Renaissance Learning

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IndustryEducational software
Founded1986; 32 years ago (1986)
FoundersJudith and Terrance Paul
HeadquartersWisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, U.S.
Area served
Key people
Chris Bauleke, CEO
ProductsAccelerated Reader, Accelerated Reader 360, English in a Flash, Accelerated Math, MathFacts in a Flash, Star 360
Number of employees
1,200 (as of June 1, 2017)
ParentFrancisco Partners
SubsidiariesAlphaSmart; Humanities Software, Inc.; Renaissance Learning UK Ltd.; Renaissance Corporate Services

Renaissance Learning, Inc. (Renaissance) is a software as a service and learning analytics company that makes cloud-based, pre-K–12 educational software. Renaissance employs about 1,000 employees in nine U.S. cities and subsidiaries in Canada, the United Kingdom, Korea, and Australia. Renaissance’s solutions are used in one-third of U.S. schools and more than 70 countries around the world.[1]

Renaissance is known for creating Accelerated Reader, which is used in about 35,000 schools, as well as Star computer-adaptive assessments, used in more than 37,000 schools, making Star Assessments the most widely-used computer-adaptive assessment in the U.S. pre-K–12 educational market, according to company figures.[2]


Renaissance's corporate logo used until 2005.

Renaissance was founded in 1986 by Judith and Terrance Paul after Judith developed Accelerated Reader, originally named Read Up!, in the basement of her home in Port Edwards, Wisconsin. Judith designed Accelerated Reader to encourage her children read more. Read Up! changed its name to Advantage Learning Systems, Inc., in 1991 before adopting Renaissance Learning in 2001. In 2016, Renaissance re-branded and dropped “Learning” from their name.[3] On September 25, 1997, 2.8 million shares of Renaissance were offered for $16 a share on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker ALSI with a market capitalization of $44.8 million.[2] The company was publicly traded until October 2011, when Permira purchased all outstanding shares and maintained ownership of Renaissance until selling the company in 2014 to Hellman & Friedman for $1.1 billion.[4][5] CapitalG, a sister company to Google and subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., became an equity investor in Renaissance in 2014.[6] In May 2018 the company was acquired by private equity firm Francisco Partners.[7]

Renaissance has grown in part to company acquisitions. In 2005, Renaissance purchased AlphaSmart for $57 million in cash and stock [3] and released its AlphaSmart hardware, which was discontinued in 2013. It purchased e-reading platform Subtext in June 2013.[8] In February 2015, Renaissance acquired UClass, a cloud-based storage and content management service, for an undisclosed amount.[4]



Renaissance Accelerated Reader[edit]

Accelerated Reader, the company's flagship software, is a reading practice program that enhances students’ reading comprehension, language, vocabulary development, and general knowledge. It determines whether a student has read a book through comprehension quizzes and is computer-scored. Educators collaborate with students to set personalized reading practice goals based on students’ reading levels. Students select books within their reading range, read independently, and then take short, computerized comprehension quizzes. After each quiz, educators and students are able to see progress toward reading goals.

Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360[edit]

Released in 2015, Accelerated Reader 360 is an enhanced version of Accelerated Reader that includes all the features of the original solution and supports guided reading practice to help students develop the literacy and close-reading skills they need to succeed in college and career. Students choose high-interest, high-quality, fiction and non-fiction articles and books to read at their own pace as they work toward reading goals.

Renaissance English in a Flash[edit]

English in a Flash is a language acquisition tool for grades K–12 for use with English language learners. It aims to help students build vocabulary and grammar, using words in context to improve listening, speaking, reading and writing in English.


Renaissance Accelerated Math[edit]

Released in 1998, Accelerated Math is a math practice program that generates personalized math assignments at each student's level to deepen and demonstrate the student’s understanding of the math skill taught by educators. After automatically scoring the math practice, Accelerated Math provides reports and record-keeping functions to monitor student progress and address individual student needs.

Renaissance MathFacts in a Flash[edit]

MathFacts in a Flash is software intended to enhance computational fluency (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and other math facts), and helps students achieve automaticity. It allows students to work at their own pace and provides feedback on areas of difficulty. It includes timed tests and reports of individual progress.


Renaissance Star 360[edit]

Star 360 is a comprehensive pre-K–12 assessment package, allowing educators to screen and group students for targeted instruction, measure student growth, predict performance on state summative assessments (which include the Smarter Balanced exams, PARCC and individual state assessments, and ACT and SAT tests), and monitor achievement on Common Core State Standards Initiative and specific standards in states that did not adopt CCSS. Star 360 includes three computer-adaptive tests: Star Reading, Star Math and Star Early Literacy, as well as Star Custom, a formative test and skills probe.

Renaissance Star Reading[edit]

Released in 1996, Star Reading is a cloud-based assessment of the reading achievement of students in grades K–12. A computer-adaptive test, Star Reading allows educators to assess students’ reading comprehension, overall reading achievement, and a wide range of discrete reading skills that are aligned to state and national curriculum standards, in an average of 11 to 18 minutes, depending on grade. This computer-based progress-monitoring assessment provides immediate feedback to educators and administrators on each student’s reading development.

Renaissance Star Math[edit]

Released in 1998, Star Math is a computer-adaptive test and database that helps educators assess students’ mathematical abilities in an average of 20 minutes. Aligned to state and national curriculum standards, this cloud-based assessment provides educators with an estimate of developed math skills, tracks growth in a consistent manner longitudinally for all students, and assesses math achievement relative to national norms.

Renaissance Star Early Literacy[edit]

Released in 2000, Star Early Literacy is a cloud-based, computer-adaptive assessment designed to measure the early literacy skills of beginning readers in grades pre-K–3 and struggling readers in higher grades. It aims to address accurately the need to determine children’s mastery of literacy concepts that are directly related to their future success as readers. Star Early Literacy assesses proficiency in three broad domains (word knowledge and skills, comprehension strategies and constructing meaning, and numbers and operations) which include ten key early literacy sub-domains involving 41 different sets of skills or concepts in about 15 minutes.

Renaissance Star Spanish[edit]

Created for native Spanish speakers, Star Spanish is the Spanish language version of Star Reading, Star Math, and Star Early Literacy. Star Spanish provides interim data that shows what Spanish-speaking students know in their native language, and helps educators understand if Spanish language students have a skills issue or a language gap.

Renaissance Star Custom[edit]

Star Custom is a formative assessment and skills probe that allows educators to administer assessments that target specific standards and skills. This cloud-based custom test platform includes pre-made and custom assessments that targets specific skills and sub-skills to provide key data to educators so they can quickly close gaps in student understanding of those areas.

Professional Development[edit]

Renaissance offers online or virtual training, blended programs with a mixture of virtual and on-site professional services, in-person professional development, and custom professional learning plans.


Renaissance–U is an on-demand virtual training program with three training subjects: assessment, which prepares educators for use of the Star assessment suite; reading, which provides training for the implementation of Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Reader 360 and English in a Flash; and math, which trains educators for the use of Accelerated Math and MathFacts in a Flash.[9]

Integrated Instruction[edit]

Renaissance Flow 360[edit]

Announced June 2017,[10] Renaissance Flow 360 is a classroom management solution and data interoperability platform which uses a common API (Application Programming Interface) adopted by partners to share data, providing more integrated assessment, planning, instruction, and practice, allowing educators to drive and monitor growth for every student in their district.

Renaissance Flow 360 is a combination suite of Star 360 assessments, Accelerated Reader 360 and Accelerated Math practice programs, and a lesson planning tool that combines Renaissance product data with instructional resources from the Renaissance Growth Alliance, which is a collaboration with instructional curriculum providers.[11]

Renaissance Growth Alliance[edit]

Also announced in 2017, the Renaissance Growth Alliance [12] connects a school district’s current curriculum provider with the Renaissance suite of solutions. This has initiated a group of education partners that are working together to create better interoperability between their respective platforms. Using a common API, Renaissance can connect its solutions with many curriculum providers to provide educators with a single platform to view assessment data, practice scores, skills probes, daily lessons, and student growth in a singular view of student mastery.[better source needed]

Renaissance Home Connect[edit]

Renaissance Home Connect is a parent portal that enables parents to view their child’s Accelerated Reader, Accelerated Reader 360, and Accelerated Math practice assignments and progress toward goals.


The United States Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences in What Works Clearinghouse,[13] in June 2016, found Accelerated Reader[14] to have mixed effects on comprehension for beginning readers.[15]

As of October 2017, Renaissance products are supported by 438 scientific research studies and reviews. Of those, 312 research studies have been conducted by independent researchers, while 62 have been peer reviewed.[16]

A 2015 study of 2.8 million students in grades 1–12 found that students who use Accelerated Reader best practices are nearly twice as likely to be college and career ready. These results held true for all grades and populations of interest (struggling readers, English learners, and students in free or reduced lunch programs) and rose with the integrity of program use.[17]

The Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE) endorsed Accelerated Reader 360, Accelerated Math, and MathFacts in a Flash. CASE endorsements are granted solely to the products and solutions recognized as being able to meet the needs of special education students.[18][19]

Accelerated Readers critics say it limits a student’s recreational reading to a list of books that fall in their book level, in order to accrue "points",[20] and that the system trivializes books and undermines reading by reducing it to a competitive game.[3] Susan Straight in the New York Times says, "the passion and serendipity of choosing a book at the library based on the subject or the cover of the first page is nearly gone, as well as the excitement of reading a book simply for pleasure. This is not all the fault of Renaissance, which I believe is trying to help schools encourage students to read."[21]


Renaissance-U was a SIIA Codie award finalist in 2017 for Best Professional Learning Solution for Faculty and Administrative Staff, a Tech & Learning’s 2017 Awards of Excellence winner for Best Upgraded Products, a Tech & Learning’s Stellar Service Awards 2016 for the Best Use of Afterschool Time (Best Online PD Training) winner, a REVERE Awards finalist, and a Tech & Learning’s International Society for Technology in Education 2017 Best of Show winner.

Educators voted Star Early Literacy and Star Reading as their "Gold" favorite intervention and remediation software in the 2017 T.H.E Journal’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards, while Renaissance was named a "Gold" favorite adaptive/personalized learning tool in the same awards.

A panel of educational technology thought leaders and educators selected Star 360 as the "Best Assessment App or Tool" and Accelerated Math as the "Best Math App or Tool" in the 2017 Tech Edvocate Awards. Star 360 was also one of Tech & Learning’s 2017 Awards of Excellence winners for Best Upgraded Products. Accelerated Reader 360 was named the "Best Learning Capacity-Building Solution" in the 2017 SIIA Codie awards.

Renaissance Flow 360 was awarded the ISTE 2017 Best of Show honor.


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  3. ^ a b Vitello, Paul (2014-09-16). "Terrance Paul, Developer of Teaching Software, Dies at 67". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  4. ^ "Why a 30-Year-Old Education Company Just Landed a $1 Billion Valuation". 2017-02-19. Retrieved 2016-12-09.
  5. ^ Merced, Michael J. de la. "Renaissance Learning Is Sold to Hellman & Friedman for $1.1 Billion". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  6. ^ Lardinois, Frederic. "Google Capital Invests $40M In Learning Analytics Firm Renaissance Learning At $1B Valuation". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
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  20. ^ Silva, Teresa (6 March 2012). "Accelerated Reader: Instigator of Readicide". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Reading by the Numbers". The New York Times. 30 August 2009. Retrieved 9 June 2017.

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