Investments, Growth, Acquisitions & Reopening: Q1 2021 in Review

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wolfe

Lisa Wolfe joins us again to provide an update on education news.  

From an education perspective, reopening schools and the status of spring assessments dominated the education headlines during the first quarter of 2021. Plus, the news of investment, growth, and acquisition in the education community during Q1 is intriguing. Here are some highlights:

  • The K-12 personalized learning platform, IXL Learning, is acquiring Wyzant, a Chicago-based marketplace for online tutoring. The addition of the company will expand IXL’s capacity to address the needs of all students with personalized, one-on-one mentoring. IXL also purchased Rosetta Stone’s Languages division from Cambium Learning Group in early February.
  • Canada-based higher education courseware platform company, Top Hat, raised $130M in Series E funding. In addition, founding CEO Mike Silagadze, who co-founded the company in his dorm room at the University of Waterloo, handed over day-to-day leadership of the company to new CEO Joe Rohrlich.
  • In early February, Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he will be stepping down from that role sometime in the third quarter, turning his focus to other Amazon initiatives, including building a network of preschools in underserved communities. Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy will replace him.
  • The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) announced that Erika Shugart is its new executive director. Shugart was previously chief executive officer of the American Society for Cell Biology.
  • The Daily Mail sold its EdTech business Hobsons. PowerSchool will acquire Hobsons’ college and career-planning tools, Naviance and Intersect. Washington, D.C.-based education company, EAB, will purchase Hobsons’ other business line, Starfish, which provides advising and communication to support student engagement and retention at colleges and universities.
  • Renaissance Learning, a provider of K-12 software and assessments, is acquiring Nearpod. Nearpod offers an interactive instructional platform that merges real-time formative assessment and media for live and self-paced learning experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Tarika Barrett was named the new CEO of Girls Who Code. Barrett joined Girls Who Code in 2016, overseeing the free summer immersion program and after-school clubs program. She will take over from founder Reshma Saujani on April 2.
  • K-12 instructional content platform Newsela received $100M Series D investment, stating that the funds will support its continued efforts to disrupt the traditional textbook market.
  • Pearson announced the acquisition of Spotlight Education, a company that uses proprietary technology to turn education data into personalized video reports available in more than 30 languages.
  • In mid-February, the CDC released its guidelines for reopening schools. As of March 1, more than 72 percent of K-12 students are now attending schools that offer in-person or hybrid models of learning.* On March 2, President Biden requested states to prioritize educators for the COVID-19 vaccine. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have made some or all teachers eligible to be vaccinated.
  • The U. S. Senate confirmed Miguel A. Cardona, a career educator from Connecticut, as the Biden Administration’s Secretary of Education. The first Latino to serve in this post, Cardona was previously the Connecticut Commissioner of Education. Christopher Rush, co-founder of New Classroom Innovation Partners, is the new director of education technology at the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Dr. Seuss Enterprises, a division of Random House Children’s Books and Penguin Random House, announced its decision to cease publication and licensing of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer because the “books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
  • Meisha Ross Porter is the new Chancellor of New York City Schools. Porter rose through the Education Department’s ranks as a teacher, principal, and executive superintendent and is the first Black woman to lead the nation’s largest school system. Her appointment follows the resignation of Richard Carranza.
  • The National Assessment Governing Board voted on March 5 to revise its schedule for administering the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The new test schedule formally moves NAEP Mathematics and Reading assessments for grades 4 and 8 to 2022, in line with a Congressional waiver postponing the NAEP in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act. The legislation includes nearly $128 billion for a new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, $2.58 billion for IDEA, Part B funds in FY 2021, and $800 million in funding to identify and provide services for students experiencing homelessness.
  • SchoolMint, a strategic enrollment provider for preK-12 education, completed its acquisition of Bright Minds Marketing, a K-12 enrollment and marketing consulting firm.

That’s a lot for just three months, and our highlights likely only scratch the surface of what’s been happening in our vibrant and growing education community. For Q2, we can expect more on schools reopening, the student loan debt crisis, innovation and investment in EdTech companies, and more. Please stay tuned!

*Source: More schools are reopening in the U.S.

Lisa Wolfe is the president of L. Wolfe Communications

Founded in April 2000, L. Wolfe Communications offers its clients a network of senior, experienced public relations executives with a variety of complementary experience and expertise in public relations and communications for the education and library markets.