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Website & App Communication Platforms - Apptegy vs. ParentSquare vs. FinalSite vs. SchoolBlocks

It is widely recognized that engaged parents can significantly contribute to a student's academic success. That's why the school-to-home communication space is a healthy sector, bristling with numerous vendors vying for attention, each backed by various forms of funding and marketing strategies. This review by EdTechReview aims to cut through the marketing noise, offering an objective comparison of FinalSite, ParentSquare, Apptegy, and SchoolBlocks. We base our evaluation on several criteria, including funding sources, user experience, community reach, integration with popular tech platforms, and overall cost. Remember, this is an assessment to guide your decision-making process; we recommend taking demos and considering your district's unique needs and leadership preferences.

Webmaster Experience: Ease of Management

In the dynamic world of school-to-home communication, the role of a webmaster transcends mere website management. It embodies the seamless integration of technology, education, and community engagement. Therefore, a happy, efficient webmaster is most important because any dissatisfaction here can derail all other platform features and benefits. A webmaster's ability to efficiently navigate and utilize a communication platform is pivotal, acting as the linchpin that ensures the swift, effective dissemination of information and fosters an environment ripe for educational success and community involvement. The efficiency, satisfaction, and overall experience of webmasters, therefore, are not just operational concerns but foundational elements that can significantly influence a school's digital presence and its ability to connect with families. In recognizing this critical role, our review delves into the webmaster experience offered by each platform, evaluating them on a spectrum of ease of use, intuitiveness, and the support provided to those who manage the digital heartbeat of our educational communities. 
  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Ease of Management 2 8 8 4

FinalSite: Known for its robust feature set, FinalSite wins the feature-set competition. It offers a sophisticated and complex solution that demands a high level of expertise from its webmasters—think Edlio, SchoolPoint, and SchoolinSites, elaborate platforms not reviewed here which similarly position themselves as offering comprehensive digital solutions rich in features and capabilities. However, this breadth of functionality comes with a complexity that often necessitates a highly trained webmaster at each school to manage updates successfully. Designed with a wealth of functionalities, FinalSite may overlook the practical resource limitations that schools, especially those prioritizing technology, often face. This can make the platform appear daunting to institutions without dedicated technical staff.

ParentSquare: Until recently, ParentSquare lacked a web solution, a gap that led to missed opportunities when responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) seeking a unified app and website provider. Leveraging their venture capital funding, ParentSquare acquired Gabbart's web solution, known for its longevity and quality, albeit supported by a modest client base. This acquisition has resulted in a harmonious integration of Gabbart's comprehensive features with ParentSquare's extensive app functionalities, presenting a cohesive package particularly appealing to district leadership. However, this integration necessitated the streamlining of Gabbart's features, resulting in a pared-down version of the original platform. While effective for experienced administrators, this streamlined solution may present challenges in distributing website management tasks across school staff with varying levels of technical expertise.

Apptegy: A platform that prioritizes a mobile-first approach, Apptegy featuring an appealing design that, while visually impressive, results in a uniform appearance across different districts. This consistency extends from the front page to sub-pages, suggesting a design philosophy that favors a standardized look over customization. The platform's core, centered around the Thrillshare posting system, streamlines content management into specific sections but tends to cater to scenarios best handled by a single webmaster. This focus on simplicity through Thrillshare, although efficient, may limit the diversity and uniqueness that schools might wish to express in their digital presence.

SchoolBlocks: With its dual approach, SchoolBlocks appeals to content creators offering both simplicity and beauty through its two-page types, as well as the option for robust customization via content blocks. This design philosophy enables a straightforward user experience that typically necessitates minimal training, accommodating a wide range of technical proficiencies among school staff. Notably, SchoolBlocks incorporates content streams, significantly reducing the workload for content managers through automatic updates. This feature streamlines the process of keeping the school community informed and engaged, showcasing SchoolBlocks' commitment to enhancing webmaster satisfaction with a blend of user-friendly functionality and efficient content management.

Community Reach: Bridging the Gap

In the diverse landscape of educational communities, the ability of a school communication platform to inclusively and effectively reach every family is paramount. Recognizing the varied needs and preferences across demographics requires a solution that not only understands but embraces this diversity. A platform's success is measured not just by its features, but by its capacity to connect with all segments of the community, ensuring no family is left behind in the digital divide.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Community Reach 2 7 8 8

FinalSite: Rooted in its original mission, established well before the rise of the attention economy, FinalSite prioritizes substance over immediacy in its approach to community engagement. Primarily serving as a robust emergency notification tool, its app complements the website's role as a comprehensive information hub. While this strategy ensures the delivery of essential information, it may not fully capture the dynamic interactivity many modern families seek. FinalSite's dedication to creating a well-structured digital environment demonstrates a commitment to quality, though it might not always engage all demographics in the constantly evolving digital landscape.

ParentSquare: Renowned for its comprehensive capabilities, ParentSquare positions itself as a leading contender in the market, aiming to capture the attention of both students and parents effectively. Its inclusion of a 'Reach' graph underscores the platform's commitment to transparency, providing tangible evidence of message engagement within the school community. Despite these strengths, ParentSquare faces challenges with low app download rates, leading to a reliance on traditional communication methods like texting and email, which may not fully resonate with all community members. Additionally, the choice to brand the app primarily with ParentSquare's or the district's identity, rather than tailoring it to individual schools, may inadvertently weaken the personal connection families feel towards their specific educational environment.

Apptegy: On the strength of its ThrillShare app, Apptegy stands out for its ambition to dominate school community conversations through its comprehensive omni-channel posting capabilities and seamless integration with Student Information Systems. Despite its robust feature set designed to streamline communication across various platforms, the app faces challenges in garnering widespread adoption, as reflected by its low download rates. This discrepancy highlights a potential gap between the app's capability to engage users and its actual reach within the community, raising questions about its effectiveness in the competitive attention economy of today's digital landscape.

SchoolBlocks: Available directly from each school's website, SchoolBlocks excels in capturing the engagement of students and their families through a strategically designed app interface. This approach not only facilitates ease of access but also fosters a deeper sense of connection by aligning the app's identity with that of the individual schools, rather than a broader district or vendor brand. Furthermore, SchoolBlocks' integration of the SchoolFeed solution with popular educational platforms like Google Classroom, Schoology, or Canvas significantly enhances its ability to maintain the community's attention. This synergy, coupled with the innovative use of a school-safe, AI-powered discussion platform, positions SchoolBlocks as a uniquely effective tool in bridging the communication gap between schools and families, ensuring that engagement goes beyond mere information sharing to foster a vibrant, interactive community.

Google & Microsoft Integration: Enhancing Educational Infrastructures

In today's educational environments, Google and Microsoft accounts are not merely tools; they are foundational components that shape the digital landscape of schools worldwide. Recognizing this, it becomes essential to assess how seamlessly school communication platforms integrate with these ubiquitous ecosystems. At EdTechReview, we understand the critical role these integrations play in streamlining administrative tasks, enhancing classroom collaboration, and facilitating seamless communication. Therefore, our evaluation places a premium on the ability of each vendor to harmonize with Google and Microsoft's toolsets, ensuring schools can leverage the full potential of their technology investments to benefit educators, students, and families alike. 

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Google & Microsoft Integration 2 10 4 4

FinalSite: In integrating with Google and Microsoft, FinalSite encompasses single-sign-on and calendar synchronization within its approach, aiming to foster a more connected and accessible digital environment for users. Despite these integrations offering a foundation for ease of use, they face the challenge of technological overlap, particularly in how and where digital files are stored and managed across platforms.

ParentSquare: Simplifying user access and schedule management, ParentSquare integrates with Google and Microsoft, providing streamlined single-sign-on access and calendar functionalities that enhance user experience. This level of integration supports a unified communication landscape but also mirrors the limitation of potentially overlapping data management, reflecting a common challenge in balancing convenience with comprehensive technological cohesion.

Apptegy: Like its counterparts, Apptegy's integration with Google and Microsoft platforms facilitates essential functionalities such as single-sign-on and calendar integration, simplifying user access and schedule management. However, this integration approach, while offering basic connectivity, may introduce redundancy within the school's technological framework, particularly in the dual storage of files across web and cloud services.

SchoolBlocks: Standing distinct as a partner to both Google and Microsoft, SchoolBlocks opts for a streamlined approach to integration, deliberately avoiding functionality overlap to clarify the technology landscape for schools. It achieves seamless synchronization with the Groups and Organizational Units (OUs) in Active Directory, ensuring permissions are consistently managed. Furthermore, SchoolBlocks utilizes WebHooks to create dynamic links to documents stored in Google Drive or OneDrive, enabling immediate website updates following any document changes, thus enhancing the efficiency and coherence of school-wide digital resources.

Omni-Channel Posting: Fostering Inclusion

In today's interconnected digital age, the capacity for omni-channel posting has become a cornerstone for effective school communication, enabling messages to seamlessly traverse multiple platforms from a single point of action. This capability ensures that critical information reaches every member of the school community, regardless of their preferred communication channel.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
OmniChannel Posting 5 8 8 8

FinalSite: While FinalSite may not be extensively linked to a dedicated app, limiting its in-app posting capabilities, it compensates with a versatile interface that facilitates direct posts to social media alongside website updates. This feature, complemented by an array of additional functionalities such as scheduling options, ensures that FinalSite remains a comprehensive tool for managing and disseminating information across various channels, albeit with a focus on web and social media platforms.

ParentSquare: A leader in this category, ParentSquare excels in omni-channel communication, providing a robust platform that supports synchronized updates not only on the school's website but also across various social media channels. The platform's advanced features, such as the ability to schedule posts and tailor messages for specific groups within the school community, position ParentSquare as a vital tool for schools looking to engage effectively with every stakeholder.

Apptegy: Equally advanced, Apptegy offers a dynamic approach to omni-channel posting with its sophisticated application, facilitating effortless dissemination of information through social media, websites, and beyond. With features that allow for easy scheduling and precise recipient targeting, Apptegy ensures comprehensive coverage, making it a leader alongside ParentSquare in the realm of modern school communication strategies.

SchoolBlocks: While SchoolBlocks offers a more streamlined user experience compared to the intricate functionalities of ParentSquare and Apptegy, it provides an efficient and user-friendly approach to omni-channel posting. Utilizing an intelligent form that adjusts fields based on selected channels, SchoolBlocks enables straightforward scheduling and simultaneous posting across social media and websites. This simplicity, although slightly less feature-rich, ensures accessibility and ease of use, making SchoolBlocks a practical choice for schools prioritizing straightforward communication processes.

Mobile App Mastery: Navigating iOS & Android Solutions

In today's mobile-centric world, the effectiveness of educational communication platforms is significantly influenced by their presence and performance on iOS and Android devices. A seamless mobile experience is essential for engaging students, parents, and educators alike, ensuring that vital information is accessible anywhere, at any time.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
App Download Rates 2 8 6 6
App Functionality 2 5 8 10

FinalSite: Mirroring the complexity of its core website, FinalSite's mobile app experience leaves room for improvement, presenting challenges that necessitate extra management effort. This similarity indicates a consistent approach across platforms but also highlights areas where enhancements could better serve the needs of a mobile-first user base.

ParentSquare: Originating as a mobile application, ParentSquare has developed an app rich in features, offering an extensive array of tools for school communication. While the app's robustness is commendable, its complexity can sometimes pose usability challenges for users navigating through its many functionalities. A notable concern is the app's generic branding, which aligns more closely with ParentSquare itself rather than adopting the unique identity of individual districts, potentially impacting its relevance and connection to the school community. Additionally, the app's download rates have been affected by the requirement for users to navigate the iOS and Play stores, adding an extra step that may deter timely and widespread adoption.

Apptegy: With a focus on mobile-first solutions, Apptegy delivers an exceptional user experience through its app, notably through the well-executed Thrillshare posting feature and a comprehensive set of functionalities. While the option for districts to have a branded app is typically favorable, the lack of a more direct school-specific branding could diminish the app's appeal to parents who prefer a stronger visual connection to their child's school. Similar to ParentSquare, Apptegy's app faces challenges with download rates, primarily because access is limited to navigating through the Play Store, which may hinder widespread adoption among the intended user base.

SchoolBlocks: While SchoolBlocks may not boast the extensive feature set found in ParentSquare or Apptegy, it compensates effectively in several key areas. Notably, its app can be directly downloaded from a school or district's website, a convenient approach that significantly boosts download rates—tripling the industry average. Most importantly, SchoolBlocks offers apps tailored to individual schools, enhancing the sense of connection between schools and their communities without imposing extra administrative burdens. This focused strategy underscores SchoolBlocks' commitment to accessibility and user-centric design, proving that sometimes, simplicity and direct engagement hold more value than a long list of features.

Branding: Creating Distinct Digital Identities

A visually appealing website is more than just an aesthetic choice; it's a crucial element that shapes the first impression of a school's digital presence. While the pursuit of stunning design is important, it's equally essential to balance beauty with functionality, ensuring the chosen platform enhances your school's brand without complicating website management.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Branding 9 8 8 4

FinalSite: Known for providing a diverse range of templates, FinalSite excels in crafting visually stunning websites that effectively reflect a school's brand identity. Their commitment to aesthetic excellence ensures that each site not only looks impressive but also resonates with the values and character of the institution it represents. However, this emphasis on design sophistication can sometimes introduce complexities in site management, suggesting a trade-off between visual appeal and ease of use.

ParentSquare: The journey of ParentSquare in establishing a distinct brand identity for its web presence has undergone significant evolution. Initially lacking a dedicated website, and consequently, a cohesive branding strategy, their acquisition of Gabbart marked a pivotal shift. This move has equipped ParentSquare with the foundational elements of a web solution, though the integration appears to be in a transitional phase. As they navigate this integration, the coherence of their branding remains under development, signaling a period of transformation and potential for a more unified brand identity in the future.

Apptegy: Operating under the belief that a strong visual identity can make a substantial impact, Apptegy invests a significant amount of marketing effort into branding. Despite the attractive design of their platforms, this approach results in a uniform appearance across all Apptegy clients. The consistency, while initially appealing, may lead to a sense of monotony and lack of individuality for schools seeking to distinguish themselves in the digital landscape.

SchoolBlocks: Offering a unique approach to branding, SchoolBlocks features a dual-style system: one that employs a block-based layout for dynamic content presentation and another that adopts a long-scroll format for streamlined navigation. This strategy emphasizes ease of use and operational efficiency, ensuring that, while their designs might occasionally appear simpler in comparison, they are highly effective for schools focusing on accessibility and clear communication.

Financial Foundation: Decoding Company Funding

Unveiling the backbone of the funding source behind an educational technology provider can significantly influence its operational priorities, innovation pace, and the nature of its relationship with school districts. While some districts may lean towards partnering with well-funded companies for the perks and benefits, others value a more collaborative relationship, seeking influence over product development. Understanding these financial underpinnings offers insights into a company's future behavior and its alignment with a district's needs and values.

FinancialPrivate InvestmentLeader BackedVenture CapitalVenture Capital

FinalSite: Under the ownership of Veritas Capital since 2021, FinalSite has a long history of catering to private schools, often assuming the presence of a well-equipped webmaster team to manage its comprehensive features. With growth, the company has expanded its reach to public sectors, notably acquiring Blackboard K12, a move that synergizes with its existing offerings to effectively compete in RFPs. However, this expansion and the ambition to offer extensive feature sets have introduced complexities, making extensive and costly training a prerequisite for optimizing the platform's use, which can challenge the balance between advanced functionality and user accessibility.

ParentSquare: Sharing a venture capital-driven growth trajectory similar to Apptegy, ParentSquare differentiates itself by retaining its founding team. This retention underscores a consistent vision even as the company aggressively expands, highlighted by strategic acquisitions such as Remind. This approach not only signals ParentSquare's commitment to rapid expansion but also suggests a balance between innovation and the founding team's original mission, navigating the path of growth while staying true to its core values.

Apptegy: Founded by the marketing-savvy Jetson George, Apptegy has successfully secured multiple rounds of venture capital funding, amassing over $20 million. George's eventual cash out departure left the company under the direct management of its venture capital investors. This shift underscores Apptegy's alignment with typical venture capital goals—scaling quickly with an eye towards selling or going public, aiming to significantly increase value for its investors. This strategic focus highlights a path driven by growth and financial milestones, reflecting the influence of its funding structure on company direction.

SchoolBlocks: SchoolBlocks, led by its president, represents his second venture in the education technology space, with 24 years of experience. Notably, the company's approach differs, reflecting a unique perspective on what best serves schools. Unlike larger competitors, SchoolBlocks remains independent, devoid of venture capital funding. They adopt a partner-oriented mindset, focusing on collaboration rather than a traditional vendor-client dynamic. The president's personal investment and leadership prioritize fostering higher-achieving students, involved parents, and a caring community, emphasizing substance over superficiality, and quality over quantity.


Prices are typically associated with a per-student annual fee, with costs varying within the range of $2 per student to $8 per student. Please note that we at EdTechReview do not assign subjective scores to pricing, as it may be misleading to assign higher scores to lower prices.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Overall Score $$$ $$ $$$$ $$$$


After a thorough evaluation of four prominent website and app communication platform vendors in the K-12 education sector, we At EdTechReview have assessed their performance across various critical aspects. Each vendor brings unique strengths and considerations to the table, making them suitable for diverse educational institutions with varying needs.

  FinalSite SchoolBlocks Apptegy ParentSquare
Overall Score 3.4 7.7 7.1 6.3

FinalSite excels in several areas, with an overall score of 3.3, offering a reliable web solution with a focus on robust features and well-designed templates. However, its complexity may require substantial training for efficient utilization.

ParentSquare with an overall score of 6.3 offers a feature-rich platform but faces challenges with app download rates and branding. Its recent acquisition of Gabbart showcases its commitment to enhancing its web solution.

Apptegy stands out with an overall score of 7.1, providing mobile-first solutions and a strong emphasis on marketing and branding. Its Thrillshare app and versatile posting capabilities make it an appealing option for districts aiming to establish a dynamic online presence.

SchoolBlocks emerges as the solid overall choice, earning an impressive overall score of 7.7. Its user-friendly interface and direct school-specific app downloads contribute to its popularity, making it a strong contender for schools prioritizing simplicity and community engagement.

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