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- 88% of district and charter respondents said that they believe they have all of the technology tools they need to perform the duties associated with their roles. This was a stark contrast to the 40% of private and independent school survey respondents to do not believe they have all the tools they need, despite the increasing range of options available in the market.
- Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA) was another area in which public schools differed significantly from private schools—61% of public schools reported that their websites were ADA compliant compared with 9% of private schools.
- Fewer public schools (68% compared to 80% of private schools) reported collecting and analyzing data regarding their schools’ website performance in-house than private schools.
- 75% of responding charter schools regularly collect and analyze data regarding their enrollment funnels—if you’re among the 25% that do not, you’re missing out on critical data for evaluating the performance of your recruitment efforts and admissions experience. While we did not ask this question of districts for 2022, this question may be added in the 2023 survey for comparison among schools that do not charge tuition for student attendance.
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Summary and Methodology
With an ever-growing list of software options for PK-12 schools to recruit and engage families, choosing the right vendor for a new website, email platform, or text messaging tool can feel like an impossible task. Where do you start? How much should you spend? An even more common question is, what are other schools and districts using? This survey was designed to answer these questions and more, giving school marketing and PR professionals a resource for researching the tools and software you need to make your jobs easier. The public school district and charter school version of the survey was open from April 14-June 4, 2022, and sent to marketing and communications professionals at PK-12 public school districts and charter schools across the U.S. The results of a private school version of the survey can be found here. For the district and charter school survey, we received valid responses from 29 charter/magnet schools and 91 public schools and public school districts for a total of 120 responses. The survey was conducted and the data was analyzed prior to Finalsite’s acquisition of Blackboard K-12, so that acquisition is not reflected in this analysis.
The fact that school PR and marketing professionals are often overwhelmed is well known, so we wanted to know from the outset of the survey whether these professionals believed they had all of the technology tools they needed to perform the duties associated with their roles. interestingly, 88% of district and charter respondents said that they believe they have all of the technology tools they need to perform the duties associated with their roles. This was a stark contrast to the 40% of private and independent school survey respondents to do not believe they have all the tools they need, despite the increasing range of options available in the market.
While their private school counterparts—particularly boarding and non-religious private/independent day schools—claimed higher budgets for marketing technology, charters and districts were far less likely to have budgets of $25,000 or more. Charter school respondents tied at 28% for budgets of $5,001-10,000 and budgets of $10,001-15,000, while the majority of districts (24%) reported budgets of $5,001-10,000. Ten percent of charter schools and 4% of districts reported having no assigned budget for marketing and communications technology software.
We also looked at which technology tools and software schools were planning to increase their investment in going into the 2022-23 school year, and while website redesigns were most popular in the private school sector, districts and charter schools revealed different priorities. Forty-two percent of respondents are planning to invest more in enrollment management platforms and 40% are planning to increase investment in email software. From there, districts and charters differed, with districts (26%) planning to invest more in student information systems and charters (38%) planning to invest in graphic design tools.
Districts and charters were also more likely to identify tools for reduced investment than their private school counterparts, including some contradictions for tools that were also identified for increased investment. Charter schools plan to reduce their investment in enrollment management software (31%), email software (28%), and graphic design tools (21%), while districts plan to reduce their investment in email software (22%), enrollment management software (20%) and photo management (15%).
Similar to the private school segment, the majority of charter schools (90%) and districts (85%) manage their websites in-house. With respect to content management systems (CMS), WordPress, Finalsite, and Edlio were all tied at 17% for charter schools, followed closely by Apptegy.
Beyond content management, we also wanted to learn more about how schools are handling administrative marketing functions like search optimization (SEO) and website analytics as well as website functionality like translation and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA).
Similar to private schools, despite its complexity, a majority of districts (64%) and charters (62%) reported managing search engine optimization (SEO) in-house. Google Search Console was the most widely used SEO tool for both districts (78%) and charters (60%). Respondents from both categories also reported using Semrush (15% of charters and 12% of districts) but differed from there. Twenty-five percent of charters reported using Moz for SEO while 18% of districts reported using Ahrefs.
Given the wide range of constituencies they need to serve in their communities, it was no surprise that a much larger percentage of public schools reported using translation services for their websites compared to private schools—64% of public school respondents compared to 19% of private school survey respondents. Google Translate was once again the most popular translation tool at 84%, followed by Weglot at 14%.
Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design (ADA) was another area in which public schools differed significantly from private schools—61% of public schools reported that their websites were ADA compliant compared with 9% of private schools. Websites for traditional public school districts in particular tend to be monitored more closely for ADA compliance and accessibility is often a key part of the conversation with vendors when website redesigns are undertaken. Still, to effectively serve their communities and avoid potential litigation, website accessibility should be a priority for all schools. Fifty-three percent of public schools reported using accessibility tools that are built into their websites, 31% reported using Audioeye, and 9% reported using Monsido.
Fewer public schools (68% compared to 80% of private schools) reported collecting and analyzing data regarding their schools’ website performance in-house than private schools. Among the schools that do, Google Analytics (56%), Google Search Console (33%), and Google PageSpeed (27%) were the most popular tools. As we noted in the private school version of the survey results, if you’re a Google Analytics user, you’ll want to make sure your school or district is ready to transition to Google Analytics 4 if it hasn’t already.
Enrollment Marketing Tools and Add-Ons
In this section, we’ll look at how charter schools and districts are engaging families in the enrollment and registration processes online, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, online meeting scheduling, lottery management, and student information systems (SIS). In this part of the survey, charter school respondents were shown slightly different questions than districts due to the differences in how they recruit and enroll students. Both charter schools and districts were asked about their use of CRM systems, chatbots, and SIS, which is reflected in our analysis.
While CRM systems can be extremely useful tools for managing prospective family information and helping marketers to make connections between their recruitment tactics and caregiver behavior, the right tool can also help districts and charters track student outcomes and streamline communications with families. Forty-one percent of public schools reported having CRM systems in place, but there were differences in which tools are being used by charter schools compared to public school districts. Charter schools reported using SchoolMint Connect (35%), Keap (29%), and Zoho (21%), while districts reported using Benchmark One (30%), Keap (21%), and Hubspot (18%).
Forty-five percent of charter schools reported using online scheduling tools to allow families to schedule meetings during the admissions and enrollment processes, with 50% using Google Forms, 29% using tools that are built into their websites, and 14% using Calendly. Sixty-six percent of charter schools reported using tools for lottery management, with SchoolMint Enroll (30%), AdmissionsPlus (20%), and PowerSchool (15%) being the most popular tools. For student registration, 38% of charter schools reported using Google Forms, 21% reported using AdmissionsPlus, and 21% reported using SchoolMintEnroll.
Given the more traditional admissions processes that can be found among charter schools, we also asked charter school respondents about enrollment funnel analysis and found that 25% of charter schools do not regularly collect or analyze data regarding their enrollment funnels. Among the schools that do, AdmissionsPlus (28%), SchoolMint Enroll (24%), and PowerSchool (21%) were the most common tools they used.
Sixty-eight percent of consumers like chatbots because they provide quick answers to burning questions. And unlike private and independent schools, public school districts and charter schools have been quicker to incorporate chatbots into their website experiences—47% of public schools reported using chatbots on their websites compared to only 12% of private schools. Facebook Messenger (50%), AtlasRX (19%), and LiveChat (13%) were the most popular chat/messaging tools used by charter schools while AllHere and AtlasRX (29%), LiveChat (24%), and Let’s Talk (22%) were the most popular tools used by public schools districts.
For student information systems, Infinite Campus (24%), Blackboard (21%), ESchool, and PowerSchool (17%) were the most popular platforms for charter schools, and Eschool (31%), Infinite Campus (18%), and Blackboard (16%) were the most popular platforms for public school districts.
Email is typically the primary vehicle for family communications so we wanted to explore which platforms schools are using for this function. Because of its important role in family engagement, school and district leaders need the right tool to ensure deliverability, offer flexible design options, simple list management, and robust data to inform decisions and measure impact. While for private schools this was an area in which more mainstream platforms (platforms that are not designed specifically for K-12 schools) dominated, charter schools and districts were more likely to use K-12-specific platforms to send their email communications.
For charter schools, we looked at email platforms for both prospective and current families. For prospective family communications, SchoolMint Connect (48%), Zoho (28%), and Keap (17%) were the most popular platforms, while ParentSquare (28%), Finalsite Messages (24%), and Constant Contact (21%) were the most popular for current families.
For public school districts we looked at email platforms for current families only, and Campus Messenger (44%), Blackboard (21%), and Catapult Connect (19%) were the most popular platforms.
Sixty-four percent of consumers think companies who text value their time, are progressive, and would recommend them to others, and charter schools and districts are responding with 68% using SMS (text) messaging to communicate with current families. Districts are ahead of the pack at 81%, with Apptegy (19%), Blackboard (18%), and School Messenger (12%) reported as the most commonly-used platforms. For charter schools, SchoolMessenger (41%), Parent Square (29%), and SchoolCues (12%) were the most common platforms.
For public school districts, we asked about the use of district-specific mobile applications, and 58% of responding schools reported having mobile apps. Apptegy (25%), Bloomz (22%), and Blackboard (21%) were the most common platforms for district mobile applications.
Finally, when asked about additional tools that are used to communicate with current families, similar to private schools, Google Classroom was the most popular platform (29%), but charter schools and public school districts deviated from there. Blackboard Reach and Parent Square (24%) were the next most common platforms for charter schools and Apptegy Rooms (20%) and Catapult K12 (18%) were the next most common for districts.
Project and Social Media Management
The day-to-day overwhelm of school and district communications offices is well-known, and project management systems can go a long way in helping communications and marketing leaders to wrangle the many requests and tasks that come across their desks every day. However, schools and districts have been slow to adopt the use of these platforms. Public schools pulled slightly ahead of private schools in their use of project management software (40% of public schools and charters compared to 35% of private schools), but there is still room to grow in this area. If you’re considering a project management tool for your office in the future, you have plenty of options, starting with what’s currently being used by your peers. Basecamp (67%), Smartsheet (22%), and Asana (11%) were the most commonly-used tools for charter schools, and Monday (28%), Basecamp, and Notion (26%) were the most common platforms among public school districts.
Fifty-seven percent of schools and districts reported using social media management software, with Facebook’s free Business Suite being the most popular option at 32%. Districts also reported using Archive Social (21%), Buffer (16%), and Canva (14%), while charters reported using Buffer, Canva, and Blackboard (19%).
Design and Asset Management
Seventy-two percent of responding schools reported having tools in place for managing photography assets. Google Drive was the most commonly used tool at 31%, followed by Google Photos (20%), and Dropbox (14%). Adobe Bridge gets an honorable mention from district respondents at 14%.
When asked about resources for graphic design, 66% of schools and districts reported having tools in place for this function. The tools used among charter schools and public school districts were the same but in different proportions. Canva (60%), Adobe InDesign (29%), and Adobe Photoshop (24%) were the most popular tools for charter schools, and Adobe Photoshop (50%), Canva (43%), and Adobe InDesign (34%) were the most popular for districts.
Sixty-four percent of schools and districts reported using video editing software, with charter schools and districts once again using the same tools in different proportions. Canva and Adobe Spark (35%) were the most commonly used for charter schools, followed by Adobe Premiere (25%). Adobe Premiere was the most common tool for districts (47%), followed by Adobe Spark (35%) and Canva (23%).
This survey is intended to represent the pulse of the market and not a definitive statement on market share for the vendors named in the results.