Amazon Abandons TenMarks Classroom Products

Managing Editor

The notice placed atop the website for Amazon’s TenMarks line of products gets straight to the point:

“We’re winding down. TenMarks will no longer be available after the 2018-2019 school year. Licenses for TenMarks Math and Writing will be honored through June 30, 2019. If you’re a current customer, you will receive an e-mail outlining what this means for you.” 

With that announcement, the online retail giant, which has been making inroads in school districts over the past few years, announced a big change in its K-12 offerings.  TenMarks, an online instructional resource, has been a part of Amazon since 2013, when the Seattle-based corporation acquired it. And Amazon had added a writing curriculum to TenMarks as recently as last August.

Now the brand and its associated products will go away. Amazon, in a brief statement to Marketplace K-12, said the move was a “difficult decision” based on a “thorough review” of the product. The company did not offer any further comment.

School districts have a vast universe of curricula and instructional resources to choose from, and it’s unclear where Amazon saw TenMarks falling short.

TenMarks Writing seeks to help students improve their written skills using instructional techniques like scaffolding and encouraging quick communications to write short conversations. The platform uses images and words to initiate a back-and-forth between two characters after a writing prompt. There are also features that use an online engine and language processing to guide students through more in-depth written assignments.

Teachers using the product were offered lessons, unit plans, graphic organizers, rubrics and other features, my colleague Michele Molnar reported last year.

Purchasing Vehicle

An Amazon official told Marketplace K-12 that the company was particularly proud of TenMarks’ ability to leverage “natural language processing to provide students with comments personalized along the way for what they’re writing about their essays.”

Amazon has taken a series of steps over the past few years to increase its role in K-12 systems—particularly in the areas of purchasing and cloud-based computing.

Amazon Web Services is a cloud-based storage option that many districts are buying as a way to avoid having to add physical server capacity and infrastructure. As of last year, the company said the product was being used by 7,000 education institutions worldwide.

In addition, the company has sought to capture K-12 district buying through Amazon Business for Education, an online marketplace where teachers and school officials can shop for a variety of products. It also made an arrangement with a national cooperative purchasing program, U.S. Communities, meant to streamline purchasing for school supplies through Amazon.

Another example of Amazon’s recent interest in the K-12 space can be seen in with last year’s re-launch of Amazon Inspire, a platform designed to house resources created on open licenses and now being tested in a beta version. Amazon had revealed the platform in 2016 but then pulled it after the New York Times reported that some of the resources that had been uploaded on it were protected by copyright.

Amazon officials said that Inspire and TenMarks were designed to be complimentary—that teachers’ writing assignments could be posted on Amazon Inspire.

Educators and opinionators responded with a mix of curiosity, bewilderment, and disappointment to Amazon’s TenMarks’ announcement. Some also made a pointed suggestion for Amazon: that they make TenMarks materials available on an open license for users to remix and share as they see fit.

Other tweets had a different message in mind: They came from companies offering their products to teachers looking to replace TenMarks. (We’ll let you search for those pitches on your own.)

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3 thoughts on “Amazon Abandons TenMarks Classroom Products

  1. My name is Greta Mills and I have used tenmarks for years. I am so disappointed to read that is leaving. I used it as a contest to boost learning, assignments, lesson plans and assessments. My students like the jam sessions and labs. I don’t know why they are getting rid of a program that so many people worked hard on over the years to make better. The amplifiers and do-overs were great for the students to help with comprehension and improving grades. I had students tell me over the years that the tenmarks helped with the preparing them for PARCC. The program was great because students could do the work at home and if they needed help they had the hints and videos. My next year students will not have the joy of tenmarks and I am sad to see you go.

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