After Recent High-Profile Data Breaches, Illuminate

In a deal quietly announced last week, K-12 educational software services company Renaissance Learning acquired Illuminate Education for an undisclosed amount.

The deal was announced last Monday on both companies’ sites and in an email sent to Illuminate customers.

Why the pairing?

“This acquisition deepens the company’s assessment capabilities and broadens its commitment to keep teachers at the center of instruction by providing insights and personalized instruction to enhance students’ learning experience,” a Renaissance spokesperson said in an email interview with EdSurge.

The deal makes sense to some observers, especially since U.S. schools still have unspent stimulus funding that might be used on infrastructure investments like Illuminate’s offerings.

There’s been a lot of consolidation in edtech since the pandemic, with players like Renaissance making big moves, says Anna Edwards, chief advocacy officer and cofounder of Whiteboard Advisors.

Last year, for example, Renaissance acquired Nearpod, a platform that allows teachers to create interactive digital lessons, for $650 million.

But this latest deal also makes sense, Edwards says, because Illuminate is known for its assessments and analytics tools. Together with Renaissance’s other holdings, including Nearpod, this gives the company a shot at becoming a comprehensive analytics platform, she says. That would allow the company to integrate data about things like student engagement and the use of different instructional tools, which could empower it to shape the way teachers use data.

In that way, the news is similar to recent deals inked by PowerSchool, which picked up Navience and Intersect for $320 million last year. PowerSchool also acquired Hoonuit the year before—which was supposed to help them thread together formative assessment results and students’ educational outcomes.

Data Breach

The deal’s low-key announcement may be connected to Illuminate’s recent high-profile failures when it comes to protecting student data.

Illuminate was struck from the Future of Privacy Forum’s “Student Privacy Pledge” earlier this month, the first company that’s ever happened to.

Its removal from the pledge, a voluntary industry effort to ensure data privacy standards, came after a huge data breach—one which observers say is “devastating” and a “cautionary tale” for edtech—that exposed the information of millions of students across the country.

The breach first impacted New York Public Schools, the largest school district in the country, early this year.

The email to Illuminate customers about the deal mentioned the breach, claiming that the “unauthorized access” of protected student information was “isolated to two Illuminate products (Data Driven Classroom, IO Assessment) and one tool (IO Admin) used to transfer data to or from other products.” The email also noted that the companies have no evidence that the data was misused.

In its email response to EdSurge, Renaissance also stressed that the company is “committed to protecting student data and [has] a robust security environment across all platforms.” Illuminate did not reply to an inquiry from EdSurge.