Provo—With the start of a new school year right around the corner, Provo-based educational technology (EdTech) company Imagine Learning—a leading provider of supplemental math, language, and literacy programs for pre-K through high school students—announced the appointment of new Co-Presidents, the acquisition of a digital math curriculum for early learners, and a partnership with NWEA, a not-for-profit provider of preK-12 assessments.
One of the best kept secrets in the EdTech arena, Imagine Learning is located discreetly between tech giants Qualtrics and Vivint in the Provo Riverwoods Business and Research Park. But don’t mistake Imagine Learning’s lack of notoriety for a lack of momentum. What started in 2004 as a small group of educators working to create an educational software program to teach English language learners how to read and write in English has become a company with over 470 employees nationwide and a suite of digital education products. Today, Imagine Learning programs are used by over 3,000,000 students in 25,000 schools in the US, including 42,000 students across the state of Utah.
So why doesn’t Imagine Learning have the same name-recognition in Utah as, say, Domo or Ancestry.com? According to Duane Call, Vice President of Marketing for Imagine Learning, it could be a purposeful reflection of the company’s values and mission.
“One of Imagine Learning’s company values is to ‘maintain a quiet confidence in our abilities,'” explains Mr. Call. “We may actually have done too good a job on being quiet,” he admits, “but we’ve chosen to spend our resources on creating an effective, high quality educational program for children instead of peppering the highway with billboards or inundating the internet with advertising.”
Over the years, the growth of Imagine Learning has led to changes in location, labor force, and—most recently—leadership. In July of 2018, Imagine Learning appointed Jeremy Cowdrey and Bryan Sparks as Co-Presidents of the company as CEO Joe Swenson announced his retirement. Swenson departed Imagine Learning after seven years to take on an international volunteer assignment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Over my twelve years with Imagine Learning, I’ve seen the impact our programs have in the lives of children,” shared Mr. Cowdrey, who previously served as Vice President over Sales and Marketing for the company. “I’m excited to work with Bryan in leading Imagine Learning forward to reach even more students across the country.”
“I know the value technology brings to the educational arena and specifically to individual students with unique circumstances and abilities,” added Mr. Sparks, former Chief Technology Officer for Imagine Learning. “It’s incredibly rewarding to partner with schools and districts and see the difference our programs make for teachers and students of all backgrounds.”
Strategic acquisitions and partnerships
Part of the company’s growth has been the result of numerous acquisitions, including the July 30 announcement of Imagine Learning’s purchase of Texas-based Reasoning Mind, a proven math curriculum that adds instruction for early-learners to Imagine Learning’s current math program Imagine Math.
“We’ve been moving this direction for some time now and we’re thrilled to be able to offer a full pre-K through middle school math program to our customers,” said Seija Surr, Executive Vice President of Curriculum for Imagine Learning. “We plan to continue to build and acquire quality programs that will add to and complement our educational suite of products in the coming months and years.”
And just this week, Imagine Learning announced another valuable partnership. This time with NWEA, the not-for-profit leader in educational assessments. “Adding NWEA’s Map Growth assessment to Imagine Learning’s proven digital instruction and organically-built, valid in-product assessments helps accurately place students in individually customized learning pathways,” explained Ruby West, Director of Assessment Solutions for Imagine Learning. “We will also be able to provide teachers with valuable progress reports based on the NWEA assessment insights which is exciting for the educators we work with.”
Perhaps most importantly, individual student stories and independent research has shown the effectiveness of Imagine Learning’s educational programs for children. District and state-wide studies done in Utah, Texas, Florida, Connecticut, California, and across the country find that time after time, students who use Imagine Learning programs make notable gains on assessments and standardized tests.
“Student learning gains are a result of using the research-based, carefully scaffolded lessons and curriculum we build into our programs,” explained Noelle Carter, PhD and Vice President of Product Management for Imagine Learning. “Our programs are highly engaging and designed to not only focus on core learning areas and meet national and state standards, but to provide personalized learning pathways to meet each child where they are academically.”
The Utah State Board recognized the efficacy of Imagine Learning’s products, naming them one of a handful of approved providers for the state’s 2018 K-3 Early Intervention Reading Software Program. A third-party evaluator assessed all available educational software programs to make the decision and found that students who used Imagine Learning’s language and literacy program scored statistically better on end-of-year tests than students who didn’t use the program. “The 2016–2017 Utah evaluation report is the most recent iteration of several yearly reports that show the value of Imagine Learning programs for Utah students,” stated Cowdrey.
Quietly continuing on
So while teachers and students start new routines to prepare for the upcoming school year, Imagine Learning doesn’t plan to change their unassuming strategy anytime soon. “We’re content to keep growing and improving our programs in the manner we have for the past fourteen years,” stated Brent Taylor, Vice President of Finance. “Our goal isn’t to make the biggest headlines or create the splashiest news items. Our goal is to help each child across the globe reach their academic potential.”
And you don’t need billboards to do that.