K-12 Mega-Merger Folds 5 Education Companies Into a New Illuminate Education

Associate Editor


Five education businesses are merging into one—which will be called Illuminate Education—under the leadership of long-time K-12 executive Christine Willig, the investment firm Insight Venture Partners announced today.

In the move, the New York-based venture capital and private equity firm is combining two of its holdings—Illuminate Education and Key Data Systems (KDS), of which Willig has served as CEO since October 2017—with IO Education, SchoolCity, and Alpine Achievement. The merged companies will be united under the “Illuminate Education” corporate identity and will create a combined platform serving 20 million students in the U.S., according to the investment firm.

The consolidation combines formative assessment and data platforms from Illuminate Education, IO Education, SchoolCity and Alpine Achievement with a formative item bank provider in Key Data Systems. Together, they will have 620 employees across 15 offices worldwide, with a headquarters in Irvine, Calif. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We’re going to deliver what educators and teachers ask for and students need—truly adaptive assessments, data and analytics that inform instruction, and linkages to curriculum and third-party resources in a single interoperable environment wherein choice and opportunity become nearly unlimited,” said Willig in the release about the move.

In a phone interview on July 5, Willig was asked how school districts are responding to the news. “There have been a lot of conversations with districts over the last few days,” she said, adding that “most are really excited about what the future vision looks like with these combined entities.”

But, she added, there is “obviously reassuring we have to do to help them understand it’s business as usual, and they’re not going to lose products, service or support and we’re here for them.” (Willig is a member of the Board of Trustees for Editorial Projects in Education, the organization that produces EdWeek Market Brief.)

Willig, a 25-year K-12 industry veteran, formerly served as president of McGraw-Hill Education’s School (preK-12) division serving U.S. education from November 2014 until September 2017, after which she became CEO of KDS.

“This combination eliminates many barriers that were holding back the solution that educators tell us they want—‘all the data’ on a ‘single pane of glass’—providing a holistic view of the child” to inform instruction, said Adam Berger, managing director at Insight Venture Partners and chairman of the new Illuminate Education, in the announcement. He pointed to the opportunity to “personalize learning” as a result of what he said are 300,000 formative assessment items on the combined platform created by the mega-merger.

Insight Venture Partners invests in high-growth technology and software companies that it says are driving transformative change in their industries. It has raised more than $18 billion and invested in more than 300 companies worldwide.

In the transaction, Illuminate Education, based in Irvine, Calif., was the acquirer of IO Education, SchoolCity, and Alpine Achievement, according to Insight Venture Partners. Each of the companies in the complex deal brings a different piece of K-12 data, analytics and/or assessment to the marketplace.

Illuminate Education, based in Irvine, Calif., offers the Education Intelligence Platform, a product suite that includes data, analytics, assessments, and reporting. Illuminate serves more than 1,600 school districts and over 7 million students, according to the company. Irvine will be the corporate headquarters for the consolidated business as well.

KDS is an educational research and content company. In 2017, KDS joined with Fluence Learning and Progress Testing to form what it says is the largest collection of formative assessment items in the education industry, supporting nearly 12.5 million students in 43 states.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Ga., IO Education offers data that it says are designed to improve educational outcomes. Its products support instruction for over 6 million students, the company says. Last September, IO Education bought eSchoolData, and at the time IO Education’s CEO, Michael Williamson, said the company was looking for more growth.

SchoolCity Inc., with headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., provides what it describes as “personalized learning solutions” to the K-12 assessment platform industry and is utilized by about 2 million students.

Alpine Achievement, based in Colorado, offers data analysis and reporting combined with individual student plans for Response to Intervention, early literacy, gifted, English language learners, and others.

Update: This post was updated after an interview with Christine Willig on July 5.

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