant cognitive disabilities. When leaders at all levels of the system begin to consider prioritizing building an inclusive system of education, revisiting and unpacking the organization's mission and vision should ground the work. Research shows that having a clear and consistently communicated vision is critical for successful change (Kotter, 1996). This commitment becomes directional guidance when a shared vision drives an organization.

Using the Vision and Mission in Building an Inclusive Education System

    Early in the EILT's formation, an agenda item should include reading the organization's vision and mission. A discussion should follow the reading of the mission and vision. Possible reflective discussion questions include:

    • Is the intent of our vision and mission to include each and every student, including students with significant cognitive disabilities? What does this look like in practice?
    • Does our commitment to building an inclusive education system align with the organization's vision and mission? How?
    • Do you see a linkage between our vision and mission and our strategic and/or continuous improvement plan? Again, do we see this for each and every student in our day-to-day work?

    Periodically during the year, revisit the organization's vision and mission as part of the EILT's meeting agenda. This helps prevent losing focus on what the team is striving to achieve. Also, the team can use this as a barometer of its work by asking if implementing the action plan is meaningfully moving the organization closer or farther away from achieving its vision for all students. Based on the discussion, they can decide to proceed with their plan or make adjustments to achieve the desired goals. 

    The organization's vision and mission statements are written to be universal and apply to all students. But, in practice, some groups of students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, may not benefit from the commitment. When discussing the vision and mission statements, you might hear, "Well, we didn't mean those students," or, "We did not consider those students." When this type of response is heard, discussing the discrepancy between the organization's commitment and the "othering" of students can be enlightening. It is an opportunity to walk through the opened door to share the research, the law, and data related to inclusive education systems and the T-I-E-S outcomes that a system needs to address for all students. 

    If your district or school does not have a vision and mission or has one that could be strengthened, engaging leadership in the need to revise them would strengthen the commitment to system-wide change for inclusive education. Developing vision and mission statements often are part of more extensive strategic planning efforts. If your organization is moving in this direction, ensuring a clear and explicit focus on inclusivity for all students from the beginning increases alignment. This means that the system commits to the success of each and every student, including those in traditionally marginalized populations. Develop a process where diverse voices have input. Since vision and mission are based on an organization's values, consider using the TIES Core Values to ground the discussions. 

    Real-World Example

    At an early planning meeting about inclusive education for students with disabilities, district leaders and the Equitable Inclusive Leadership Team (EILT) focused on the district’s vision and mission statements. They read their vision and mission statements aloud. Next, they reflected on three questions: 

    • Did the district’s vision and mission include students with disabilities? 
    • Did the district’s vision and mission include students with significant cognitive disabilities?
    • Did the district “walk its talk” in its vision and mission statements when looking at the practices for all students? 

    The team agreed that the district’s vision and mission were inspirational and aspirational for all students. Students with significant cognitive disabilities were not explicitly considered when they discussed implementing the district’s priorities aligned with the vision and mission. They are committed to ensuring that cross-department priorities be inclusive of students with disabilities, including those with significant cognitive disabilities.