A Huge Publisher and a Big Testing Company Are Teaming Up. What This Means for Educators

By Lauraine Langreo — January 17, 2023 3 min read
Students testing.
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Learning technology company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s planned acquisition of K-12 assessment giant NWEA would pair two of the biggest and most influential companies in the K-12 marketplace.

But the big question is: what will this mean for teachers, principals, and curriculum and assessment directors?

Under the proposed deal, announced this month, NWEA, best known for its flagship formative assessment MAP Growth, will operate as a division of HMH. And NWEA’s assessment solutions will be integrated into HMH curriculum.

NWEA serves about 10,000 school districts and HMH estimates it works with more than 50 million students and 4 million educators in 150 countries, according to a press release about the proposed acquisition. The acquisition agreement is expected to close after a 90-day regulatory review period.

The companies hope the acquisition will better link interim testing—a type of assessment taken at different times during the school year to check on students’ grasp of the content—to instruction, they said in a statement.

Here are four key questions for educators that address how the deal could affect them:

What products will stay the same and which ones will change?

For now, not much is changing, HMH CEO Jack Lynch and NWEA CEO Chris Minnich told EdWeek Market Brief. NWEA will continue to provide its interim and state assessments, while also integrating its offerings within HMH’s resources.

“I think both HMH and us believe that some of the really good things about NWEA should continue on, that you should be able to just purchase the MAP assessment, for example, if you want to,” Minnich told Market Brief.

Lynch agreed that NWEA’s brand should remain on the market. “Consistency for school districts, especially school districts that want one assessment instrument to measure student academic progress across an entire school district regardless of the curriculum used—that’s really important to NWEA customers,” he told Market Brief.

Eventually, there will be a solution that will match NWEA’s assessments with HMH’s curricular resources. It would turn assessment insights into content recommendations that help teachers address student-specific skill gaps and advance student learning, according to the announcement. But Lynch said it’s too early to say what that would look like or who would sell it.

Will state testing continue to be a priority for NWEA?

NWEA has gotten into state testing relatively recently and has 10 state contracts. If your state has a contract with NWEA, that will likely continue. Minnich said his organization will continue to serve its state customers, and he is also anticipating that NWEA’s work with states will continue to grow. In 2021, NWEA acquired assessment-related technology from the testing organization ETS and took over several state contracts from Questar Assessments, including contracts for New York, Georgia, Mississippi, and Missouri.

Will the acquisition result in fewer choices for curriculum and assessment resources?

After the announcement of the acquisition, some critics were concerned that the deal could result in HMH and NWEA having too much influence over district choices of instructional and testing resources, Market Brief reported.

In an interview, Lynch told Market Brief that concern “isn’t really applicable,” because the deal is a “complementary acquisition” of an assessment company and a curriculum company.

“It would be a concern if two assessment companies partnered, because then there would be one less choice,” he said.

At the end of the day, the pairing will bring “greater value” for educators, Lynch added.

How does the acquisition signal where the future of assessment is headed?

Lynch told Market Brief that “assessment and instruction are two sides of the same coin.” He said educators are looking for assessments that create a holistic picture of student academic performance, so the future of assessments will be something that goes hand-in-hand with the resources needed to advance student academic performance. Indeed, experts in the education industry who spoke with Education Week said that the deal between HMH and NWEA shows that there’s growing emphasis and need for instructionally-useful assessments and for greater connections between curriculum and assessment.

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