K-12 Dealmaking: Teaching Strategies Bolsters SEL, Early Literacy Portfolios With Two Acquisitions

Staff Writer

Trying to strengthen their portfolio in the burgeoning area of social-emotional learning, as well as in literacy, early childhood provider Teaching Strategies has acquired a curriculum provider and a digital literacy app.

The acquisitions of SEL provider Al’s Pals and digital literature app FarFaria are the first deals by Teaching Strategies since the early childhood curriculum company purchased parent engagement tool ReadyRosie in September 2019.

It was important that the companies Teaching Strategies acquired demonstrate student outcomes, company CEO John Olsen said in an interview.

Olsen cited third-party studies indicating that Al’s Pals, which provides family resources and social-emotional lessons for children ages 3-6, positively promoted social-emotional learning. For instance, one study stated that the product is effective in both “strengthening children’s social-emotional competence and positive coping skills and … suppressing the development of antisocial, aggressive behavior.”

Before now, Al’s Pals hasn’t been able to get wide distribution, Olsen said. He’s optimistic that Teaching Strategies will be able to market the product to many more educators given its broader customer base.

With the acquisition of FarFaria, which is designed specifically for readers in grades pre-K-3 and features a digital reader tool, Teaching Strategies adds an e-reader tool that allows for potentially more innovative learning opportunities for young children during COVID-19, according to a press release announcing the acquisitions.

Conversations with customers indicated that educators are working to figure out how to better use virtual tools in the early childhood classroom, Olsen said.

“Through digital, we can put better tools in the hands of the teachers and the administrators,” he said, “which will help them serve any learning environment that they’re trying to serve on any given day, whether it’s pure classroom, pure virtual, or some kind of hybrid in between.”

Digital tools can also simplify collection of data on student progress, which helps inform teachers about where their children are falling behind or need more help. It also helps educators in providing a more personalized learning experience, he said.

School districts should follow “developmentally appropriate practice” and use technology “intentionally,” Olsen said.

“If there’s a way for us to just start to leverage those interactions that are taking place by flowing that data into our … assessment system, we think we’re going to actually improve the insights the teachers have,” he said, “and make them more effective at zeroing in on the individual needs that those children have, to increase the probability that they are going to be successful for kindergarten.

Terms of the acquisitions weren’t disclosed.

Renaissance Acquires Early Literacy Company. Renaissance, a major provider of classroom assessments and analytics, has acquired Lalilo, a foundational literacy company.

Lalilo is designed for K-2 students, and supports literacy instruction through a “systematic phonics approach,” and provides learning data, performance metrics, and planning tools that provide teachers assign practice in specific skills, the organizations said in a statement.

“Lalilo is designed to work as a complement to any teacher’s instructional method and curriculum, and supports students in elements that are critical to success in literacy learning,” Lalilo co-founder Laurent Jolie said in a statement. “Together, Renaissance and Lalilo share a similar mission of accelerating learning for all children—no matter where learning happens. We are excited to join Renaissance and expand the reach of Lalilo to help children worldwide develop essential skills for literacy success.”

The company boasts that, monthly, over 50,000 teachers and 362,000 students complete “several million exercises” in the U.S. and France.

Renaissance underwent another major acquisition in February, acquiring Nearpod, which provides interactive lessons, videos, and formative assessments.

CDW Acquires Amplified IT. CDW, a leading technology provider to education, government, business, and healthcare customers, has acquired education-focused consultancy Amplified IT, which serves the K-12 and higher education markets.

“The complexities and critical technology needs facing school districts and educational institutions as they serve their students have become more evident than ever,” CDW President and CEO Christine Leahy said in a statement. “The combination of Amplified IT’s focus on educator support and technical skills with CDW’s scale, reach, and leading market position in education will accelerate our collective ability to help schools leverage technology to achieve even greater educational outcomes.”

Amplified IT is Google’s leading K-12 services partner, a role in which the company provides services, consulting, and products enabling schools to get the most out of Google Cloud, according to the statement from CDW.

“I am thrilled for Amplified IT to join CDW and build on our partnership that began in 2016,” Amplified IT President and Founder Tim Lee said in a statement. “We share a culture that puts customers at the center of everything we do and know that joining CDW creates meaningful opportunity for our education customers and our team.”

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Clarification: This story has been updated to make clear Teaching Strategies CEO John Olsen’s view of how technology should be used in learning environments.

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