Renaissance Learning Inc., a Wisconsin-based provider of educational software, yesterday announced plans to merge with AlphaSmart Inc., a maker of portable word processors for students. The $57 million marriage is just the latest in a swath of industry moves intended to advance the trend toward one-to-one computing in the nation's schools.

Under the agreement, unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, Renaissance will continue to provide AlphaSmart products to the more than 8,000 school districts already using the tools nationwide. The company also said it would begin looking at ways to package its suite


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