This moment—when no one seems to agree on anything—may be the right time to create, with your community, a joint vision for equitable student success in the 21st century.

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
–Margaret Wheatley, Turning to One Another, 2002

It’s the core principle that is common to effective communications, high-performing organizations, successful conflict resolution, and lasting change management: Begin where there is agreement. A “North Star” vision—especially one that is co-created by key stakeholders—can help reset organizational culture, galvanize innovative problem-solving, and help maintain stability and momentum through disagreements and challenging times.

What’s more, in the context of K-12 education, school and district leaders can build on a priceless asset that is already largely in place:

student success equals district values

Credit: NGLC

There is already a strong consensus about the skills and capacities that today’s schoolchildren need to develop in order to thrive in a world of challenge and rapid change.

  • Agreement in the Research: Students must develop, both in school and out, a full range of high executive-functioning skills, integrated with strong academic skills and social-emotional health. See NGLC’s distillation of the 25 major definitions of 21st-century success.
  • Agreement across Emerging Visions of Student Success: The graduate profile for Sunnyside Unified in Arizona, shown in the blue box of the Grand Agreement graphic, is one representative example of districts that redefined student success. Find hundreds more—many of them developed in deep partnership between schools and the communities they serve—at
  • Agreement across School/District/CMO Value Statements: Prepared project schools and districts like Arcadia Unified in California, whose “values wall” is presented in the green box of the Grand Agreement graphic, strive to model the same skills and attributes as their operating norms.
  • Agreement among Employers: Employers around the world and in the U.S. are sending up red alerts that they need recruits who are innovative, self-directed problem-solvers—and that is not what they’re seeing right now.

This agreement extends across political lines and is taking root in red, blue, and purple states. If your community has not co-developed such a vision for student success—or if it has, but that vision is not widely known or embraced—this activity can help reset mood (healthier), orientation (forward-looking), and cohesiveness (back on track).


Start a healing process by refocusing on the very things that parents want most for their kids, teachers want most to be working on in their classrooms, and community members and local employers want most to see in your school or district’s graduates.


Discover more Prepared project activities to catalyze your transformation journey.

Photo at top by Allison Shelley for EDUimages, CC BY-NC-4.0