Wireless Generation Buys Assessment Company

In its first acquisition since the company was purchased by News Corporation in late 2010, Wireless Generation, the education software company, announced on Monday it has acquired Intel-Assess, an assessment content and technology company.

The move bolsters the in-house content library for Wireless Generation, the New York City-based company that provides formative assessment tools, data systems, and consulting to schools. Intel-Assess, based in San Francisco, creates custom and finished content for assessments and tools for creating and delivering your own.

Intel-Assess’s library of content contains about 25,000 items, a significant bump to the library Wireless Generation currently offers through its products, most of which is licensed, said Zachary Silverstein, a senior vice president for Wireless Generation, in an interview.

The company discussed whether to build its content library through its own capacity, or to make an acquisition, Silverstein said. But, “at the end of the day, we felt to repeat what Intel-Assess has accomplished would be more expensive and more challenging,” he said.

Intel-Assess’s content meets the Common Core State Standards, and will be integrated into Beacon, Wireless Generation’s new assessment system for common standards, Silverstein said. Forty-six states have agreed to adopt the common core standards. Both companies also offer professional development services around assessments, giving Wireless Generation the capability to offer comprehensive services, products, and content to schools in the 46 states that have agreed to adopt the standards.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Intel-Assess, which serves hundreds of school districts and has 16 employees, will retain its management structure, Silverstein said.

(Wireless Generation’s co-founder and chief executive officer, Larry Berger, serves on the board of trustees of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.)

This is only the second content-related acquisition in Wireless Generation’s 10-year history. In 2009, it purchased Writer’s Express, a Cambridge, Mass., company that sells writing curriculum. It is also Wireless Generation’s first acquisition since November 2010, when 90 percent of the company was purchased, for $360 million, by News Corporation, the media conglomerate that owns The Wall Street Journal, Fox’s numerous TV and film enterprises, and many other entities.

Along with the hiring of Joel I. Klein, former New York City schools chancellor, and several other high-profile education officials, the acquisition signaled News Corp.’s big move into education. But allegations and revelations of widespread phone-hacking within News Corp.’s news outlets have embroiled the company and perhaps stagnated its education efforts.

After his hire and prior to the scandal, Klein told the media more acquisitions like Wireless Generation could be expected, but none have surfaced. The scandal at least partially contributed to Wireless Generation losing a $27 million contract with the New York State Department of Education to develop assessment software for schools. The company, which serves 3 million students nationwide, according to a news release, already partners with the city on its School of One program for personalized, data-driven learning. That deal was made during Klein’s tenure.

Silverstein said Wireless Generation consulted with News Corp.’s education officials on the Intel-Assess acquisition.

A front page article in Tuesday’s New York Times examines Klein’s tenure at News Corp. The article suggests the phone-hacking scandal, for which he is serving as a close adviser to embattled News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and as an internal investigator into the allegations, has distracted him from education efforts.

That seems to be changing. Times sources suggest Klein now spends two-thirds of his time on education and that News Corp. “is looking at several small education-related companies, though no deals are imminent.”

There’s no mention of Intel-Assess in the piece, but maybe it will spur that process.

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