Moral Imperative: Is Your School Team Clear About What Must Be Done?

Steven WeberBlog, Lead Better, Reflect Better


  • School teams work together and set goals for improvement.
  • A school’s moral imperative should be discussed and clarified as a part of school improvement.

School teams often discuss test data, learning targets, standards, lesson plans, and school culture. When was the last time your school team discussed its moral imperative or purpose? In the fall of 2021, the total number of students enrolled in public kindergarten through 12th grade in the United States was approximately 50 million (National Center for Education Statistics, 2021). Each day, families send their children to school, placing their hope in the skills and leadership of the adults who will influence their child’s educational trajectory. A moral imperative is defined as “something that must happen because it is the right thing” (Macmillan Dictionary, 2022). When school teams become clear regarding the moral imperative, their actions become more intentional.

When school teams become clear regarding the moral imperative, their actions become more intentional. Click To Tweet

School Improvement

School teams meet to create school improvement plans. Teachers collaborate to design lesson plans aligned with state standards or district goals. Programs are purchased with the aim of supporting student understanding. Principals attend monthly meetings to learn about district priorities and state initiatives. How often has your school team asked, “Are we making progress toward our moral imperative?” Schools have multiple plans, targets, and goals. “School leaders must decide whether the strategic planning process is a tool to improve student achievement (actions that add value) or an end in itself” (Reeves, 2007). Teachers and administrators often view meetings as an act of compliance rather than a launchpad for achieving better results.

Examples of a Moral Imperative

  • Reading at grade level or above
  • Mathematics performance at grade level or above
  • Student growth
  • Middle school readiness
  • High school readiness
  • College enrollment and students earning certifications/completer status 
  • Dropout rate
  • Graduation rate
  • Other goals determined by school staff

5 Ways to Identify a Moral Imperative

  1. Does our staff understand the moral imperative?
  2. When we meet as a grade-level team or department, are we aligning our work/efforts toward the moral imperative?
  3. Do we have key performance indicators, a data dashboard, or evidence that our efforts are supporting the school’s moral imperative?
  4. What is the impact on the students we serve if we do not reach the goals and align our actions with the moral imperative?
  5. Do we have hard conversations as a school staff when our actions begin to drift from the moral imperative?
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Clarity Toward the School’s Moral Imperative

Does your school team have clarity regarding the school’s moral imperative? Fullan and Quinn (2016) wrote, “You have to be clear about your deep, relentless moral purpose.”  Does your team ask, “Why are we doing this?” A moral imperative is like a North Star for school teams. Families assume that educators will treat their children with respect and dignity while equipping them to secure gainful employment, based on the skills learned from a K-12 educational experience. 

Once your school team identifies the moral imperative, take time to develop collective commitments. When teams have clarity, combined with collective commitments, it is more likely that staff and students will achieve their most important goals. While you may not be able to make a difference for the nearly 50 million students enrolled in U.S. schools, understanding your moral imperative will serve as a beacon for serving the students who enter your school each day.


Fullan, M. and Quinn. J. (2016). Coherence making: How leaders cultivate the pathway for school and system change with a shared process. School Administrator 73(6), 30-34.

Macmillan Dictionary. (2022). Moral imperative. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2021). Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level, grade, and state or jurisdiction: Fall 2021. Retrieved from

Reeves, D. (2007). Leading to change/Making strategic planning work. Educational Leadership 65(4), 86-87.

About Steven Weber

Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Fayetteville Public Schools (AR). His areas of research include curriculum design, formative assessment, professional learning, and school leadership.