Evaluating Mission Statements:
Critical Questions vs. Criteria Questions

©2004 Edward G. Rozycki, Ed. D.

edited 8/17/11

Here is an example of a mission statement:

Based on the conviction that all students can learn, the Wonderland public schools are dedicated to meeting the individual needs of our students. As students are challenged to become more active participants in the pursuit of excellence, learning is the result of a strong partnership of parents, teachers, and the community.

I. Critical Questions address assumptions of value, cause (method), possibility and option. They often bring up items not mentioned in the mission statement.*

Some examples are:

a. How does this dedication to meeting the individual needs of students affect how we allot teaching resources? (Who needs what levels of dedication?)*

b. What is it, specifically, that all students can learn? Is this taught in our schools?

c. Under what conditions can all students learn?

d. What if the individual needs of some students conflict with the individual needs of others? How will this be adjudicated?

e. Which person's conviction is it that all students can learn? Is it necessary for someone to have this conviction in order to function in the school system?

f. Is it necessary for students to pursue excellence, rather than some less lofty goal, in order to learn?

g. Is the partnership of parents, teachers and community necessary for students to learn? To what extent does each constituency's participation affect the student's learning?

II. Criteria Questions address issues of meaning, definition, identification and acquisition of knowledge for items mentioned in the statement. They often contain phrases such as:

a. What is considered excellence in this community? (By whom? Whose definition prevails?)

b. How do (can) we determine what an individual's needs are?

c. What defines a need? How is it distinguished from a want?

d. How can we tell whether a partnership is strong or not?

e. What are the criteria for being an active participant in a pursuit?

f. How does a dedicated school differ from one that is not dedicated?

g. What constitutes a challenge to a student? (Does the student understand what an adult calls a "challenge" to be just that, or does the student see it as a "task" or "burden" or "threat?")

*NOTE: Very often criteria questions, when formulated, can be used to generate additional critical questions, and vice versa! These are indicated above in parentheses.

For more on this topic, go here.