Education Marketplace Sees Active Third Quarter

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wolfe

While back-to-school 2021 may have been more uncertain than we had previously hoped, one thing that hasn’t been uncertain this year is growth, acquisition, and investment in the education market. We previously provided you with updates on top news from the first and second quarters of 2021. At the end of Q2, we predicted a slowdown in activity over the summer. The reality is far from that!  Here are some highlights from a very active Q3:

  • PresenceLearning, a company that provides live online special education related services and behavioral and mental health services for K-12 schools, named Jennifer Berry as chief operating officer and Louisa Balach as president of its Therapy Essentials Platform.  In addition, Shanelle Reese was promoted to become the company’s first Chief People Officer.
  • OverDrive, a digital reading platform for libraries and schools, acquired Kanopy, a popular video streaming service for public and academic libraries.
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed Jose Torres to serve as the city’s interim schools chief until it installs a permanent replacement. Torres is formerly superintendent of the state’s second largest district Elgin U-46.
  • Children’s educational publisher Capstone recently appointed Judy Chartrand as Chief People Officer and John Maketa as Chief Revenue Officer. Capstone also recently acquired Buncee, a creation, communication, and collaboration tool for students and educators to construct and share interactive classroom content.
  • Edtech company Edmentum announced it will acquire Seattle-based Apex Learning, a digital curriculum and virtual learning company.
  • A membership-based collaborative providing schools and edtech vendors a foundation for digital transformation, Global Grid for Learning, acquired Stackup, an edtech startup with a focus on learning outcomes in K-12 education.
  • Age of Learning, the creator of digital education platform ABCmouse, more than doubled its valuation to $3 billion with a funding round led by TPG, representing the largest round of funding ever by a U.S. edtech company.
  • Instructure Holdings Inc., developer of Canvas, filed for an initial public offering in the United States, a little over a year after the educational software company was taken private by Thoma Bravo.
  • Curriculum Associates acquired Texas-based Mentoring Minds, publisher of critical thinking resources.
  • Ninety-eight percent of U.S. public schools serving fourth and eighth graders were offering in-classroom instruction by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the 2021 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) School Survey.
  • DreamBox Learning announced the appointment of five new executives. Lakshmi Nidamarthi joins the company as Chief Product Officer, Ronit Peled as Chief People Officer, Jason Sinquefield as senior vice president of sales and partnerships, Michael Savitz as senior vice president of operations, and Tracy Kleine as vice president of marketing. DreamBox also acquired Reading Plus, an evidence-based online reading program for grades 3-12 designed to help students boost their literacy skills and reading confidence. This move complements DreamBox’s earlier acquisition of Squiggle Park, a K-2 reading solution designed to help students gain proficiency in early literacy.
  • Weld North Education, a provider of digital curriculum solutions, acquired Twig Education, a provider of science curriculum products designed to improve science literacy.
  • Peter Warwick, a Scholastic board member since 2014, was named president and CEO of the children’s book publishing and media company.
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced Chris Symanoskie joined the company as vice president, investor relations. Symanoskie previously served as vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at American Public Education.
  • Backed by General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Naspers, Silver Lake, Tiger Global and other investors, India-based BYJU’S, acquired Epic, a digital reading platform for kids 12 and under. The company also acquired after-school learning app Toppr and upskilling platform Great Learning.
  • PowerSchool, a major provider of student information systems and an array of other K-12 tools, raised $711 million in its initial public offering.
  • And the IPOs continue. Language learning app Duolingo Inc. and its investors raised $521 million in its initial public offering.
  • Adam Freed joined GSV Ventures as a managing partner. A member of GSV Ventures’ Fund Advisory Board, Freed was previously CEO at Teachers Pay Teachers and sits on its board and the board of Cambium Learning Group.
  • BEGiN, the company behind early learning programs, HOMER and codeSpark Academy, acquired KidPass, a marketplace for parents to discover and book the best kids activities, including in-person and online classes and tutoring for children ages 0-10+.
  • Kiddom, a platform that offers a digital curriculum that fits core standards required by states, raised a $35 million Series C round led by Altos Ventures, with participation from Owl Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Outcomes Collective.
  • Course Hero, an online learning platform of course-specific study resources created by and for students and educators, acquired CliffsNotes, creator of study guides used by high school and college students for more than 60 years. The company also announced its acquisition of QuillBot, a pioneering AI-powered writing platform.
  • McGraw Hill announced its intent to acquire Achieve3000, a differentiated instruction and learning acceleration company.
  • Follett School Solutions, Follett Corporation’s K-12 software and content division was sold to private equity firm Francisco Partners.

Stay tuned for more to come from Q4 and a wrap of 2021 overall in December!

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.