ETCH Weekend Reading 12/10/23
The big Kahuna
This is the last Weekend Reading of 2023. I will post 1 more Funding + M&A Update later this week and will post a year-end reflection and predictions for 2024 sometime in late December/early January.
Weekend Reading will return in early January - please feel free to reach out with questions, comments, book recommendations, cookie recipes, surf videos, and any personal records you are particularly proud of in the interim.
On to the links!
Funding + M&A
Kahuna raises $21M / US, Skills Assessment / Resolve Growth Partners
Kyron Learnings raises $14.6M / US, Tutoring / GSV, Owl Ventures, ECMC, Common Sense Growth Fund, Cambiar Education, LearnerStudio, Imagine Learning, Array Education
Sharpen raises $11M / US, Early Literacy / Learn Capital
Vrgineers raises $6M / Czech Republic, Training Provider (VR) / Taiwania Capital
Virtuleap raises €2.5M / Portugal, VR (Assessment) / GED Ventures
VictoryXR raises $2.5M / US, VR / Hartmann Capital, Juvo Ventures, Kendall Hunt Publishing
The Predictive Index acquires Charma / US, Talent Management
Freedom Learning Group acquires Ease Learning / US, Instructional Design
David Cumberbatch joins UMGC Ventures as CEO / via UMGC Ventures
Chris Tonas joins Frontline Education as CTO / via Globenewswire
Lisa Luscap joins Pluralsight as CMO / via PRNewswire
Paul Pastorek steps down as president of University of Arizona Global Campus. While schools are better equipped to self-manage online programs post-pandemic, this is a reminder that that does not mean self-managing is easy. / via Higher Ed Dive
Simplilearn lays off 200 / via BusinessWorld
When ESSER funds are gone, here’s where districts may turn to fill the gaps. Conversations about post-ESSER funding gaps are always a bit odd to me. From day 1, ESSER funds were messaged as one-time measures to help schools navigate a crisis. And yet, it seems the vast majority of the funds went towards indefinitely-funded operational costs. I’m sympathetic to the fact that students are still recovering emotionally and academically, but I feel like we’ve just inflated our baseline funding assumptions to include ESSER rather than assessing what level of funding is truly needed. / via Education Week
Middle schools experimenting with “themes.” Themes, or areas of focus, can be relatively general - like STEM - or extremely specific - like Ballet or Oyster Reef Monitoring. The ability to offer themes is one of the big appeals, to me, of the emergent microschool movement. Microschools’ (theoretical) flexibility to adjust themes based on demand feels difficult for the public system to match. This article explores New York City’s efforts to do so. / via Hechinger Report
Semi-related, I’m not sure if “games” is a theme of any micro- or middle-school (yet), but I love reading about game adaptations for the classroom. / via EdSurge
A global perspective on the damage done by COVID-19. FT exploration of the topic anchored by the latest PISA data. / via Financial Times
Harvard, MIT, and Penn Presidents testify before Congress on campus antisemitism. The fallout from the testimony resulted in the resignation of Penn’s president. SNL captured my feelings on the subject well. / via Inside Higher Ed, Washington Post, and Youtube
Eruditus (often known as Emeritus in the US) plans move into international student placement services. Placing international students - e.g. helping a Malaysian student pursue a degree in Austalia - is one of the largest and most profitable markets in education, as these students typically pay list-price tuition (often with an international fee on top of it) from savings or from government sponsorship. It is also a…chaotic market. I’m a little surprised Emeritus would experiment here, but perhaps it is a sign of pursuing deeper partnerships with their core university partners rather than chasing new ones. / via Moneycontrol
Related, another company finding success in international student placements: New Oriental. (Take their stock movement with a grain of salt - the Chinese EdTech market remains at the mercy of the government and some of New Oriental’s resuscitation is from livestream sales of steaks.) / via Wall Street Journal
Arnold Ventures’ new higher education research agenda. I’m not sure if this is a pivot away from Arnold Ventures’ (AV) alleged stick-like approach to changing higher education, but this reads to me as much more of a carrot. The AV team would like to fund “Understanding how outcomes-based funding can be used to drive return on investment” and “Exploratory policy research, development, and testing to understand and build state- and system-level policies to increase return on investment.” While President Biden continues to provide short-term relief to folks with student loans, the US' core system of student financing remains a mess. Having AV put their financial weight behind looking for ways to improve it is a big and positive deal. / via Arnold Ventures
The reason the US student financing is a mess? It prioritizes putting butts in seats rather than outcomes. This is true across the system but becomes most obvious when schools get desperate, and all staff become admissions staff. / via Inside Higher Ed
Also related, The Century Foundation (TCF) published a new framework for reforming federal graduate student aid. Uncapped Grad+ (and Parent+) loans have been an obvious hole in student loan policy for a long time, I am glad TCF has turned their attention to closing it. / via The Century Foundation
NCAA chief proposes new subdivision for wealthiest college football programs, allowing institutions to pay athletes directly. Paying athletes is the ethically correct move. Revenue-generating programs have been used to subsidize athletic departments (and, apparently, entire schools) but athletes in these programs have, historically, been forced to the black market for compensation. That said, the NCAA is rapidly losing its leverage as the governing body of college sports - I think it is more likely that the powerhouse football and basketball programs leave the NCAA entirely than that schools pay athletes anything close to a fair wage. / via Inside Higher Ed
The path to the 4-day workweek will be led by…Lamborghini? I have no predictions on if or when the 4-day workweek will be a thing, but do find the concept of an ultra-luxury brand leading the charge towards it entertaining. / via Reuters
I do have a prediction about the future of labor though, which is that we are going to see more organizing in more professions than anyone is prepared for right now. 2023 was already the Year of the Strike and, now, doctors and pharmacists are getting involved too. / via Wall Street Journal and New York Times
Not unrelated, IBM brings back pension plans. It seems unlikely that companies would bring back pensions en masse, but we might see it in the above-mentioned newly unionized professions. / via Benefits Pro
The 74Million’s top 24 essays of 2023. / via 74Million
This email, ETCH Weekend Reading, is ETCH’s free newsletter providing links to the week’s EdTech Funding, M&A, People moves, and a curated list of Links to relevant industry news. If you enjoyed this edition, I hope you will subscribe and/or forward to your friends!
Meme of the Week
For those who haven’t heard MAMAA is the new FANG. It stands for Meta, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet.