K-12 Dealmaking: Renaissance Acquires Freckle Education; Abl Acquires School by Design

Associate Editor

In recent dealmaking news, Renaissance made its third acquisition in one year with the purchase of Freckle Education; Abl has acquired School by Design, and Labster is partnering with the Danish Ministry of Education to provide virtual labs to schools across the country.

Renaissance makes acquisition. Renaissance announced recently that it has acquired Freckle Education, a company that provides a differentiation platform for math, social studies, science, and English language arts. In its announcement, Renaissance said the acquisition is expected to be especially helpful in giving students the math skills they need to be college and career ready. Among Freckle’s products is a differentiated math solution, Freckle Math, primarily focused in grades K-9, which will allow Renaissance to extend the reach of its Star Math assessments.

This is the third acquisition in the last year and a half for Renaissance. In 2018, Renaissance acquired myON to expand its offerings in literacy and last month it acquired Early Learning Labs to enlarge its footprint in curriculum-based assessment and early education, the company said. Financial information about the acquisition was not disclosed.

“We chose Freckle for its innovative approach to student-centered practice, instructional design and teacher tools,” said Todd Brekhus, chief product officer at Renaissance in the company’s statement. “So many personalized learning programs suggest students should just put the headphones on, let the computer take over and wait for the learning to happen without the teacher’s involvement. With Freckle, we’re bringing educators a tool that puts them in control of targeting instruction and differentiating practice for students.”

The Freckle platform includes interactive student practice activities aligned to state standards, teacher resources such as progress reports and inquiry-based lesson plans and an administrator dashboard. With Freckle’s variety of teacher lessons and student activities, educators can differentiate both how and what students learn, engaging them in topics that are already of interest and guiding them to learn in ways most effective for them individually.

Founded five years ago as Front Row Education, Freckle now has more than 700,000 teachers using it to differentiate learning for over 10 million students across 75,000 schools, the company said.

“We launched Freckle because we believe every student deserves a world-class education, and the best way to deliver that is by empowering teachers to differentiate instruction for their students,” said Sidharth Kakkar, Freckle co-founder and CEO.

Vista Point Advisors, a San Francisco-based boutique investment bank, acted as the exclusive financial adviser to Freckle.

Scheduling software company Abl acquires technology and consulting firm. Abl, a master scheduling software developer, has acquired School by Design, a company that helps district leaders analyze and manage resources to meet strategic goals. The acquisition blends Abl’s analytics capabilities with the hands-on support of School by Design to help schools and districts better understand scheduling decisions and also make changes to improve instruction and efficiency and address issues around equity and access.

Financial information about the acquisition was not disclosed. School by Design will continue to provide the same services to their current customers under the name Abl.

Company leaders hope the combination of the two businesses will help district leaders better evaluate the implications of many aspects of scheduling, including budgeting and alternative scheduling, while helping to implement priorities in a sustainable, scalable manner. The companies are particularly focused on understanding and addressing the factors that contribute to disparities in student experiences and outcomes through a variety of sources, including scheduling data, student transcripts, test scores, and teacher course loads.

“School districts are incredibly complex ecosystems and grow more complicated as they adapt to shifting demographics and expectations,” said Adam Pisoni, the CEO of Abl. “With the right tools and support to make informed decisions with equity at the core, school operations have the power to improve every student’s experience—and to catalyze all other efforts to enhance pedagogy, rigor, and engagement. ”

Labster to partner with Danish Ministry of Education. Labster, which produces virtual laboratory simulations, recently announced that it has partnered with the Danish Ministry of Education to provide all 8th- to 10th-grade schools, and career schools, free access to its catalog of STEM-focused simulations in support of the government’s initiative to better integrate digital laboratories into the national curriculum.

Labster provides over 70 interactive virtual laboratory simulations so students can explore lab experiments in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and general sciences at their own pace.

According to analysis from the Danish government, one in three high schools in the country currently uses interactive laboratories in the classroom.

“At Labster, our goal is to empower the next generation of scientists, and to do it in our home country of Denmark makes it that much more special,” said Michael Bodekaer, Labster co-founder. The company recently raised $21 million in Series B funding.

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