K-12 Dealmaking: Apple Acquires LearnSprout; Pearson, Knewton Turn to Adaptive Math

Contributing Writer

Recent dealmaking news includes acquisitions by Apple and Excelligence Learning, and partnership between Pearson and Knewton. Here’s a recap of the dealmaking across the K-12 space:

Apple Buys LearnSprout: Apple Inc. acquired the San Francisco-based startup that helps K-12 educators “use data to analyze the past, understand the present, and anticipate the future,” according to the company’s Twitter page. Bloomberg first reported the purchase on January 28. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

More than 2,500 schools in 200 districts across 42 states in the U.S. currently use LearnSprout.

Excelligence Learning Acquires Really Good Stuff: Brentwood Associates-backed Excelligence Learning Corp. has purchased Really Good Stuff. Headquartered in Monroe, Conn., Really Good Stuff is a multi-channel marketer of classroom products and teaching tools used primarily in grades K-8. The acquisition is meant to expand Excelligence’s portfolio of brands, which until now primarily served pre-K early childhood programs and preschools, to include the much broader K-8 grade markets.

“With acquisitions being a critical component of our five-year strategic plan, Really Good Stuff represents a perfect archetype: strong brand equity, extremely loyal customers, complementary products and access to new market segments,” said Excelligence CEO Kelly Crampton in a statement.

Really Good Stuff, which will continue to be led by Co-Founder and President Jim Bennett, will complement Excelligence’s core brand, Discount School Supply.

Pearson, Knewton Form Partnership: Pearson and Knewton have teamed up in an effort to “personalize” K–12 math education starting with elementary school students. Utilizing New York-based Knewton’s adaptive learning platform, Pearson says it will  update its digital curriculum, enVisionMATH2.0.. The product tailors core instruction for each student, helping teachers better address unique individual needs and ensure that  entire classes are on track to achieve shared goals.

The Knewton-powered enVisionMATH2.0 curriculum will initially be introduced in grade 3-5 classrooms in fall of 2016, followed by expansions into other grades in 2017. Almost six million K-12 students in the U.S. currently use Pearson’s enVisionMATH curriculum, which is delivered in a blended print-digital format, the company said.

The move closely follows Pearson absorbing a major setback, announcing a few weeks ago that it would lay off 4,000 employees – roughly 10 percent of its total workforce. Pearson linked the cuts partly to unexpected weak performance in international school markets, and said it had embarked on a broad review of its operations.

Pearson and Knewton first began working together in 2012. “We’re excited to further expand our partnership with Pearson,” said Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of Knewton, adding that “analyzing real-time data showing what students know and assessing how they learn best is core to our approach.”

New Markets Venture Partners Appoints New Advisers: New Markets Venture Partners, a venture capital fund focused on investing in high-impact education companies, today announced that Josh Reibel and Brit Kirwan will serve as senior advisers to their second education fund, New Markets Education Partners II.  With decades of management, technology and education experience, Kirwan and Reibel will bring unparalleled expertise to inform fund strategy and support portfolio companies, New Markets said in a statement.

Reibel, who began his career as a classroom teacher, served as chief operating officer and then president and CEO of Wireless Generation.  He joined Wireless Generation, which created mobile assessments in schools across the country, and now has more than$95 million in annual revenue and 1,100 employees. It was later acquired by News Corporation.  Reibel went on to serve as CEO of Amplify Learning before leaving News Corp in last year.

Kirwan previously served as president of both the University of Maryland and Ohio State University and also served as chancellor of the university system of Maryland for over a decade. Kirwan currently serves on the National Research Council’s board on higher education and workforce and is the past chair of the American Council for Higher Education, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and the Business Higher Education Forum.

Reibel and Kirwan join 2U President and former Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton, Whiteboard Advisors co-Founder and CEO Ben Wallerstein, and Rusty Greiff, managing director of education at 1776, as advisors to the fund.

Be sure to check back on Marketplace K-12 for updates on mergers, acquisitions, fundraising, and other dealmaking.

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