Renaissance Learning Buys Freckle Education to Expand Math Offerings
At a time of major change at educational software and assessments provider Renaissance Learning executives decided to add one more item to their to-do list.
It was spring 2018. The company had bought the myON digital reading platform that March to beef up their company’s literacy offerings. Two months later, Renaissance itself was acquired by a private equity firm.
Amid all the changes, Renaissance executives sought to address a common customer feedback for improvements to Renaissance’s Accelerated Math tool for math practice and progress monitoring.
“It’s a high, high priority with teachers” says Todd Brekhus, Renaissance’s chief product officer who joined with the myON acquisition. The company decided in-house improvements took too much time. “We wanted to move faster. We wanted to move aggressively.”
A year of vetting math tool after math tool came to an end Monday. Renaissance’s newest acquisition is Freckle Education, a San Francisco-based company that offers online lessons, exercises and assessments for math, English language arts, social studies and science.
Founded in 2013 and formerly known as Front Row Education, Freckle currently claims more than 700,000 teachers and 10 million students have used the platform across 75,000 schools. The company is not yet profitable but close to break even, says Freckle CEO Sidharth Kakkar. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Students in one class see different versions of the same material depending on their proficiency. Freckle can group students of similar learning levels for small group activities. The tool also offers educators reports on how students perform across various academic standards and skills.
Serious acquisition talks began last month, according to Kakkar. The company currently has 60 employees, most of them full-time, and does not expect a drastic change to its headcount following the acquisition, he adds. Freckle co-founders Kakkar and Alex Kurilin will stay on.
Freckle launched with an online, adaptive K-8 math tool and joined the Imagine K12 accelerator for education technology startups. Two years later, the company raised $5.3 million in a Series A round and has since expanded into other subjects. Freckle has raised $10.1 million to date, Kakkar says.
Freckle will continue to operate as a standalone brand within Renaissance, similar to the treatment of myON. A timeline is still being established for fully integrating Freckle with Renaissance’s product suite, with Accelerated Math integration first followed by integration with Renaissance’s Star Math computer-adaptive assessments, one of Renaissance’s flagship offerings. About 70 million Star tests are taken every year, according to the company.
This deal with Freckle marks Renaissance’s third acquisition in 14 months. After buying myON last year to improve access and student choice, Renaissance purchased Early Learning Labs last month. The Minnesota-based Early Learning Labs offers progress-monitoring and assessment tools to track early literacy, numeracy and other development skills for young children.
Renaissance still has enough cash for another acquisition, Brekhus says. But the company has not committed to making another purchase this year unless a company fits strategically with efforts to further assessment, literacy and math offerings.
Based in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., Renaissance claims that over a third of U.S. schools and over 90 countries use its products. The company is also investing in overseas growth, recently opening a Beijing office, Brekhus says.