What Drives Ensemble Learning? Core Values Series: Purpose (Post 5 of 5)

Ensemble Learning is still a relatively new organization, and we think it’s important to tell you what we’re all about.  Ensemble Learning is extremely mission-driven.  We focus all our work around the goal of increasing equity for English learners.  To organize our work around the mission, we have five core values that dictate how we work.  In this series, we review and explain each of these values.  See other blogs in the series herehere, here, and here.

In this post, we’ll talk about the core value of purpose.  We define purpose as, “anchoring our decisions in the best interest of students.” As a not-for-profit, it’s easy to make purpose one of our core values.  There’s a clear connection between the “why” of the organization and the “why” of everyone who works there.  This is true at Ensemble.  Every person on our team has a clear connection to wanting equity for English learners.  We all have a story about why this matters deeply to us.

We also see this commitment and desire to serve all students well at the schools we work with every day.  Right now, we’re walking through schools in Texas and California to see how well they’re implementing their plan to support English learners.  It’s an invigorating progress.  as the schools are filled with passionate, caring educators who want to make a difference.

Their commitment to a common purpose is shared in most schools across the nation.  Except for a few crabby individuals, it’s hard to find a school without a purpose for serving students well.  So what gets in the way?

Taking on too many initiatives in service to the purpose is the biggest challenge we see in schools.  There are often an overwhelming number of initiatives happening at a school.  Whether from external sources such as district offices or the state or internally-created, the number of skills that schools are supposed to master is overwhelming.   Although they can all be justified as part of their purpose, it is resulting in little momentum and progress on any them.   It takes disciplined action in order to say no to new projects no matter how compelling.

So how will Ensemble avoid this mission creep?   We’re working hard at building a culture of trust where anyone can say it’s not part of our purpose and be celebrated for keeping us focused.  We, like all of our partner schools, are a work in progress. So if you hear of Ensemble doing work not related to serving English learners, call us out at edarwish@ensemblelearning.org.  We’ll thank you!

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