K-12 Dealmaking: Achieve3000 Acquires Actively Learn, TAL Education Buys App Developer Dr. Panda

Associate Editor

In this week’s dealmaking news, Achieve3000, a 17-year-old ed-tech company focused on literacy acceleration, picks up Seattle startup Actively Learn with its instructional platform, pairing fiction and nonfiction texts. Meanwhile, China-based TAL Education has acquired Dr. Panda, a leading app developer.

Achieve3000 Acquires Actively Learn: Differentiated instruction provider Achieve3000 has acquired Actively Learn, a digital reading platform focused on deeper learning. The move pairs two compatible instructional approaches intended to help students build reading stamina and strength. Terms of the deal, which was completed by Insight Venture Partners, were not disclosed.

Achieve3000 and Actively Learn both address the expectation that students must engage with increasingly complex texts and use higher-order thinking to become truly college- and career-ready. Together, the suite spans pre-K to adult learners and includes fiction and nonfiction materials.

The move “makes so much sense for delivering a complete literacy and critical thinking offering for middle- and high-school students,” said Stuart Udell, CEO of Achieve3000, in a statement. [Udell recently shared his “lessons learned” from more than 20 acquisitions and in an EdWeek Market Brief premium article, Preparing a K-12 Company for Sale: Advice From a CEO and M&A Veteran.]

Actively Learn, which builds on a pedagogical framework organized around 12 learning strategies, offers text content that includes access to current trade fiction, nonfiction books, short stories, news articles, textbook passages, and poetry. It also includes integrated digital authoring tools and built-in professional learning.

Achieve3000 offers an instructional methodology for students at all reading levels, with the goal of accelerating their Lexile gains two to three times beyond what’s expected. It provides differentiated content, learning and language scaffolds, embedded assessment, and automatic text re-leveling when students progress.

“We’re excited to join Achieve3000. It’s a great next step for delivering on our promise to bring meaningful thinking to classrooms,” said Jay Goyal, CEO of Actively Learn.

TAL Education Group Acquires Dr. Panda: The giant Chinese tutoring company TAL Education Group has acquired a developer of paid educational apps for children and the creator of the Dr. Panda series of games. Dr. Panda will serve as an independent brand under TAL, with its original management team remaining in place, TAL said in its announcement.

“TAL is committed to fully supporting Dr. Panda with all its technological, academic and talent resources in a collaboration to explore new models for future education,” according to the announcement of the acquisition.

Dr. Panda offers a total of 37 children’s game titles, and the company says its apps are played by more than 5 million monthly active users worldwide. Besides apps, Dr. Panda has two upcoming original children’s edutainment animations, with a 3-D series of Dr. Panda premiering to audiences in China, the Middle East, and North Africa through Discovery Kids in early 2019.

Since releasing its first game in 2012, Dr. Panda’s products have relied on an “open-ended” approach designed to spark creativity and imagination in children.

“We believe Dr. Panda’s expertise can assist us by enhancing strategic planning for TAL’s many diverse developments, as well as in providing quality services for more families,” said a spokesperson for TAL.

“As a part of the TAL family, we wish to make education and kids’ learning more fun, and we can achieve this by utilizing TAL’s many channels and resources,” said Thijs Bosma, founder of Dr. Panda. “We want education to stimulate creativity, as opposed to traditional methods that ‘spoon-feed’ knowledge.”


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