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  • Writer's pictureMichael Ortner

How Catholic Schools Can Steal a Key Metric from the Business World

Updated: May 24, 2022

Six guidelines for adopting Net Promoter Score to better serve school families

We live in a data-loving, metrics-driven world. Businesses, athletes, rock stars, and yes, even schools use all sorts of statistics to measure their performance. Earnings growth, money raised, social media followers, batting average, song downloads… for better or worse, we like to know how well we are doing and have clear measures for success.

We used quite a few metrics at my prior company ranging from revenue per employee and profit growth to web traffic and social media mentions. One of my personal favorites became Net Promoter Score (NPS). It is one of the most common customer satisfaction metrics of the last 20 years, largely due to its simplicity. It is a survey comprised of a single multiple choice question that asks customers how likely they are to recommend a company’s products or services to a friend. It is typically conducted on an 11-point scale from 0 to 10 where 0 = not at all likely and 10 = extremely likely. 9s and 10s are considered promoters, 7s and 8s are considered passive, and 0-6s are considered detractors. The score is then calculated by tallying the promoters, subtracting the detractors, dividing the difference by the total number of surveys, and converting to a percentage. The results fall somewhere on a scale from +100% to -100%. In general, scores above 0% are considered good and scores over 50% are considered great.

I love this method for a few reasons:

  1. It asks very little of the survey responder; everyone can spare 30 seconds to answer one multiple choice question.

  2. It provides extremely valuable information; unlike a Yes/No question, an 11-point scale reveals how many satisfied customers are satisfied enough to recommend a product or service to friends.

  3. It can be used to easily track progress in customer satisfaction over time. Aren’t we all in business to delight customers?

  4. Follow-up questions can be added on to gain actionable insights.

So what does this have to do with Catholic schools? Too many schools only track enrollment, money raised, percentage of students who go to college, and other similar metrics. There is nothing wrong with these metrics (although I do wish more Catholic schools would report on vocations and successful marriages) but they tell an incomplete story. I’d love to see more schools start using Net Promoter Score as a way of going a bit deeper to better understand how well they are serving their families. Specifically, here is how I suggest Catholic schools adopt NPS:

  1. Email the survey to parents of students. Parents are the real customers since they are researching schools, making final decisions, and paying the bills. I would not send the survey to students themselves, but encourage parents to use the survey as an opportunity to get feedback from their children.

  2. I would probably make it an annual survey to be conducted every Spring, but perhaps it should be sent at the end of each semester. Innovative schools could test both approaches.

  3. Add two optional questions: “What do you appreciate the most about the school?” and “What would you do to improve the school?” Free-form answers to these two questions can provide actionable insights.

  4. Make it anonymous. Anonymity provides a channel for feedback for students and parents to share something that is difficult to share. It encourages feedback that can serve as an impetus to improve in specific areas.

  5. Review and act on perceived problems. Sometimes this means addressing serious problems. Other times it means explaining something the school is doing well—especially concerning mission and strategy for educating children—that may be misunderstood by some members of the school community.

  6. Schools that perform well or improve their score year-over-year can celebrate high parent satisfaction in their messaging and marketing materials for donors and prospective families. As far as I know, most schools are not brave enough to ask their families these questions in a formal survey and report on the answers. So just merely doing it will speak volumes about a school’s efforts to constantly improve and better serve families and students.

To be clear, schools should be soliciting feedback from parents and students and gauging overall satisfaction in a variety of ways—in person, over email, etc. The value of NPS is that it gives schools a simple and standard metric to track progress over time to better understand how well students and parents think they are being served. And the two additional questions provide an additional opportunity for parents to provide feedback that they may not provide under other circumstances.

Are you already using NPS or something similar? Or do you have other unconventional metrics that you use to determine how well your school is performing? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact us at

For more information about how to incorporate NPS into an overall plan to strengthen your Catholic school, see Chapter 6 of the Catholic School Playbook.

Mike Ortner is president of the Ortner Family Foundation.



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