Value is Not Measured in $$

Value is Not Measured in $$

A short reminder today prompted by a @NAISNetwork question via Twitter: Are there any school assets that simply cannot be assigned a value? Several responses suggest that as soon as we use the word “value” people default to assigning a closely associated dollar amount.  That is understandable…and wrong.

In all of my work with school teams I emphasize a definition of value proposition that is perfect for schools, public or private: Value is the difference between what you say you are going to do and what you actually do, as seen through the eyes of your customer. So, back to the question posed by @NAISNetwork:

The answer is emphatically no.  Everything we do at school has some “value”, either positive or negative.  It is up to us to determine that value, and frankly, schools have not done a good job at making that determination in the past, often because we tend to think of dollar terms for value, and not customer perceptions.

In many of my workshops, I have asked teams to look at all that the school does and identify core values that are so fundamental to what they do that no competitor can generate greater value, even at a much lower cost.  Hundreds of educators have participated in this activity in the last year, and the results are almost always the same.  The core value that a school generates, regardless of cost, are: teacher/student and student/student relationships, traditions, personal social interaction, and certain elements of what we refer to as character education. So, if we say this is what we “do best”, we have to really come through on this for our customers, every day.

This is where our indomitable value lies, yet these indicators don’t show up on a budget, income statement, or balance sheet. As I laid out in my recent article in Independent School Magazine, school communities need to re-tool this discussion or risk completely missing the point of the value discussion. It is a simple question that needs a LOT more focus: what does each person in your school do each day to contribute value?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
By | 2014-04-25T16:03:48+00:00 April 25th, 2014|Finance and Operations, Governance and leadership|3 Comments

About the Author:


  1. awkytle April 25, 2014 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    I appreciate your reminder to us all that talking about value does not nor should it translate to $$. Thinking of value in schools– public or private– reminds me of value in church/synagogue or in marriage. I wouldn’t equate the value of what my church does for me (and my family) to a dollar amount as there is so much more depth to it than that. And just like independent schools, I willingly give money to my church! If I didn’t feel like I was receiving value from my church, I have a couple of choices. I can stop giving (as a protest), though this feels “dirty” to me in some way. I can communicate my concern and try to do something about it. I can walk and find another church. I also wouldn’t equate the value of my marriage to money (though perhaps the thought does come to mind when spending from my other half is different/more than I would have chosen). Again, the depth of the connection and relationship is too complex, and dissatisfaction gives me choices.
    It concerns me that too many discussions of value equating to dollar amounts starts from the negative lens; that is, the $$-value connection seemed to arise (at indy schools here for argument) at a time when increased competition occurred (i.e., charter schools) and also when the economy took a big hit, thus stressing so many monetarily. I don’t like reducing the value down so simplistically, and to have bought in to this reductionistic approach has hurt us, I think.
    Your reminder of the value of schools is well-timed and something that more need to pay attention to. We need to reject the reductionist view and embrace the holistic idea of value, continuously looking for ways to dialogue about it but also to enhance and enrich it.

    • glichtman April 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Angel. I think this is exactly the discussion with which school communities must become comfortable. Not one we have had in the past, but we can’t enhance value if we don’t agree on what it is!

  2. principalaim May 11, 2014 at 12:06 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on principalaim and commented:
    In his April 25 post, Grant Lichtman shared a definition of the word “value” that I think schools struggling to assign a dollar amount to what they do every day for children should consider. According to Grant, “value is the difference between what you say you are going to do and what you actually do, as seen through the eye of your customer.” If we adhere to this definition of value then schools should pay just as much attention to what they say and do as they do to what something cost. Therefore, I’d like to ask schools to spend more time thinking about how best to convey its value to the customer. I think this is important because I believe “everything we do at school has some ‘value’ either positive or negative; however, I believe it is up to [the school] to determine the value added.” We must remember we are the experts (and if we build it; they will come – but only if we can sell it).
    Ultimately, I believe there are schools able to determine and articulate their value within their community (parents, faculty, and administrators). I also believe there are schools able to thrive during a time when lots of really good schools are struggling to maintain their competitive edge in a market of really good schools. Perhaps what we really need to ask ourselves is how do we (public or private schools) maintain what is best for all children while selling our value to our customers?

Leave A Comment