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EdTech News Roundup - Labor Day edition
What do Atul Gawande and the post-Vietnam military have in common?
Happy Labor Day!
Hope y’all enjoyed Friday’s Nectir spotlight! I’ve got one more spotlight this Friday, then will focus on Sunday news round-ups for the foreseeable future.
Unless something crazy happens in the news this week, I’m planning to take next Sunday off from the Round-up. It’s a short week and, it turns out, two posts a week is twice as much work as one…
On to the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Panorama Education raises $60M: Serving 13M students across the US (~25% of the K12 population), Panorama is a student success-focused data platform rapidly expanding the forums in which its data can be utilized. They roughly doubled their user base due to COVID and I’m curious if this round will be used to gobble up some smaller companies or to lean into this year’s go-to-market success (they aren’t mutually exclusive).
EveryDay Labs raises $8M: As I learned from Reach Capital’s annual report (see below), chronic absenteeism increased to ~25% in 2020, or 3 million K12 students. EveryDay claims they can reduce this by 10-15% in districts they operate in.
TPG buys Teachers of Tomorrow: Terms not disclosed. TPG’s Rise Fund has been quietly building out its EdTech portfolio to compete with fellow growth equity players Lumos Capital and Leeds Illuminate. The Rise portfolio now includes Teachers of Tomorrow, InStride, EverFi, Renaissance Learning, Dreambox Learning, and Meishubao Education.
Academic Partnerships (AP) acquires Coursetune: Terms not disclosed. I’ll get into Phil Hill’s 2021 update of the Mad Max OPM race another week, but, suffice to say, I expect to see a lot of M&A in the space over the next few years
Reach put out a fantastic report on what is going on in education. There are a number of stats in it that will be cited in future newsletters! I’d like to touch on why it makes sense for a VC firm to invest in something like this.
There is a sort-of joke that Venture funds are media companies that monetize via investing in company equity. This has more than a shred of truth to it. One of the core aspects of being a VC is finding and accessing deals, and higher public notoriety frequently leads to more deals.
Reach appears to be doubling down on this strategy. In addition to raising a new fund and having a great 2020/2021 - Handshake, Holberton, Nearpod, Newsela, Outschool, and Springboard all raised $20M+ or exited in the past 20 months - they hired EdSurge co-founder Tony Wan to publish industry content - like this report!
This New York Times article pairs well with Atul Gawande’s latest New Yorker article on how Costa Rica has boosted their population’s life expectancy above that of the United States while spending less than a tenth of what the US spends per capita.
A central theme of both articles is that sometimes it is better to look around for inspiration than invent something new.
In the case of the Times article, what the military went through in the 70s and 80s is eerily similar to discussions we are having today. Two that stuck out:
“Without a draft, and in the shadow of the unpopular Vietnam War, the military found itself having to attract and retain talent — a situation that catalyzed the creation of a raft of new policies in the coming years.”
Parents who were called for drills in the middle of the night would often bring their groggy children, still wearing pajamas, and leave them alone in their cars while they worked, Ms. Smith recalled.
On many bases, parents created ad hoc “nurseries” and hired temporary caregivers who would be on call on an hourly basis. The fees parents were charged were so low, they would barely cover staff wages and there was little money left to invest in upgrading the nursery.
Trying to find talent in non-sexy industries? Poorly paid childcare workers delivering less-than-stellar results? Setting aside the thought of a bunch of children snoozing in the parking lot while their parents conduct “drills” at 2AM, this problem sounds a lot like what we’ve seen during COVID!
The military ended up solving this problem by 1) paying above-average wages to childcare workers while subsidizing the cost to military members and 2) requiring on-base childcare providers to be accredited. (For reference, < 10% of childcare centers in the US are accredited.) Both components of this solution made it into Elizabeth Warren’s universal childcare proposal and continue to be debated today.
Whether this ends up being the answer to childcare or not, I’m excited to read more about other solutions that emerge from non-US countries and non-tech industries like the military.
Coursera growth in the Middle East: there is still a ton of room to run internationally among the MOOCs/OPMs
Koch foundation survey on post-secondary education: Some of the questions in this survey felt pretty leading, but I appreciate the intent of trying to highlight how Americans would like to see colleges and universities change
A new council on credential innovation: I am a proponent of alternative education pathways, but the problem they face is not one of needing credentials for them, it is that there are one million of them and no one has any idea which credential to get. Start with doing something demonstrably valuable - like OnDeck - and the credential will follow
Florida signs a “money-back guarantee” on education into law: Hoping to make this one a future story, but I need to understand more about the parameters education providers are being held to. It *looks like* specific programs at public institutions will provide a complete refund to students who do not have a job 6 months post-graduation
Thing(s) I’m Thinking About
Isabelle Hau wrote an op-ed for the Hechinger Report this week on the perils we are facing in early-childhood education. One stat that struck me was 90% of brain development occurs before the age of 5, yet that age group receives just 6% of public education spending.
I don’t have the perfect solution for how education spending should be allocated. But, it is a problem to which I return frequently, particularly as we think about how to draw the lines between learning, socialization, and childcare for children.
Also, I highly recommend Isabelle’s newsletter - it is a short yet dense take on the early education space and usually includes at least one thing that will make you smile on a Friday morning.
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I work hard to stay neutral here, but it’s important to me that you all know my potential biases!