DeeperHeaderEstablishing Your Vision for Students


This phase is where your school establishes a vision that can be used to guide your school through a transformation process for Deeper Learning (DL). For this reason, this section defines the value of developing a clear and shared vision and uses exercises to help you explore the meaning of Deeper Learning and its implications for your school’s values and vision. While you may not use the term “Deeper Learning” at your school, think about the ways that your school values and helps students develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to be successful in college, career, and life.

The Steps for Phase One are:

1. Understand DL outcomes and practices in the book, Deeper Learning: How Eight Innovative Schools Are Transforming Education in the 21st Century.

2. Develop a clear and coherent vision for your school.

3. Devise a plan on how you will communicate the vision to key stakeholders.


STEP 1: Recognizing the Value of Vision

Vision Statements | EXAMPLES


Some people see vision setting as something to dread rather than as an opportunity to define what they value. As a result, the process for vision setting often degenerates into endless conversations or word-smithing that produce a vague statement of lofty aspirations that is placed on a banner or website and quickly forgotten. However, a strong and shared vision brings direction, purpose, meaning, and commitment to everyone associated with the school, including staff, students, family, and partners, guiding individuals in their daily work, decisions, and behavior.

The processes and exercises you will do in this Phase are designed to help your school develop a vision that clearly articulates student success as it relates to DL in particular. They will help establish a shared understanding of what your school is trying to achieve and help everyone commit themselves to Deeper Learning.

Avalon School prepares students for college and life in a strong, nurturing community that inspires active learning, engaged citizenship, and hope for the future.

At Casco Bay, we challenge and support our students to become college-ready through our 3Rs: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. Our aim is for each student to “Get Smart to Do Good”.

Impact Academy is dedicated to transforming students’ lives by preparing them for success in college and in life.

Science Leadership Academy (SLA) provides a vigorous, college-preparatory curriculum with a focus on science, technology, mathematics and entrepreneurship. Students at SLA learn in a project-based environment where the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection are emphasized in all classes.

High Tech High will ensure all students develop the academic, workplace and citizenship skills for postsecondary success.

King Middle School is dedicated to the idea that we can create a school where all kids succeed at a high level.

The vision statement is a living document at these schools and, as a result, every feature of the schools, from their physical design and messages they send to students to the use of time and pedagogy reinforce and communicate their vision. 

STEP 2: Understanding Deeper Learning

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation ( describes DL outcomes that we will use in this Planning Guide as:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Students build their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. They understand key principles and procedures, recall facts, use the correct language, and apply their knowledge to complete new tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Students think critically, analytically, and creatively. They know how to find, evaluate, and synthesize information to construct arguments. They can design their own solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Students work productively in groups. They communicate and understand multiple points of view and they know how to cooperate to achieve a shared goal.

Effective Communication: Students communicate effectively in writing and in oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for specific audiences.

Self-directed Learning: Students can direct their own learning. They set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth. Students who learn through self-direction are more adaptive than their peers.

Academic Mindset: Students develop an academic mindset that enables them to have a strong belief in themselves. They trust their own abilities and believe their hard work will pay off, so they persist to overcome obstacles. They also learn from and support each other. They see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

STEP 3: Developing a Clear and Coherent Vision

For schools that are just embarking on transforming for DL, it is important to take the time now, at the outset of this journey, to revisit your current educational vision, determine if it is aligned to DL goals, and revise or create a whole new vision statement. If your school has been focused on Deeper Learning to some degree over a period of time and want to re-assess their progress, you may want to revisit your vision and ensure it provides sufficient direction and remains ambitious. Either way, you should ensure that your school has a vision that is appropriately ambitious, describes what you want your students to know and reflects your school’s values, unique strengths, and goals. As discussed in the User’s Guide, we recommend you use a team of individuals to help with this, particularly the DL Design Team.

Your Current Vision Statement

You will return to these questions later in this section. For now, that is all you need to do.



If you are working through this Planning Guide in a group, write down your current vision statement on a flip chart for everyone to see. Then, as a group, answer the questions in this section and record them on flip chart paper. 1. Vision Statement:

2. What does the vision statement mean, particularly if there is heavy use of “jargon” or “labels,” such as “lifelong learners” or “college ready” or “social emotional learning”?

3. How does your current vision statement impact your school? For instance, consider a time when the vision statement has been helpful in your school. What made it valuable?

4. What is your district’s vision and how does this impact your school?


Book Discussion

We recommended that the entire school, or at least the school leadership team, read Deeper Learning: How Eight Public Schools are Transforming Education in the 21st Century to establish a collective understanding of DL as well as the values and practices inherent in the schools in the book. The purpose of using the book is to help your school begin to form a broad agreement about what students should know and do and how your school can achieve this.

DIRECTIONS: The exercise involves bringing your school staff or school leadership together to discuss a set of key questions about the various practices and the ethos driving the practices depicted in Deeper Learning: How Eight Public Schools are Transforming Education in the 21st Century. You may want to distribute the discussion questions ahead of time so your staff has a chance to reflect on them and prepare for the conversation.

If you are leading the book discussion, you may want to identify specific passages you find meaningful as a way to initiate or sustain the conversation. Consider asking the participants to follow up their answers with an example from your school as a way to bring the book back home. The first question is designed to serve as a “warm up” question or “ice-breaker” to help initiate the book discussion. Ideally, everyone should contribute to the questions below:

1. What do you find most appealing about these schools? Do you have a favorite story, student, or teacher?

2. All of the schools described in the book have strong cultures. Describe the culture. What do you think are the most important elements of the school culture that communicate the vision and empower teachers and students to engage in Deeper Learning? How can schools begin to develop a culture that supports DL? Who can lead, support, or sustain this within a school?

3. What do you think is most different for teachers at these schools?

4. What are the most powerful ways that the teachers develop DL outcomes – critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, self-direction, and academic mindset? Is there an example of the teachers’ approach that you found most striking? How are teachers able to do this consistently within the school?

5. Students in these schools have multiple opportunities for authentic, meaningful and relevant learning experiences. What are the most effective ways of connecting student learning to the real world? How do these connections change the nature of learning?

6. The schools place great emphasis on customizing or personalizing learning for students. Why is this important for learning? What are the most powerful ways that the schools customize or personalize learning?

7. All of the schools use technology at some level. How is technology used most effectively by teachers and students to support the culture, the pedagogy, and/or DL outcomes?


Does our school reflect the educational realities of the 21st Century?


As an additional exercise, or if you or your school has not read the book yet, pose the following reflective questions as a way to ground your staff in the value of DL. This exercise will help you view education in the light of current and emerging societal trends that determine the knowledge and skills students will need to successfully function in contemporary society.

1. What do you think have been the five most important changes in the world in the last 10-15 years and what will be the important changes over next quarter century?

2. What is most important for your graduates to know and be able to do in light of the changes you identify in Question 1?

3. What outcomes did your team identify in Question 2 that are consistent with Deeper Learning outcomes?

4. How will you know if your students have developed the knowledge and skills you identify as the most important? (Example of DL outcomes: Number of internships; college enrollment; SAT scores, etc.)


Finalizing Your Vision


1. Based on Exercise 3, or if you did not answer Question 3 from Exercise 3, please do so now: Did your team identify outcomes consistent with the principles of Deeper Learning as part of the school’s vision? If so, which DL outcomes did your team identify?

2. Recognizing you may not use the term Deeper Learning and returning to your vision statement from Exercise 1, identify examples from your school’s current vision statement that reflects the value your school places on Deeper Learning.



3. What are some examples of how your students are currently developing DL outcomes?

4. How does your school’s vision statement need to be revised to communicate the value you place on Deeper Learning from Questions 2 and 3?

5. What barriers do you anticipate in enacting your vision for student learning where it becomes a living document like the vision statements of the six schools listed previously?

6. Write your school’s current or revised vision statement here in the Planning Guide and if you are working in a group, write the vision statement on flip chart paper so that you and the group working through this Guide can refer to the vision when making decisions and setting priorities.


 STEP 4: Communicating Your Vision

A coherent and well-articulated vision of what your school represents and what students are expected to achieve is the foundation for all aspects of the school.

A vision for a school has value only if it is well-understood by staff, students, families, and external stakeholders and if there is a genuine collective commitment to the vision. Defining your school’s specific vision is a critical first step toward transformation for Deeper Learning but it is equally important to successfully communicate it to all of your school’s stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff, higher education institutions, district personnel and local community-based organizations, institutions and businesses.

In developing an effective communication plan to advance your vision for students to develop Deeper Learning outcomes, answer the following questions:

What is the overall or “big” message that you want to communicate about your vision?

Who is the targeted audience you want to reach?

What is a specific communication goal you have for this target audience?

What specific message does each target audience need?

What channels will you use to communicate your message for each of your target audience?

How will you know you were successful at communicating your message?

Potential “BIG” messages may include:

Students will be prepared and expected to go to college.

This is the pathway to achieving that goal.

Students will learn through project based learning.

We believe the city is our school and will extend learning outside of the school.

Potential communication strategies to target specific audiences. Examples may include:


Non-teaching staff



Community members/neighbors

Higher Education Institutions

Local community based organizations and businesses

The District as well as the Superintendent

School Board

Potential communication goal(s) for your message(s):

Ensure our students will be accepted by postsecondary institutions but in particular, recognize our value in developing students who master content knowledge, are critical thinkers and problem solvers, effective communicators, productive collaborators, can learn how to learn, and have an academic mindset.

Attract businesses to serve as partners for multiple learning possibilities such as contributing to student’s projects, serving as mentors or tutors, providing internships, etc.

Use community based organizations as hubs for learning in the community.

Ensure the district and school board supports our efforts to achieve our vision and that we do not have competing priorities.

Equally as important as identifying the “what of the message” and the “who for the message” is “what specific channels will be used to advance your communication goal(s)?” You will want to be sure that from the start you have a system to communicate your intentions, plans, and activities and consider the multiple venues you can use to communicate about the work your school is embarking upon.

Potential communication channels:

The school’s website or social media

An online portal that is accessible only by staff or parents

The school’s orientation program

Staff meetings

Parent meetings

Business or community newsletters, e-news, social media venues

School newsletter



We believe the city is our school and will extend learning outside of the school and therefore, learning experiences will need to integrate field-based experiences.


Staff Meetings, Teacher Portals, Professional Learning Communities



Creating your Communication Plan

DIRECTIONS For each stakeholder, identify the key message you want them to know regarding your vision to transform your school for DL. Identify the communication channels you can use with each stakeholder.

You cannot risk failing to communicate your vision and intentions effectively with everyone. Such a failure will make transformation more challenging because everyone will not have an understanding of the vision and therefore the direction and values of the school.

A clear and shared vision not only advances the values and goals of the school but serves as the first step in planning for transformation. For the next phase, you will learn more about the theory of action to transform your school for Deeper Learning and assess your school on the degree that the four components of the theory of action are in place at your school based on your understanding of the conditions that must be in place to transform for Deeper Learning.


It is our hope that you understand that a vision must be well articulated, easily understood, and communicated to all of the school’s stakeholders.

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