At Mason Crest Elementary School in Annandale, where my children are enrolled, the specific mission is "to ensure high levels of learning for all." This mission becomes more obvious with the fact that the teachers in the school generally subscribe to a "mastery" achievement goal as opposed to a "performance" achievement goal. These two goals are usually regarded as two contrasting motivations for learning. The difference between the two are explained for example by Meece, Anderman and Anderman:
A mastery goal orientation is defined in terms of a focus on developing one's abilities, mastering a new skill, trying to accomplish something challenging, and trying to understand learning materials. Success is evaluated in terms of self-improvement, and students derive satisfaction from the inherent qualities of the task, such as its interest and challenge. By contrast, a performance goal orientation represents a focus on demonstrating high ability relative to others, striving to be better than others, and using social comparison standards to make judgments of ability and performance. A sense of accomplishment is derived from doing better than others and surpassing normative performance standards.
The two goals do appear dichotomous. In reality, we may actually be subscribing to a combination of both - the real difference lies mainly on what we heavily emphasize.
Sample items to assess classroom goal structures: Patterns of Adaptive Learning Survey* Mastery goal structure My teacher thinks mistakes are okay as long as we are learning. My teacher wants us to understand our work, not just memorize it. My teacher really wants us to enjoy learning new things. My teacher recognizes us for trying hard. My teacher gives us time to really explore and understand new ideas.
Performance goal structure My teacher points out those students who get good grades as an example to all of us. My teacher lets us know who gets the highest scores on a test. My teacher makes it obvious when certain students are not doing well on their work. My teacher tells us how we compare with other students. Only a few students do really well in my class. My teacher calls on smart students more than on other students.
*From Anderman & Midgley (2002), Midgley et al. (1997).