Renaissance Learning Acquires UClass, a 'Dropbox for Education'

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Renaissance Learning has acquired UClass, a San Franciso, CA-based startup that’s billed itself as a “Dropbox for Education.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal comes six months after UClass raised $1 million seed round in August 2014. Renaissance Learning, on the other hand, was bought by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for over $1 billion in March 2014.

The deal has all the makings of a technology acquisition. “What UClass helps us do is build a better bridge between assessments and instruction, without teachers having to sacrifice freedom of choice in what resources to use,” says Jack Lynch, CEO of Renaissance Learning.

One of Renaissance Learning’s linchpin products, alongside Accelerated Math and Accelerated Reader, is the STAR Assessment, which Lynch claims is used by 20 million students across 40,000 schools. The assessment, offered for reading, early literacy, math and Spanish, is a 20-minute computer adaptive test that can diagnose a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Results are displayed in a performance dashboard that highlights areas where teachers may want to provide additional support.

With the purchase of UClass, Lynch wants to help teachers take the next step and find the resources that best fit their students’ knowledge gaps. Founded in 2012, UClass allows teachers to tag instructional content to specific academic standards--like Common Core--and share them with colleagues within the district. These resources can be aligned to student performance goals so that teachers can see which resources are the most effective.

It’s supposed to help schools manage resources and save teachers time, as many of them spend many hours on their own looking for supplemental materials online.

The UClass team will join Renaissance Learning and oversee the integration of this resource tagging and sharing functionalities with Renaissance Learning’s STAR Assessment. This means that any resource in teachers’ UClass folders can be aligned to the test, allowing them to find materials that can best address students’ problem areas.

The integration should be completed sometime during the second half of 2015, Lynch says. In the meantime, the company will continue to support current UClass customers.

This is Renaissance Learning’s second acquisition in recent years; in 2013, it acquired Subtext, an iOS app that allows teachers to embed quizzes, videos and other interactive content in digital reading materials.

Lynch looks to be an active acquirer for other edtech startups tackling niche problems. “What Subtext and UClass have in common is that they tackle very specific, well-defined problems,” he tells EdSurge. “I’m optimistic that there will be other early-stage companies that will be attractive partners to us in the future.”

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