In a shake-up of the market for student information system (SIS) software, Apple Computer and Pearson School Systems yesterday announced that Pearson will acquire Apple’s SIS division, PowerSchool. Pearson also plans to develop educational content for teachers and students that is compatible with Apple’s iPod and will be sold through Apple’s iTunes online music store, the companies said.

Company officials declined to release the terms of the deal.

PowerSchool’s SIS software allows school administrators, teachers, students, and parents to access information about student performance online, such as grades, homework, and attendance. The product has been a chief competitor to Pearson’s own SIS solutions: SASI, Pearson Centerpoint, and CIMS Student.

SASI–which, according to Pearson, has been installed in at least 16,000 schools–was the top pick of eSchool News readers in a survey of the best student information system earlier this year. PowerSchool, which reportedly is used by some 7,200 schools, was the runner-up to SASI in our reader survey.

PowerSchool now will become the lead brand for Pearson’s integrated SIS business, according to Pearson. The company also said it will develop new services for educators and students, including research-based educational content and professional development materials that are compatible with the iPod, Apple’s popular digital audio and video player.

Making Pearson’s content available via iTunes, Apple’s web-based audio and video store, stands to benefit both companies. It could boost the presence of Pearson–already the world’s largest education publisher–in the ed-tech marketplace even further, by delivering content to a popular device that many students already own. The deal also creates yet another incentive for schools to invest in iPods, as even more educational content becomes available for these devices.

Despite the sale of its PowerSchool division, John Couch, Apple’s vice president of education, said his company’s commitment to education has "never been stronger." He said Apple is excited about broadening its relationship with Pearson.

"Our customers will love having Pearson’s education content on their iPods, and we’re confident that PowerSchool will continue to flourish and grow with Pearson," Couch said.

Wendy Spiegel, director of communications for Pearson School Systems, said her company has been the leader in SIS software development since the technology "elevated out of a spreadsheet." The Pearson School Systems division of Pearson Education was formed after Pearson acquired SIS leader National Computer Systems (NCS) for $2.4 billion in 2000.

Spiegel said PowerSchool will become the brand name under which Pearson will sell its SIS solutions. But, she promised, current users of PowerSchool and of Pearson’s existing student information systems will not be affected by the acquisition.

"There will be no change" in the services these customers receive, Spiegel said, adding: "The expertise of the [former Apple] organization will become part of Pearson. Right now, we’re looking at how to best integrate the operations and manage the equity of both product lines, but the customers’ needs come first. That’s where we’ll focus our efforts."

Spiegel said PowerSchool’s current president, Mary McAffree, will lead the combined business. She also expressed excitement about making Pearson’s learning content compatible with the iPod.

"We are the first [education publisher] to make our materials available on a wide scale with iPod," Spiegel said. "It provides our content business with a new channel of distribution for students and teachers on the iTunes platform. We think that’s a really exciting opportunity to supplement student education with materials from various curricular areas. We will also [develop] professional development learning modules, offering topics by discipline and methodology."

The content, Spiegel said, will be aligned with the text materials Pearson currently offers.

Apple paid $62 million in stock to acquire PowerSchool in 2001.

Links:

Apple Computer Inc.
http://www.apple.com

Pearson School Systems
http://www.pearsonschoolsystems.com

Readers’ Choice Awards: School Management Software
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