K-12 Dealmaking: Weld North Completes Major Digital Core Curriculum Acquisition

Staff Writer

Weld North Education, a major provider of digital curriculum, has acquired BookheadEd Learning, the developer of a digital-first core curriculum, at a time when K-12 districts and companies are more pressed than ever to find innovative ways to deliver academic resources.

The flagship product of BookheadEd Learning is StudySync, a online curriculum that combines fiction and nonfiction texts with video and multimedia.

“It is a media-first product, and engagement is crucial to its success,” said Jonathan Grayer, founder and CEO of Weld North. “The folks that built StudySync are very focused on engagement and know how to do that.”

Weld North purchased BookheadEd for two main reasons, Grayer said.

First, BookheadEd’s recent success and increased market share relative to textbook providers raised Weld North’s confidence in the company, especially as the education marketplace moves further and further into digitally driven classroom materials.

The second reason stems from the high quality of BookheadEd’s resources, according to Grayer.

“We’re going to use their development shop to make all kinds of instructional material to broaden our product set,” he said.

Weld North, founded in 2010, has made several acquisitions over the years, and its portfolio has grown to include online courseware and intervention company Edgenuity; and supplemental curriculum provider Imagine Learning; core curriculum company LearnZillion.

In a press release announcing the acquisition, Weld North noted that StudySync’s curriculum has been adopted in California and Texas, and is under consideration in the Florida English/language arts instructional materials adoption process.

Jonathan Grayer
Jonathan Grayer

If Florida ultimately adopts the product, that would notch StudySync a place on the adoption lists of three dominant K-12 state markets, in terms of public school enrollment. The foothold the company has established in those locations factored into Weld North’s acquisition decision, Grayer said.

“You can’t be a major player in core curriculum without being a major player in Texas, California, and Florida,” he said.

The deal comes as many districts have been forced to make a massive shift to online learning, in response to the the health crisis imposed by COVID-19. Many districts are deeply concerned about their ability to engage students in remote and hybrid learning environment.

The acquisition is Weld North’s second in the core curriculum space, after LearnZillion, a deal that was completed in January 2020. StudySync will help to round out Weld North’s core offerings, Grayer said.

Weld North expects to remain very active in the acquisition space.

“We’re looking to add digital curriculum of all kinds, and we’re talking to lots of owners of assets that are not duplicative of what we have,” Grayer said.

A New Investment From Onex Corp. The acquisition comes the same week it was announced that Onex Corp. has agreed to make a “significant investment” in Weld North, alongside existing investors, including global tech investment firm Silver Lake, according to a Monday press release.

“Onex shares our passion for education technology and has an impressive track record investing behind industries undergoing transformation,” Silver Lake Managing Director Jonathan Durham said in a statement. “Since the time we first invested three years ago, we have never been more enthusiastic about Weld North Education’s future and we look forward to working closely with Onex and Jonathan for years to come.”

Onex coming into Weld North’s investment picture gives Weld North added stability for the long haul, which should help foster confidence among teachers and students in Weld North’s products,
Grayer said.

Cambium Learning Group Divests Rosetta Stone. Cambium Learning Group announced an agreement to divest Rosetta Stone’s languages division to IXL Learning, a K-12 personalized learning platform.

Cambium will retain Lexia Learning, which has been a subsidiary of Rosetta Stone and provides reading and oral language instruction and assessment programs.

Cambium acquired Lexia, with Rosetta Stone, in October.

“This latest transaction represents a strategic milestone for Cambium, as we continue to streamline and curate K-12’s leading portfolio of digital curriculum and assessment tools for districts, teachers, and learners everywhere,” Cambium CEO John Campbell said in a statement. “Now that we have integrated the Lexia Learning business, we will leverage Cambium’s leadership in literacy and assessment to enhance our capabilities across the Cambium portfolio and address education’s most pressing challenges.”

IXL’s acquisition is expected to close in the first half of this year, subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions, according to a press release.

‘All-in-One’ Platform for Early Education Raises $55 Million. Brightwheel, an early education platform, has raised $55 million in Series C funding in a round led by Addition, participated in by Emerson Collective, Next Play Ventures, GGV Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Eniac Ventures, and private investors Julia and Kevin Hartz, as well as Daniel Shapero.

The company plans to use the investment to focus on new product development and expansion, and to support a fully distributed workforce.

Brightwheel provides an all-in-one SaaS platform serving preschools, childcare providers, camps, and afterschool programs. It also seeks to help teachers manage their day and communicate with parents, gives parents deeper insight into curricula, and automates administrative processes.

Since COVID started, Brightwheel has focused on pandemic-specific needs like at-home learning, safety and health checks, digital communications, and no-touch sign-in systems.

A Pass Educational Group Acquires Content Development House. A Pass Educational Group, a major custom education content provider, has acquired Victory Productions, another major content development house for learning companies and organizations, A Pass announced.

The acquisition adds educational language translation services in Spanish and other languages to A Pass’ portfolio of K-12 and higher education offerings, according to the announcement.

A Pass partners with educational publishers and higher ed institutions in creating content that seeks to engage learners at all levels.

“A Pass and Victory Productions share so much, from expertise to values to a proven record of success,” said A Pass founder and CEO Andrew Pass. “We look forward to bringing them seamlessly together with complementary services to ensure that same kind of success for our customers and the educators and students they work with.”

Victory Production’s name will dissolve, but the announcement says the company’s customers can “expect to enjoy the same customer service experience and satisfaction they’ve come to expect,” as well as access to new services such as e-learning development.

Cialfo Receives $15 Million Investment. Cialfo, a company focused on international student mobility,  this week announced it received $15 million in Series A funding.

In addition to a range of offerings in the higher ed space, Cialfo provides several web and mobile solutions, including AI-powered college search, application management tools, a communications suite, and the ability to directly apply to thousands of formal and informal higher learning opportunities around the world, the company said in a press release.

Cialfo is “accelerating discussions” around acquiring similar firms that operate in K-12 education, with an aim to establish a stronger position and greater market share, the company said in a statement.

“A standstill on global travel has upended education entirely – forcing high schools and universities to engage current and potential students virtually,” Cialfo CEO and co-founder Rohan Pasari said in a statement. “The adoption of technology-driven education solutions is rising at an unprecedented rate and we have a key role to play in accelerating the student recruitment process from physical to virtual channels.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect name for one of the companies making an investment in Brightwheel. The correct name is Addition.

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