Ed Tech Provider News

Renaissance Acquires Illuminate Education

In Email Welcoming Illuminate Customers, Renaissance CEO Touts 'Robust Security Environment'

Renaissance, one of the largest U.S. providers of reading, math, and assessment solutions serving about 40,000 K–12 schools, has acquired Illuminate Education, according to an email sent to Illuminate customers this morning.

The email, signed by Renaissance CEO Chris Bauleke and posted on the Illuminate Education website, opens with “Dear valued customer, Welcome to Renaissance! We are writing to share the news that Renaissance has acquired Illuminate Education.”

Illuminate Education’s whole-child MTSS solutions are used by about 5,000 K–12 schools across the country, totaling about 17 million students, according to its website. Its ed tech solutions include IO Classroom (previously named Skedula), PupilPath, EduClimber, IO Education, SchoolCity, and others.

In his letter, Bauleke wrote: “Our mission of accelerating learning for all aligns closely with that of Illuminate. … The Illuminate products you know and love will continue to operate under the Renaissance name.

“The addition of Illuminate to the Renaissance ecosystem deepens the company’s assessment capabilities and broadens its commitment to keep teachers at the center of classroom decisions by providing actionable insights and personalized instruction to accelerate learning,” he continued.

Illuminate has been in the crosshairs of student privacy advocates since late March, when New York City Schools announced its students’ data was compromised during a cyberattack targeting Illuminate Education sometime between Dec. 28, 2021, and Jan. 8, 2022.

New York City education officials told the New York Post in March that the cyber attacker had gained access to students’ names, birthdays, ethnicities, and English-speaking, special-education, and free-lunch statuses. The district opened an investigation and called for state and federal authorities to do the same, citing Illuminate’s alleged failure to encrypt student data — a requirement for all ed tech providers in the state of New York. The New York State Department of Education opened its own investigation on April 1, after revealing that hundreds of other schools outside of NYC were also impacted by the breach.

Illuminate later confirmed the cyberattack and breach, stating that on Jan. 8, 2022, its staff discovered that an unauthorized party had accessed its servers, and the company shut down numerous ed tech platforms for about a week as it worked to secure its network and systems.

Eight months later, Illuminate has still not confirmed the precise type of student data that was compromised, nor has it revealed the number of students impacted; however, in states that mandate public disclosure of any data breach, school districts that have posted breach notification letters on their websites and/or state government websites have a current enrollment exceeding 3 million students. School districts were still learning that their students had been impacted by the breach, sending notifications to parents dated as recently as Aug. 2.

Earlier this month, the Future of Privacy Forum announced it had removed Illuminate Education from the nonprofit’s list of Student Privacy Pledge signatories — the first time a company has been de-listed from the voluntary data protection pledge — and said it sent its decision and supporting facts to federal and state authorities for potential legal action against the ed tech company.

The removal decision follows FPF’s review of “publicly available information” and communications with Illuminate officials about the breach, according to the FPF website.

In the emailed letter announcing the acquisition today, Renaissance’s CEO addressed the data breach — and shared more detailed information than anything Illuminate has revealed to date about the extend of the breach.

“You may also be aware that, earlier this year, prior to Renaissance’s acquisition, Illuminate determined that certain systems containing potentially protected student information were subject to unauthorized access,” Bauleke wrote. “While the potentially protected 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, we understand that an incident of this kind causes concern. ...

“At Renaissance, we have a robust security environment across all platforms to give you confidence that your student data is protected.”

No news release or statement about the acquisition had been published as of 11:23 a.m. CDT, but the Renaissance website includes a brand new page entitled “The Renaissance Family is Growing” that includes several of the ed tech solutions previously owned and operated by Illuminate, such as eduClimber, DnA, and FastBridge. The same one-line statement was posted on the Illuminate homepage this morning.

Email from Renaissance's CEO to Illuminate Education customers announcing the acquisition sent Aug. 24, 2022

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at [email protected].